Last year, injuries forced Green Valley’s Kalyja Waialae to play quarterback. Starter A.J. Barilla went down, and Waialae, a natural receiver, had to fill in.
With Barilla back to full health this year, Waialae slotted back to his natural position and had one of the best receiving games of his career Thursday, catching six passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators’ football team cruised a 55-8 homecoming victory over Bonanza.
“It’s been comforting to have those two work together,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “He’s definitely a weapon. He finds a way to get open and he’s got great hands.”
Green Valley turned on the jets early and never looked back. The Gators (4-0) scored on every possession, and started the game off strong on the ground. Julian Hulse carried the ball 11 times for 124 yards, and Desmond Bowers scored three rushing touchdowns, including the first score of the game.
Waialae scored on the second possession, Hulse on the third, and by halftime the Gators had a 31-8 lead.
“We got it rolling,” Castro said. “It’s always good to win on homecoming. It was a great crowd.”
The run game allowed Green Valley to open up its passing game, and from there, Barilla was ruthlessly efficient. The senior quarterback threw for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 13 of 17 passing with no interceptions. He connected with six receivers, including a touchdown pass to Hulse.
When he started looking Waialae’s way is when the magic happened. Waialae filled in admirably at quarterback when Barilla went down last year, but it’s clear he prefers spreading out wide. In three games this season (he missed the victory against Centennial nursing an injury), he leads the team in receptions (19), yards (437) and touchdowns (six).
“I’m more comfortable,” Waialae said with a chuckle. “A lot.”
Green Valley’s defense also was superb. After allowing the Bengals (1-3) to run 14 plays on their opening drive, the Gators held Bonanza to 14 plays on its next three series. The Gators recorded three sacks, and held Bonanza to 175 yards of total offense.
Daunte Watson had two interceptions for the Gators, and Bowers forced a fumble on a kickoff which Braxton Harms returned for a touchdown.
“The defense played its tail off tonight,” Castro said. “For Daunte to have the night he had tonight, we’ve been waiting on it.”