Kahuku painting the town red
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Bishop Gorman will have to deal with Kahuku running back Elvis Vakapuna on Saturday.
LAS VEGAS >> Two-time reigning national champion Bishop Gorman opened its season with a nationally televised 44-14 spanking of Texas powerhouse Cedar Hill.
Last Friday, the Gaels traveled to Long Beach, Calif., and disposed of a St. John Bosco squad from nearby Bellflower that entered the contest ranked as high as No. 3 nationally, 35-20.
And on Sept. 30, Gorman hosts the team that began the year ranked No. 1 by USA Today, St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on ESPN.
But it’s fair to say no game has attracted as much buzz for the Gaels (3-0) as Saturday night’s meeting with defending state champion and 17th-ranked Kahuku (5-0) at Fertitta Field.
The Red Raiders sold out their ticket allotment of 2,000 in less than an hour. A standing-room-only crowd of over 5,000 is expected to be on hand.
“It’s not our first sellout but it’s the first time we’ve sold out that fast,” Bishop Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “It didn’t really surprise us. We had heard about their fan base and knew that they traveled really well. Their fan base is huge.”
Sanchez got a pretty good scouting report on Kahuku’s loyal fan following from linebacker coach and former University of Hawaii star Chris Brown, who helped put the game together.
“I know all of (Kahuku’s) coaches,” said Brown, who prepped at Damien. “A couple are from Saint Louis (School) and I know them well. We had a conversation in the offseason and they said they really wanted to come out here and play us and see what they’ve got. They thought they were going to be pretty good.”
Brown passed the information on to Sanchez.
“We knew they were going to be a good football team, and they wanted the game,” Sanchez said. “We were looking for games. They’re a good team. We wanted to schedule the best. Now they’re No. 17 in the country.”
The game has extra meaning for three Bishop Gorman starters: senior defensive lineman Haskell Garrett, who attended Saint Louis as a freshman before moving to Las Vegas, junior linebacker Palaie Gaoteote, who played at Mililani, and junior offensive tackle Jacob Isaia, who attended ‘Iolani.
“I’d say this is a personal game,” said Garrett, who is verbally committed to Ohio State. “Very personal because this is a team from back home. We are going to be playing in front of all our families and stuff like that.”
Garrett said he has 66 friends and family coming in for the game.
“It’s not really for bragging rights,” he said. “It’s our culture. It’s going against the best and who we are and what we do as a family in our culture is very strong. It’s prideful and a very personal game.”
Gaoteote, who leads the team in tackles with 26 and has almost two dozen college scholarship offers, said he has 47 family members flying out for the game.
“It’s a special game for me,” Gaoteote said. “I grew up playing against Kahuku in youth football pretty much my whole life. My freshman year (at Mililani) we played them in the regular season as well as the playoffs. We played at Aloha Stadium both times. On the home side all you could see was red and white. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Isaia said that he will have about 40 family members at the game.
“I have five families from Hawaii and all over the country coming in for this game,” he said. “I think it’s great to play them. It’s a great opportunity not only for us but also for them. It gets them more attention and a lot of coaches can look at them now.”
Brown, who roomed with Kahuku alum Ma’ake Kemoeatu with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003, also expects to see a lot of familiar faces.
“I grew up on the east side so I know all about Kahuku,” Brown said. “Some of my best friends went there. A lot of them are flying up. They want to support me but at the same time they bleed red so …”
Bishop Gorman will put a 42-game winning streak on the line. The Gaels last lost to eventual 2013 national champion Booker T. Washington of Miami, Fla., 28-12 on Oct. 4, 2013 at Fertitta Field.
“It’s going to be a fun environment,” said quarterback Tate Martell, an Ohio State commit who has passed for 591 yards and seven touchdowns and has run for another 354 yards and five TDs. “It’s going to be the biggest crowd we’ve ever had here. And I love playing in front of big crowds.”
Radford (0-5, 0-4 OIA Blue) at No. 4 Waianae (5-1, 4-1), 7:30 p.m. – At one time, Fred Salanoa was the youngest head football coach in the state. After leading the Rams to a D-II state title last year, he may well have been one of the most overqualified coaches in the state. But even as he departed, few if any expected the program to struggle quite this much in D-I. The OIA’s inflexible format, which promotes teams that sometimes graduate talented seniors en masse, has the Rams and first-year coach Lon Passas in an extremely difficult position. Salanoa was more than a successful head coach; he was a QB whisperer. Without him, Radford has a passing offense that averages 43 yards per game with a total of no TDs and eight interceptions. Radford, with one of the lower enrollments in the OIA, has lost every game in D-I by at least 36 points.
