Kahuku's win rivals another 31 years ago
For Kahuku football fans of a generation ago, Friday's fantastic finish of the Red Raiders' 27-26 win against Saint Louis for the state football title looked awfully familiar.
Toriano Taulogo's 62-yard punt return to the Crusaders' 3-yard line set up the go-ahead touchdown by running back Darren Magalogo with 19 seconds left in the game.
"I had flashbacks," Kahuku quarterbacks coach Molia Salanoa said. "Especially the way things went. He returns the ball near the goalline and on the next play we scored. You relive the whole thing. He'll be a hero for life."
The moment Salanoa relived happened 31 years ago, a year before the inception of the O'ahu Prep Bowl, almost three decades before the first state tournament. It was the third season of the modern O'ahu Interscholastic Association, which had separate divisions to create a true title game. It was Kahuku's amazing 35-29 win against Leilehua for the 1972 OIA championship at Honolulu Stadium.
In each game, the play leading to the winning score was different, but the situations were similar.
In the 1972 game, Kahuku scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, the game-winner coming with six seconds left on a 10-yard TD pass from Salanoa to Pisa Finai. But like Taulogo's return, the play that set up the TD was Salanoa's 85-yard run the play before.
Like Friday's game, Kahuku and Leilehua were out of timeouts. Leilehua had just regained the lead, 29-28, on a 1-yard run by quarterback Alex Kaloi. Rick Wagner's PAT was the difference.
Leilehua's ensuing kickoff pinned Kahuku to its own 5. With under a minute left and no timeouts Salanoa said that his coach, Famika Anae, told him to run the ball near the sidelines as far as he could and get out of bounds to stop the clock to set up a pass play on the next down. But Leilehua's defense was in a pass prevent. Kahuku had one of the best receivers in the state in Finai, whom Leilehua had successfully shut down until the TD; the TD catch was Finai's only reception of the game.
The right-handed Salanoa rolled left and found open field because the Mules' secondary was playing so deep. Sam McDowell, who had an interception and fumble recovery in the game, finally tackled Salanoa at the Leilehua 10. With no timeouts to ponder a play to call, Salanoa made a call from the line of scrimmage. With Finai lined up wide right, Salanoa essentially gave out instructions for everyone to hear — in the Samoan language. "I told him to run an inside rout," Salanoa said. "They (the Mules) didn't know what we were saying."
Salanoa rolled right and hit Finai in the end zone.
"It was one of those recess plays you call in the playground," Salanoa said. "I didn't even see him catch the ball; I think Fialele (Edra, Leilehua's defensive lineman) got to me. The next thing I could hear was the cheering, but I didn't know if it was our side or theirs. Then I saw some of our fans jumping over the wall. I thought, 'We must've scored.' "
(Fans also jumped the walls in Friday's game at Aloha Stadium.)
That game had been regarded as one of the best finishes in Hawai'i high school history. It is a game that usually comes up in discussion whenever there is a wild ending.
"I'd like to think that our game was the greatest game," Salanoa said. "But this past Friday, wow.
"Somebody called me after the game and said, 'Hey, it looks like your game went down a notch.' But I'm happy with the result."
With Kahuku's incredible comeback Friday (23-7 in the third quarter), the Red Raiders became the 15th team to go undefeated wire-to-wire — from non-league, regular season and postseason — in the combined history of the OIA and Interscholastic League of Honolulu dating to 1950, according to Advertiser records. Kahuku finished 14-0.
"It's not easy," said Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai. "You got some games where your luck pulls you through."
It was Kahuku's second unbeaten squad in three years.
In 2001, the Red Raiders also finished 14-0 — they could've set a record with a 15th win had the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks not affected scheduling that eliminated a tier of OIA playoffs. That's the year the OIA had two championship games, which normally would have been semifinals.
"The last one when we did it, we were trying to leave no doubts," said Livai, in reference to defending Kahuku's first state title in 2000. "Everybody thought we were a fluke, so this one, I think, seals the coffin that we're for real."
Kahuku-Saint Louis video
With no telecast of the game, a number of requests have already been made to order video tapes of Friday's state championship between Kahuku and Saint Louis.
Orders should be mailed to: Stadium Stars, P.O. Box 30666, Honolulu, HI 96820-0666. Cost is $25 per tape. Checks should be made payable to: Aloha Stadium. Your order should include your name, address, telephone number, as well as the date of the event (Dec. 5) and specify which event is being requested. Delivery takes between four to six weeks.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8042.
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Nights to remember
The quote of Friday night came from Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai, who said after the Red Raiders' 27-26 victory over Saint Louis, "This was the best game in the nation!"
Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly was the best finish in Hawai'i's 30-year Prep Bowl/state football tournament history. Here are some other Prep Bowls/state championship games that went down to the wire:
Kahuku 21, Saint Louis 14 (2001): The Red Raiders prevailed only after converting a first down on fourth-and-2 from their own 34-yard line with 1:48 remaining — on a fake punt.
Saint Louis 27, Kahuku 26 (1995): The lead changed five times before the Crusaders finally were able to stop Kahuku and run out the clock with under two minutes remaining.
Saint Louis 15, Nanakuli 12 (1983): Quarterback Sean Kinilau got off the deck to throw a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 left to lift the Crusaders.
Iolani 7, Wai'anae 7 (1980): Iolani's Ken Yonamine attempted a game-winning field goal with under two minutes remaining, but it missed to preserve the only Prep Bowl/state championship tie.
Kamehameha 20, Leilehua 19 (1974): Quarterback Blane Gaison scored on a 14-yard touchdown run with 3:30 left to lift the Warriors.