Kapaa Parties Like It’s 1989 Again

Kapaa kicker Jonathan Paleka -- and everyone else -- watches the ball sail toward the
uprights for the game-winning field goal. David Simon photos

It was a culmination of sorts, a game with a bevy of storylines that would seem a bit preposterous in a Hollywood pitch meeting. A championship game, a weather delay, two coaches rebuilding their programs, two communities seeking an overdue title, a tie ball game in the closing seconds, a jayvee kicker …

Yet it was all actually happening as the KIF football championship was decided at Vidinha Stadium on the leg of sophomore Jonathan Paleka just called up from the junior varsity squad who nailed a 27-yard field goal with just five seconds left in the fourth quarter to give the Kapaa Warriors a 1714 win over the Waimea Menehune a rare Monday game.

Not since 1989 had Kapaa been crowned kings of KIF football. Every player on the field, as well as every student in attendance, had seen just as many live unicorns as Warrior titles in their lifetime.

When Coach Kelii Morgado took over the Kapaa program four seasons ago, it was not a contender. The program he had just left was the league’s most recent dynasty, with the Kauai Red Raiders in the midst of what would become an eight-year title run. The Waimea Menehune had been the dominant force prior to that, winning 11 straight KIF titles.

But everything changed last year when Kapaa began to mark its territory. The Warriors played with a confidence not typical of a team that hadn’t been a winner since Bobby Brown was topping the album charts. Though they came so close, they were once again denied in heartbreaking fashion.

A Kapaa booster celebrates the KIF championship

But unlike so many years prior, we all knew it was only a matter of time before that changed.

When the Raiders played spoiler with a fourth-quarter, suspended-game victory to force Kapaa into a championship game with Waimea, the doubts must have been rampant on the east side. Like Boston Red Sox fans pre-2004, or New Orleans Saints fans pre2009, they had to have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here we go again.

But the shoe that dropped was Paleka’s bright yellow cleat, which capped off a great comeback effort and sent the Warriors into the HHSAA D-II state tournament. Hard running by Syndreck D’Sio, good vision by quarterback John Das, a timely interception by Keane Agoot, it all added up to a complete team victory that put an end to 22 seasons of a “wait till next year” mentality.

Now that attitude can simply be considered “pre2011.”

Kapaa (6-3, 4-3) was set to host Pearl City in a first-round playoff game this past Saturday at Vidinha.

Also, the Pop Warner Shriners Bowl kicks off at Vidinha this coming Saturday at 9 a.m., says league commissioner Teddy Arroyo.