Kailua (2-2, 2-2 OIA Red) at No. 5 Kapolei (4-1, 3-1), 7:30 p.m. – There are a multitude of theoretical methods to disarm the aerial behemoth that is Kapolei. One would be to keep the ball on the ground and lob the ball to an athletic, 6-foot-4 leaper like Christian Mejia on third downs. That might be the blueprint for Coach Joe Wong’s Surfriders, especially with starting QB Keoni Serikawa (shoulder) still out for some time. Mark Lagazo, the running back-turned-QB who leads Kailua in passing and rushing, faces a swarming Hurricane defense that is still missing key pieces due to injury despite coming off a bye.
Taulia Tagovailoa has already passed for 1,506 yards and 17 TDs with two picks. Jaymin Sarono already has 50 receptions for 496 yards and 10 TDs, but his compadres on the route tree are gaining confidence.
Moanalua (3-2, 2-2 OIA Blue) at Campbell (2-3, 2-2), 7:30 p.m. – Na Menehune have bounced back from an 0-2 start in league play with shutout wins over Radford and Kaiser. As Moanalua’s defense evolves, its chances of going deep in the playoffs increase. Their offense, led by Alaka‘i Yuen (1,275 passing yards, 20 TDs), is already established. With Campbell, Kahuku and Aiea ahead, Na Menehune are at a key point.
So is Campbell. Coach Amosa Amosa’s team has struggled with turnovers, but still has a balanced attack with multiple weapons.
Castle (2-3, 1-3 OIA Red) at Leilehua (2-4, 2-3), 7:30 p.m. – With a win over Radford in the opening week of league play, the Knights are a step ahead and on track to qualify for the playoffs. But with three losses in a row, Coach Nelson Maeda’s squad could use a boost. Behind them are matchups with Top 10 opponents – Mililani, Kapolei and Farrington – in the previous three games. With new quarterbacks and a lot more attention from defenses, WR/DB Jeremy McGoldrick has collected just 22 receptions for 248 yards and three TDs so far. He had 43 catches, 690 yards and 15 TDs last season.
The Mules’ 37-15 win at Kailua last week could be the spark they need.
Aiea (1-4, 1-3 OIA Blue) at Kaiser (2-4, 1-4), 7:30 p.m. – Na Alii keep plugging along, a team filled with juniors going up against some of the OIA’s Division I powerhouses. If there were three classifications instead of two – the OIA had Red, White and Blue conferences during the 1990s – Aiea would be best suited for the middle division. They are very competitive against the lower tier (win over Nanakuli, 12-7 loss to Campbell), and lost by sizable margins against Top 10 teams Kahuku and Waianae. Teams like Aiea and Kaiser, especially where enrollments are stagnant, middling at best and possibly shrinking, could benefit from a reorganized structure that mirrors the pending HHSAA format (Open Division, D-I, D-II).
Pac-Five (2-1, 0-1 ILH D-II) vs. St. Francis (1-2, 0-1) at Aloha Stadium, 7:45 p.m. – The Wolfpack are hurting after a 40-27 loss to Damien last week. It took time for the offense to heat up, but the bigger concern is that they never quite stopped Damien’s ground attack. The Saints are rested and will likely take a similar approach against the ‘Pack defense. They’ve had two weeks to simmer since losing to Damien 21-16. A win puts the Saints in position to make a run and possibly tie (or pass) Damien in the final regular-season standings.
Waialua (2-1, 2-1 OIA D-II) at Roosevelt (1-5, 1-4), 6 p.m. – The Bulldogs served notice to the rest of the division with last weekend’s 49-15 win over Kalaheo. Coming off a narrow win over Kalani and an overtime loss to Kaimuki, Waialua is angling for one of the playoff berths. Tevesi Toia has accounted for 628 total yards and seven TDs to spark the Bulldogs offense.
The Rough Riders remain committed to their ground attack. They’ve run the ball on 260 of their 335 snaps offensively (78 percent). Charvis Paia (408 yards, two TDs) is among the top rushers in D-II.
King Kekaulike (0-3, 0-3 MIL) vs. Baldwin (3-2, 3-0), War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m. – The Bears have won three in a row since league play started. Na Alii have yet to score a point.
Kealakehe (0-3, 0-2 BIIF) at Kamehameha-Hawaii (4-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m. – A week after losing to D-II Honokaa at home, Kealakehe nearly stunned D-I favorite Hilo. Despite their struggles, the improving Waveriders are one of just four BIIF teams in D-I, and two of those teams will qualify for the newly formatted D-I state tournament. That gives Kealakehe, Keaau (1-1) and Waiakea (1-1), plus Hilo, a little more spark.
