Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 | 12:45 a.m.
When Silverado senior Keikiokalani Misipeka walked off the field Friday night, his family draped a Hawaiian lei made of strung-together candy bars around his neck.
“The candy bars are a little Polynesian tradition that we do,” Misipeka said, with Kit Kats, Snickers and Skittles draped from his shoulder pads. “It’s for an achievement or an award that they give out when you do something good.”
He certainly earned it, carrying the ball 30 times for 204 yards and four touchdowns as the Skyhawks trounced Faith Lutheran 36-20.
The 5-foot-8 tailback found the end zone three times in the first quarter alone as Silverado leaped out to a 24-6 lead.
“That young kid is the real deal,” said Silverado coach Randall Cunningham. “Did you see how he turned that corner and nobody could catch him? He’s been training with me in track the whole offseason and that’s what we worked on — him turning the corner and running away from people and he did it.”
Misipeka’s first two scores were goal-line plunges from the 1-yard line, but his third came on a spectacular 48-yard scamper.
“It wasn’t a surprise because Coach Randall had it all planned out,” Misipeka said. “He put in new plays and told the O-line that they need to shoot off the ball and get their blocks and that’s exactly what they did.”
Silverado was the beneficiary of great field position throughout the night thanks to punt and kick returner Nahzi Salih.
“He is just a player,” Cunningham said. “You have to highlight people like that. These kids are ballers.”
Salih constantly ran kicks back into Faith Lutheran territory, giving his run-oriented offense a short field to work with.
“It was really important to put my team in good field position because I knew I could get them going,” Salih said. “Once I did that, I knew they would score.”
The Skyhawks dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, outrushing the Crusaders 276-21.
With no running game Faith Lutheran turned to the air in a comeback attempt, and sophomore Sagan Gronauer had a big night.
Gronauer completed 16-of-28 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but was sacked seven times.
“We were running a lot of blitzes and fake blitzes,” Cunningham said. “That is part of our game plan and it’s because we have guys that can cover. If we didn’t then we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Silverado linebacker Jordan Walker sacked Gronauer three times, and Pekelo Solomon got to him twice.
As ferocious as the pass rush was the biggest hits in the game came in the secondary, where Silverado’s defensive backs continually bruised Faith Lutheran’s receivers.
“It’s kind of who we are as a team. We like to hit,” Cunningham said. “We don’t really hit in practice but when we get in the game we let them loose.”
Crusaders receiver Elijah Kothe caught eight passes for 119 yards and a score, but came up limping on more than one occasion and drew personal fouls on the Skyhawks.
“We had a lot of personal fouls and I don’t like that,” Cunningham said. “I don’t want to take the character out of our kids because they are hardcore and don’t take no mess. That’s how we play.”
With the win Silverado improves to 3-0 and will look for a fourth straight win when they take on winless Rancho next week.
“It feels great,” Misipeka said. “Before the season even started in the offseason, Coach Randall said we would be the underdogs and that’s what we love. It’s motivation for us to come out here and prove everyone wrong.”