Wily shoulders load in Red Raiders' victory
Senior running back Aofaga Wily had 12 rushes for 79 yards by halftime and averaged an astounding 7.2 yards per carry for the game. Sean Nakamura | SL
HALAWA - Aofaga Wily saved his best for last.
The senior tailback carried 26 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns to lead Kahuku to a 42-20 win over Punahou in the title game of the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I Football State Championships at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium Friday night.
Wily, who is 6-feet and 202 pounds, opened the scoring with a 53-yard run early in the first quarter and added scoring runs of 38 and 25 yards in a 21-point fourth quarter for the Red Raiders.
"He ran hard," Kahuku head coach Reggie Torres said. "Even when there weren't any holes to run through, he made some yards. He's a great kid, he's got a great work ethic and it showed on the field tonight."
Wily had 12 rushes for 79 yards by halftime and averaged an astounding 7.2 yards per carry for the game. Kahuku accumulated 235 rushing yards to Punahou's 107 and picked up nine of its 13 first downs by rush.
"It was not only me, it was everybody," said a humble Wily. "We all had it in us, we knew that we had to pick it up and we were just unfocused when we came out in the second half, so we had to pick it up and we did."
Punahou pulled to within 21-14 on Ryan Tuiasoa's second of three touchdown runs with one minute and 10 seconds to play in the third quarter. However, the Red Raiders turned to Wily, who capped their next drive with his 38-yard scamper to the end zone.
"We started to get some momentum back and we felt pretty good about ourselves, but they just got grabbed it, shook us and (Wily) did great," Punahou coach Kale Ane said. "He ran hard, broke some tackles and we made a couple mistakes and they're the kind of team that takes advantage of those things, so it was a quick turnaround."
Soli Afalava forced a Punahou fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which his teammate, Will Cravens, returned six yards for a Kahuku touchdown. That made the score, 35-14, and following a Kawehena Johnson interception of a Larry Tuileta pass, Wily scored his third rushing touchdown - a 25-yarder - two plays later to extend the Red Raiders' lead to 42-14 with 6:56 remaining.
"He's been working hard this season and all of his career and putting the ball in his hands gives us a higher percentage of success," Torres said. "It just so happens he seems to show up in these big games."
Wily averaged more than 28 carries and 168 yards in Kahuku's five playoff games this season. He scored 12 touchdowns in those games, including seven in two state-tournament games.
Kahuku played without starting fullback PJ Liua, Jr., who sat out with a high-ankle sprain that was aggravated in last week's semifinal win over Farrington. In his place, starting left guard Malosi Alapa moved to the backfield and wore Liua's number 49.
"Malosi is a heck of a blocker," Torres said. "The only thing is he doesn't have the speed and mobility that PJ has, but he's a force to be reckoned with, he does a great job blocking so he's a big help in whatever role he's in."
Perhaps more important than Wily's three rushing scores for the Red Raiders, was another stat: zero turnovers.
"That's always the thing - turnovers - it's always a key for us," Torres said. "If we minimize ours and if we create turnovers on defense, you can see the results."
Ane had plenty of praise for Wily, who ran for 180 yards in Kahuku's 30-24 win over Punahou in the 2011 D1 state final.
"We tried our best to stop him, (but) he broke some tackles and made some moves," Ane said. "He's a very determined runner and is very deserving of all the accolades he gets."
Wily finishes the season with a state-best 1,760 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. He averaged 6.2 yard per attempt on 277 rushes.
"He's probably one of the best around," Ane said. "He's done it consistently for the last few years and he's done it against everybody and everybody knows he's going to run the ball. He's just a tremendous runner and he's deserving of being in the top niche of all the high-school runners in Hawaii."
Torres said Wily ranks as "one of the best we've had.
"We've been very fortunate. Kahuku has put a lot of good backs on the field, but Aofaga is right up there with the best," Torres said.