Keaau (1-1, 1-1 BIIF) at Honokaa (2-1, 1-1), 7:30 p.m. – The Dragons lost on the road to KS-Hawaii 43-21 last week. They are in an unusual position compared to D-II teams in most leagues. BIIF D-II on the whole is stronger than D-I, and there is just one state-tourney berth available compared to the two berths for the league’s D-I teams. That scenario would reverse some or all of the league’s D-I programs moved to D-II, as the KIF did years ago.
No. 6 Kamehameha (2-2, 1-1 ILH) vs. No. 2 Saint Louis (3-0, 2-0) at Aloha Stadium, 6 p.m. – The Warriors’ 50-20 win over ‘Iolani may be their breakout game in the first year of the Abu Ma‘afala era. The return of RB Jaykob Cabunoc complemented the Warriors’ offense, which has a durable ground gainer in Kanoa Shannon. Cabunoc’s ability to catch the ball and make big plays out of the backfield are a huge plus for QB Thomas Yam. The question remains, can any defense slow down Saint Louis QB Tua Tagovailoa? The Crusader offense racked up 64 points against Punahou last week.
No. 3 Punahou (2-1, 1-1 ILH) at No. 10 ‘Iolani (3-2, 0-2), 2 p.m. – The Buffanblu got a record-breaking passing performance from Nick Kapule (495 yards) in the loss to Saint Louis last week. Defenses in ILH D-I are paying close attention to Raider RB K.J. Pascua and WR Justin Genovia.
The Raiders stayed fairly close for most of the first half against Kamehameha before succumbing. Tagovailoa’s ability to scramble for large gains was the X-factor against Punahou. ‘Iolani QB Tai-John Mizutani doesn’t have quite the freedom to take off, normally. That could change some this weekend.
Nanakuli (0-5, 0-4 OIA Red) vs. No. 8 Farrington (4-1, 4-1) at Roosevelt, 5:30 p.m. –Though the young Golden Hawks haven’t tasted victory in D-I, they had not been shut out until last week’s loss to Mililani. Their hopes of reaching the playoffs come down to these last three regular-season games: Farrington, Castle and Kapolei. They’re chasing Castle and Leilehua for that final playoff spot.
The Governors would like to claim one of the top two spots in the Red division and earn a first-round bye.
McKinley (0-3, 0-2 OIA D-II) vs. Waipahu (3-1, 2-1) at Aiea, 6:30 p.m. – Four weeks have passed since McKinley’s last game, a 28-14 loss to Kalaheo. Waipahu is coming off a 21-7 defeat to Pearl City, its first of the season.
Kaimuki (2-2, 2-1 OIA D-II) vs. Kalaheo (1-4, 1-3) at Kailua, 6:30 p.m. – As always, OIA D-II is a crowded house with just four playoff berths. Kaimuki is mired with Waipahu and Waialua at 2-1, with Pearl City atop the standings and Kalani (2-2) right behind the pack. The Bulldogs should be rested; they haven’t played since Sept. 4.
Kapaa (4-0, 2-0 KIF) vs. Kauai (0-4, 0-2), Vidinha Stadium, 2:30 p.m. –Defending KIF champion Kapaa has rolled through its first four games, winning by an average of 42.5 points in league play. With nonconference victories over D-I Maui and on the road against Lahainaluna, the Warriors may be edging closer to a top seed at the D-II state tourney. It’s still early and the HHSAA D-II seeding committee will sit down when it’s time to gauge the facts: Kapaa has a win over Lahainaluna, Damien has beaten Maui, which beat Lahainaluna, Konawaena has beaten St. Francis on Oahu (23-22) and Lahainaluna defeated Pearl City. It’s still a long way from the league championship games, but food for thought.
Lahainaluna (2-3, 1-2 MIL) at Kamehameha-Maui (1-3, 1-2), 7 p.m. – The D-II Lunas are coming off a 29-27 home-field loss to Baldwin, the league’s D-I favorite. KS-Maui won’t make it any easier. The Warriors lost to Baldwin 19-14 three weeks ago on their field in Pukalani.
Hawaii Prep (0-3, 0-2 BIIF) vs. Hilo (2-1, 2-0), Wong Stadium, 7:30 p.m. – The Vikings escaped with a 28-25 win at Kealakehe last week. Though they’re unbeaten in league play, their two wins have come by a total margin of five points, and a normally stellar defensive unit has permitted 23 points per game. Hilo’s success in recent years hinged primarily on outstanding defense, so the bar is set quite high.
Waiakea (1-4, 1-2 BIIF) at Konawaena (2-1, 1-1), 7:30 p.m. – The Warriors routed Keaau 42-6 last week for their first win of the season. Konawaena leveled HPA 62-6 in the first of four consecutive home games.