Considering that some of his players have understandably had their minds away from the football field, Keaau coach Kalei Young took solace in the fact the Cougars were able to accomplish one goal Saturday night: They won the second half.
The first half belonged to St. Francis quarterback Kawika Ulufale.
Ulufale accounted for three touchdowns and drove the Saints into the end zone on all five of their first-half possessions as St. Francis beat the Cougars 33-14 in the preseason football opener at the Cougars’ stadium.
After the game, Keaau added a new ending to its alma mater, chanting: Puna.
“We definitely chant Puna for our families that are suffering,” Young said.
Many of his players live in areas hit the hardest by Hurricane Iselle, and some are still without electricity. Others haven’t been able to make it to practice yet as they tend to family matters.
“I’m so proud of boys as family men,” Young said. “They’re not only kids in their family, but they’re also part father, taking care of mom and baby sister and baby brother.
“Even more so now.”
Facing a 33-0 halftime deficit, Young challenged his short-handed team at halftime.
Justin Quesada returned the opening kickoff of the second half 37 yards, and three plays later quarterback Richard Kanakaole threw a 11-yard scoring pass to Maurice Smith that deflected off his intended receiver.
Keaau’s best drive of the game came in the fourth quarter. Kanakaole hooked up with Smith on a 23-yard pass and then hit Byron Cachola on a 35-yard strike to set up Quesada’s 6-yard run.
“They turned it around in the second half and bounced back,” Young said. “We look at our victories that we can take home.”
The first half was a different story.
The Cougars had three bad snaps go into their backfield and were outgained 271 yards to minus-24.
St. Francis finished with seven sacks, five in the first half.
“We definitely had a lot of nervousness in the first quarter,” Young said.
Ulufale, meanwhile, was cool as could be as he connected on his first seven passes and hit on 11 of his 14 attempts in the first half. He threw touchdown passes of 26 yards and 5 yards to Janzen Kupau to stake the Saints of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Ulufale finished 17 of 24 for 194 yards, and added a 1-yard scoring run to cap an 88-yard drive, St. Francis’ longest of the game.
“They were a disciplined offense, and we expect that coming out of the ILH,” Young said. “At the same time, we had some breakdowns on defense, but all in the first half from being too excited.”
Leighton Rosa led St. Francis on the ground, rushing 15 times for 75 yards. On the opening drive of the game, the Saints converted on two fourth downs and marched 63 yard on 13 plays, with Rosa covering the final 9 yards on a scamper into the end zone.
Taking advantage of good field position, the Saints’ Maika Teal ran in from 8 yards out just before halftime after
Cachola picked off Ulufale in the second half as St. Francis began to play more conservatively.
Kanakaole went 4 of 11 for 71 yards, but the Cougars were held to minus-4 yards rushing.
St. Francis 13 20 0 0 —33
Keaau 0 0 8 6 —14