Kahuku closes out Kapolei
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku running back Harmon Brown (8) soars over the goal line for a touchdown during the first half of an HHSAA Open Division semifinal football game between the Kahuku Red Raiders and the Kapolei Hurricanes on Friday, November 11, 2016 at Aloha Stadium in Halawa.
Saint Louis and Kahuku will dance once again.
A year after the Red Raiders thumped the Crusaders to win their eighth state football championship, the two teams will meet again in the inaugural Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships on Nov. 19 at Aloha Stadium.
Elvis Vakapuna scored three first-half touchdowns and Harmon Brown rushed for 106 yards and two scores for Kahuku (11-1), which extended its winning streak to 24 games against Hawaii teams with a 54-7 demolition of Kapolei on Friday night.
Kahuku, the OIA regular-season winner, and Saint Louis, the ILH champion, will meet in a state final for the seventh time. They also met in the Prep Bowl six times.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Kahuku defensive back Kekaula Kaniho, who had his fifth interception return for a touchdown this season. “We’ll get back to work and see what (Saint Louis has today). I’m glad we came away with this win, but we have a lot to clean up.”
The Red Raiders outscored the Hurricanes 47-0 over the final three quarters to make it another blowout before a crowd of 11,817.
Saint Louis beat Waianae 42-7 in the other semifinal after leading 42-0 at halftime.
Kahuku scored at least 38 points for the eighth straight game against a Hawaii opponent and has outscored its opponents 551-43 in 11 games, excluding the Bishop Gorman contest.
“We got a little frazzled at the beginning,” Kahuku coach Vavae Tata said. “Mental errors in our first few offensive series.”
Kapolei stayed even with Kahuku after one quarter when Jaymin Sarono’s 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa capped a 17-play drive.
The turning point came midway through the second quarter. Facing a third-and-11, Kahuku freshman quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava found a wide-open Vakapuna, who took advantage of a busted coverage by the Hurricanes’ defense for a 70-yard touchdown to make it 17-7.
Maiava added a 47-yard scamper on the Red Raiders’ next drive, which ended in Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run for a 24-7 advantage.
Vakapuna added his third touchdown of the first half on an 8-yard run for a 31-7 halftime lead.
“Coach stressed it a lot. We needed to score one (touchdown) every drive,” said Vakapuna, who had 70 rushing yards on 16 carries.
The Hurricanes ended the year 10-3 with their best finish at the Division I level.
Tagovailoa was 31-for-53 for 260 yards and a touchdown. He was picked twice in the fourth quarter to give him his first three-interception game of the season.
Kaniho’s interception was his sixth of the season and he also forced a fumble.
Kahuku’s defense recorded a safety when Tagovailoa was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Tagovailoa ended his sophomore year with 3,919 passing yards and 42 touchdowns, falling 66 yards short of Timmy Chang’s single-season record.
“We just didn’t connect,” Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said. “Jaymin and Wyatt (Perez) were going to be our go-to guys and give it to Antoneo (Brown). It worked for a quarter, but give Kahuku credit. They did a great job of stopping us. They’re on a different level in high school.”
A competitive first quarter began when Kahuku got the ball first and was forced to punt after Treven Ma’ae pressured Maiava into an incomplete pass.
Kapolei picked up two first downs on its first drive before Kaniho forced a fumble that was recovered by Toalei Lefau.
Vakapuna scored his first touchdown on a 2-yard run to give Kahuku the opening lead.
Kapolei responded with its only scoring drive. It was only the sixth touchdown Kahuku has allowed this season against Hawaii teams.
The teams combined for 30 penalties for 331 yards. Kahuku defensive back Stokes Nihipali-Botelho kicked a 25-yard field goal, was 7-for-7 on extra-point attempts and had a game-high eight tackles.