Kahuku dumps Punahou, 42-20, for seventh state crown
Kahuku players celebrate after winning the Division I state title against Punahou. Greg Yamamoto | SL
For their high school career finale, Kawe Johnson and Aofaga Wily played their usual game and Kahuku rolled Punahou, 42-20, to repeat as First Hawaiian Bank Division I state football champions. A Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium crowd of 17,820 watched the Red Raiders (12-0) win their 18th in a row dating to last year in taking their seventh crown, by far the most of any D1 team. it is the first time a team has finished unbeaten since the 2003 Red Raiders went 14-0. Kahuku is the 17th Oahu team to go undefeated with 10 or more wins. "It's a great feeling," said Wily, who has offers from Hawaii, Brigham Young, Washington and Arizona. "I give it to all my teammates. I thank them for all for letting me have this opportunity to win states, OIA championships. I love them, I love the community for all the support." Johnson shared the glory of his success, despite doing a lot of work by playing safety, quarterback, receiver and kick/punt returner. "Still got 10 other people on the field doing their job," said Johnson, who has offers from Hawaii, Navy and New Mexico State. "Without their jobs being done, it's hard for me to get my job done. Just a shout out to my team." "We just have a lot of great seniors," Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said. "Kawe's one of them. Playmaker. We used him all over the field. He was tired, but he kept playing. He played his heart out and we just love 'em." It was the most points scored by the winner in a D1 title game, passing Saint Louis' 36-13 win against Waianae in 2010. Johnson, Kahuku's all-purpose player, had two interceptions and was on the back end of a 64-yard hook-and-lateral pass play that gave Kahuku a 21-0 five seconds before the half. Also, he rushed for a first down after lining up as a blocking back in punt formation to set up a TD. "He's been a nightmare for everybody," Punahou coach Kale Ane. "We'll be happy to see him go on to college and hope he does well. But it's tough to defend him." Wily didn't have to carry as much of a load as in previous postseason games, but still rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns, including a 53-yard run for Kahuku's first score of the game. He also had scoring runs of 38 and 25 yards. Punahou pulled to 21-14 in the third quarter on TD runs of 25, 8 and 3 yards by RB Ryan Tuiasoa, who had 118 yards rushing. But Kahuku strung together a seven-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Wily's 38-yard TD run to make it 28-14. "It's tough," said Ane, who is still a win shy of his 100th for his high school coaching career.. "Their a great team, well coached and we made too many turnovers, too many mistakes. We kind of had the momentum for a while. We thought we had a chance to get it back, but we had mistakes, they took advantage of it and that was it." Compounding Punahou's problems was a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that Will Cravens returned six yards for TD to make it 35-14. It was hard loss for Punahou, which has lost three times to Kahuku in the title game. "It's never good to lose, especially your last game," Punahou's Butkus Award candidate LB Isaac Savaiinaea. "But I love the boys on both teams and I'm just proud of the way we played." Punahou turned the ball over twice in a scoreless first quarter, first on a fumble by QB Larry Tuileta and later on Johnson's first interception. But the Red Raiders punted after both situations. The Buffanblu were pinned at their 21 when they were forced to punt with Kahuku taking over at its 47. On first down, Wily went off left tackle and sprinted to a 53-yard TD. Jake Samsel's PAT gave Kahuku a 7-0 lead with 9:27 in the second quarter. Punahou lost the ball on downs at its 28 after an incomplete pass by Tuileta on fourth-and-6. But Kahuku was set back after dead ball personal foul penalty pushed it back to the 15. Wily was stopped for a one-yard loss and no gain on the next two plays and Kahuku was forced to punt. But the Buffanblu lost the ball on a muff and Kahuku took over at its 45. The six-play drive was kept alive when Johnson, lining as a blocking back in punt formation on fourth-and-5 from the Punahou 40, took the snap and ran 11 yards to the Punahou 29 for a first down. On the next play, QB Lasi Livai faked a lateral pass to his right and fired a 29-yard TD pass to Laselle Thompson with 2:27 left in the quarter to make it 14-0. Punahou could not get past its 30 on its next two series and punted. Kahuku took over at its 36 on the latter punt with 16 seconds left in the half. Livai passed to Will Cravens for 11 yards on the left hash mark. Just as he was getting hit, Cravens pitched the ball to Johnson, crossing from right to left, who raced down the left sideline 53 yards for the score with five seconds left to give Kahuku a 21-0 lead at the half. "Will did a good job of catching the ball and making a nice toss," Johnson said. "He made a great effort. I thank him for that touchdown." Punahou scored on its first two series of the second half on TD runs of 25 and 8 yards by Tuiasoa to pull to 21-14 with 1:10 left in the third quarter. But the Red Raiders, who had to punt during their first two series of the second half, found themselves with a third-and-16 at their 34. But Livai, who was 4 of 9 for 111 yards, hit Thompson for a 20-yard gain and a first down. Three plays later, Wily went up the middle, breaking a tackle along the way en route to a 38-yard TD with 9:53 left in the game to make it 28-14. What really sucked the wind out of Punahou's sail was when it fumbled the ensuing kickoff that Thompson returned six yards for a TD to make it 35-14. The snowball got bigger when Johnson intercepted Tuileta on Punahou's next series and returned the ball to the Punahou 29. Two plays later, Wily went off left tackle and scored from 25 yards with 6:56 left in the game, making it 42-14.