Red Raiders end Crusaders’ long string of post-season championships, 26-20
The Kahuku Red Raiders knew last night's game was about much more than themselves.
They made history with their 26-20 victory over the nationally ranked St. Louis Crusaders in the 2000 Chevron State Football Championship game, and they were well aware of it.
"Us young guys watched our brothers lose," Kahuku quarterback Inoke Funaki said. "I had three brothers who lost in this game. That was a lot of motivation for us."
As 14,267 watched at Aloha Stadium, the Red Raiders ended the Crusaders' 14-year Hawaii high school football dynasty.
"This is unreal," Kahuku linebacker Douglas Hiu said. "No one's achieved this against St. Louis in such a long time."
Technically, Kahuku (13-2) and St. Louis (14-1) now have one state championship apiece. But before last year there was the Prep Bowl -- which the Crusaders won 13 consecutive times, beating the Red Raiders in five of them.
Kahuku's talent has never been questioned. There have been several years when it was considered as good or better than that of St. Louis.
But this was the first time the Red Raiders put it all together in the ultimate game.
The turning point?
"It happened on Wednesday," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said. "I told the team, 'If you don't believe you can win, go home.' Half of the teams that play St. Louis don't believe they can win. Last year, I felt a little like that.
"On Wednesday we had a reality check, and we decided that we all believed."
If the Red Raiders needed more of a push, they got it on their bus ride to the stadium yesterday afternoon.
By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin Kahukus' Ferron Fonoimoana (#11) and Kurt Fonoimoana get a hug from their dad, Kurt Fonoimoana after Kahuku beat St. Louis 26-20 to win the HHSAA Championships. Kurt Fonoimoana has another son on the team, Chubby Fonoimoana.
"From Kahuku to Kaaawa, people were standing on the side of the road with signs waving for us," Livai said. "We've got the best community. We had to do it for them." All the motivation in the world won't make up for a faulty game plan, but the Red Raiders' strategy was flawless.
Kahuku's main goals were to stop St. Louis' running game and limit their own mistakes. If they achieved that, the Red Raiders figured the rest would take care of itself.
Although Pesefea Fiaseu rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns, the Red Raiders never let him get out of control -- as in last year's final, when he ran for 156 yards in a 19-0 St. Louis victory.
Kahuku felt it could run itself, behind a huge offensive line anchored by 6-foot-5, 330-pound Chris Kemoe'atu -- especially since St. Louis was without two star defensive linemen, Lyle Maiava and Lafaele Manupuna.
That was true, as the Red Raiders rolled up 270 rushing yards, with Mulivai Pula getting 112 of them, including TDs of 9 and 25 yards.
Marcus Salanoa also scored two rushing touchdowns of 1 yard each.
"They played ball control and played very good defense," St. Louis coach Cal Lee said. "Gotta give them a lot of credit."
A little luck didn't hurt, either. Three Kahuku fumbles fell into the hands of the Red Raiders -- after gains.
By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin "The team worked hard for it," said Abby Beatty, with daughter Aubrey. She is the wife of Kahuku defensive coordinator Byron Beatty.
Perhaps it was payback for the years when the little things didn't go Kahuku's way, like its 27-26 loss to St. Louis in the 1995 Prep Bowl, due to missed extra points.
"This is for the public schools, for the OIA. It shows you can do it," said Doug Semones, who was the head coach of that Kahuku team.
Until last night, the rap on the Red Raiders was that they would self-destruct in big games with penalties, turnovers and questionable coaching decisions. But other than a botched fake punt, Kahuku was relatively mistake-free.
The Red Raiders were penalized 11 times for 98 yards, but none of the flags proved critical.
"Actually, we made mistakes, but we didn't let it pull us down," said Hiu, who was in on six tackles.
Kahuku led, 26-14, after Pula's score with 1:26 left. St. Louis was back in the game after Frank Rivers' 5-yard touchdown pass from Kelika Higa with 33 seconds left.
But Kahuku's Gideon Perez recovered the onside kick, and an era had ended.
"Hopefully, we can start a new tradition," Funaki said. "But St. Louis will always be tough. They will always be around."
This night belonged to the underdogs, the public schools -- and mostly to the not-so-little little guys from the North Shore, their classmates, their big brothers and their fans.
"It's like a dream come true. It's for all these people," Hiu said, pointing to the thousands of Kahuku supporters in the stands.
"This going be one state holiday. Kahuku beat St. Louis!"