David Rapanot could not have planned a better start to his last football game at Molokai High School. The senior quarterback caught a low opening kickoff and ran it up the middle for a touchdown to give Molokai a quick 6-0 lead over rival Seabury Hall on Saturday.
It was Molokai’s first lead over undefeated Seabury this season. The quick strike got the home crowd fired up and gave the Farmers early momentum in the game that would determine the Maui Interscholastic League champion in 8-man football. Because Molokai had lost its earlier encounter this season with Seabury 42-15, a win would result in a one-game playoff scheduled for this Thursday.
But it was not meant to happen as Rapanot’s kickoff return would give Molokai its only lead of the game. A combination of big plays by the Spartans and costly fumbles by the Farmers led to Seabury’s 25-14 victory at the Molokai High School field.
“It started off great for us,” said Molokai Head Coach Mike Kahale. After the quick touchdown, Molokai continued to control the game, forcing Seabury to punt on its first two possessions after going three plays and out. While Molokai earned a few early first downs, a holding penalty stalled an early drive.
On the Spartans third possession, quarterback Jaxson Stinger faked a hand-off up the middle and took it himself 55 yards around the left edge for a touchdown. A missed point after touchdown left the game tied 6-6.
A Molokai player fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up Seabury in Molokai territory late in the first quarter. In a duplicate of his first touchdown, Stinger took the next play around the left side for a 30-yard touchdown run.
“We gave up two really long plays on the outside, on the left side, and didn’t contain real well,” said Kahale. “These guys got speed and they beat us on the outside and it went down for touchdowns. We tried to make adjustments after the first touchdown but couldn’t quite execute defensively.”
Despite the early mistakes, Molokai outplayed Seabury on the line of scrimmage in the second quarter, earning more first downs and leading in time of possession. But Molokai drives stalled out and the half ended with the score still 12-6.
“Things were slow moving on the offensive side,” said Kahale, “but we put some things together later. It’s just one of those things — they came in here and you’ve got to give Seabury the credit.”
Molokai freshman quarterback John-Michael Mokiao Duvauchelle came in the game in the second half to try and spark the passing game. He had two completions and a first down to open the third quarter but the Farmers were still forced to punt. Seabury then completed a long pass to Rip Pahukoa followed by a 38-yard touchdown catch and run by Nyck Yashiro.
“A lot of pressure was put on John-Michael, he’ll be good for us in the future,” said Kahale. “I’m glad that he’s getting this game time so I’ve got to give him some credit, he’s running the quarterback position as a freshman.”
The Seabury defense held strong on Molokai’s next possession when the Farmers were unable to convert a fourth-and-inches play at midfield. Then, Seabury senior running back Cayde Omura — who finished the game with 80 yards on 10 carries — ran 55 yards around the left side to make the game 25-6.
Early in the fourth quarter, Molokai freshman Jayden Dudoit-Tabilangan intercepted a long Stinger pass and returned it to midfield. A few plays later, senior Noah Caparida ran the ball 32 yards for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion made the score 25-14. Molokai continued to move the ball but could not put together another scoring drive before time expired.
The Farmers — finishing the season with a 4-2 record — lose eight senior players this year. But the young talent should keep the program strong going forward.
“We got a young team,” said Kahale. “We’re losing some key seniors … We saw some growth in the underclassmen, we got a good group of sophomores and freshmen this year.”
Kahale said he saw great improvement through the season in the team’s execution, especially when comparing the two Seabury losses. “We got better exection-wise,” said the coach. “Our theme this week was to practice precision, all week long. We did it for most of the game except for a couple of plays.”
So how does football grow on Molokai? “We are just trying to build the culture of football the right way – integrity, class, those kind of things,” said Kahale. “We are doing it the right way, with good sportsmanship, and I think that was demonstrated today.”
Regardless of the loss, the future of football on Molokai certainly looks bright.