Red Raiders left no doubt this time
The signs in the stands — gold-trimmed and hand-written alike — urged Kahuku High to "Leave No Doubt" and when it came right down to it last night, the Red Raiders didn't.
When it counted; when the massive Chevron State Football Championship trophy was there for the taking and the state was watching, the Red Raiders held on and pulled out a 21-14 victory over St. Louis School.
With the icing on a 14-0 season, there would be no doubt that supremacy in state high school football is once again the province of the North Shore. That the balance of power has shifted north from Kalaepohaku to Kahuku.
There would be no doubt that last year's breakthrough 26-20 victory over the Crusaders that marked the end of a 14-year St. Louis reign of Prep Bowl and state championships, was the first in a series of Red Raider triumphs, not a once-in-a-blue moon anomaly.
For this the Red Raiders, and, indeed all of prep football that had been looking over their shoulders, waited 364 days for confirmation.
"We want to prove ourselves and defend our title," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai had said all week.
Left unsaid — and now forever closed to discussion — were any whispers about a fluke after the Red Raiders' 23rd consecutive victory.
So much, too, for the supposed vulnerability of the Red Raiders who stumbled, fumbled and struggled past feisty Waimea, 21-7, in the semifinals last week.
Neither the much-speculated upon rigors of a 14-game season nor the rapidly mounting pressure of expectations would deny the Red Raiders on this night.
In front of an Aloha Stadium crowd of 24,841, the Red Raiders demonstrated their recurring power.
They did it the hard way on a 12-play, 91-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, and they did it the seemingly easy way on a 77-yard Inoke Funaki run and on an 82-yard Mulivai Pula bolt.
But then Pula made it look easy all night with 209 yards on 23 carriers and two touchdowns.
They managed it despite two potentially disastrous turnovers and 11 numbing penalties for 118 yards.
They did it in ways we were not accustomed to seeing against Crusader teams of the past. Four times inside their own 22-yard line the Red Raiders' defense rose up and suffocated St. Louis scoring threats.
So confident was Livai in his defense — or desperate about his punting game — that when the Red Raiders had bogged down on fourth-and-two at their own 34 in the final two minutes that he went for the first down — and got it.
On this night, the Red Raiders came determined to leave no doubt.