• Nick Abramo-Hawaii Prep World

Kahuku readies for mammoth game in Vegas


Kahuku's Taz Rodrigues (26) and a teammate converged on Aiea slotback Sam Okamoto during the Red Raiders' 51-7 win last Friday. National No. 23 Kahuku takes on No. 16 Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) in Las Vegas on Saturday. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo.

The Kahuku Red Raiders are in Las Vegas and they know the drill.

This is the real deal. Win and they probably ride up that much higher in the MaxPreps United States rankings. Lose and it will be their second straight setback on a national scale.

The Red Raiders (4-0, 4-0 Oahu Interscholastic Association Blue) take on Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) on Saturday. In terms of the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (a human poll), it’s the 16th-ranked Miners (3-0) against the 23rd-ranked Red Raiders. It should also be noted that in a separate MaxPreps list (computer rankings), Bingham is No. 8 and Kahuku is No. 103.

Bingham vs. Kahuku, which will be held at UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium as part of the Polynesian Football Classic, is a rematch of a 2007 game in which the Miners won at home, 27-0.

The Red Raiders departed Kahuku early Wednesday morning and are preparing for the huge game.

“We got in yesterday (Wednesday afternoon) and everything is going good,” Red Raiders coach Makoa Freitas said via cell phone Thursday evening. “It’s been great. We’ve been able to practice at Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) and they’ve been great hosts.”

In 2015, Liberty played games in the same season against two of Kahuku’s Hawaii foes — at Aloha Stadium against Saint Louis (a 43-16 loss to the Crusaders) and in Nevada against Mililani (a 76-53 win over the Trojans).

“We’re excited to be here and be part of the Polynesian Football Classic,” Freitas continued. “We’re trying to keep the kids focused on the football game and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to be here and playing against good competition. We’re thrilled and are getting it across to the boys that they want to play the best that they possibly can. Bingham is a great team and the kids know it’s a really big game. The kids know what they’re up against, especially the ones that came last year to play against Gorman.”

In 2016, Kahuku played at top-ranked Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas and lost 35-7. That was the team’s only loss of the season before a 30-14 loss to Saint Louis in the Open Division state championship game.

Red Raiders sophomore starting quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava is day-to-day with an injury, according to Freitas, who said Maiava tweaked his shoulder in last week’s 51-7 victory over Aiea.

“He left the Aiea game holding his shoulder,” Freitas said.

Junior Thorton Alapa will start if Maiava doesn’t.

“We’re going through the normal protocol of getting a backup ready,” the coach said.

According to Kela Miller of Kahuku’s alumni association, Red Raiders fans are there en masse as usual and ready to show Big Red pride big-time Saturday. Fans attended a pep rally at the Fremont Street Experience on Thursday.

“The team was unable to attend due to another commitment, but we’re teaching the haka to anyone who wants to learn, whether you are from Kahuku or not,” Miller said. “And we’re all going to do the haka at the stadium before the game.”

Kahuku readies for mammoth game in Vegas

#TazRodrigues #MakoaFreitas #SolJayMaiava #ThortonAlapa

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