Kahuku's great red wall stands tall
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
St. Louis’ Ronson Young, right, lost the ball after being hit by Kahuku’s Manaia Atuaia.
As impressive as the wall of red lining Aloha Stadium's mauka grandstand on Friday was Kahuku's ability to protect the end zone throughout its run to a state championship.
In a performance fitting of a dominant season on defense, the Red Raiders held a prolific Saint Louis offense to one touchdown in a 39-14 win in the Division I final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships.
"As you can see everybody's over here, obviously it means a lot," linebacker Aaron Tapusoa said, nodding toward the mass of Red Raiders fans celebrating Kahuku's eighth state championship and first since 2012. "The community always had us, our families, our teammates. It's just a wonderful feeling."
Saint Louis' total will go into the books as the highest surrendered by Kahuku in a 13-0 campaign in which the Red Raiders held eight opponents without an offensive touchdown and posted six shutouts.
Both of the Crusaders' scores on Friday were the direct result of or set up by miscues on attempted punts -- a blocked punt on the game's opening possession and a 5-yard drive in the third quarter.
"Nobody can beat our brotherhood," said senior Lono Kanongataa, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound defensive tackle who had one of Kahuku's four sacks of Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
"Our brotherhood is super strong out there. We've played together since we were 5 years old and we just kept that bond forever and it showed tonight."
Tapusoa ended the night with two sacks and junior cornerback Stokes Botelho had two of Kahuku's three interceptions with 113 return yards and the Red Raiders held Saint Louis to 139 yards in total offense. Tagovailoa entered the game with just four interceptions in 258 attempts.
"It's been a while since I had a pick and it's nice to get two in the state championship and bring the trophy back to the country," Botelho said.
"Our main thing (in the secondary) was to stay with the receivers. If we stay with the receivers then Tua won't get rid of the ball and the blitz can get home and get the sacks. It was an all-together effort."
Entering the game, Kahuku hadn't surrendered an offensive touchdown since Kapolei's Taulia Tagovailoa -- Tua's younger brother -- threw a 2-yard scoring pass in the first quarter of an OIA Division I playoff game on Oct. 17.
Since that night, the Red Raiders allowed just one touchdown of any kind, a Mililani fumble return in the OIA championship game, until Saint Louis' Kainalulaakea Paikai scooped up a blocked punt and took it for a 10-yard touchdown return 52 seconds into Friday's game.
After absorbing the first blow, Kahuku forced two fumbles in Saint Louis' first three plays from scrimmage and came up with two sacks on the Crusaders' third possession to force a punt.
Kahuku extended its streak without allowing an offensive touchdown to 17 quarters in taking a 22-7 lead into halftime. Cornerback Kekaula Kaniho extended the lead early in the third quarter when he scooped up an errant snap on a Saint Louis punt and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
When Tagovailoa scooted to the left corner for a 3-yard touchdown run with 6:29 left in the third quarter it marked the first time since last year's OIA championship game that an opponent ran for a score against the Red Raiders.
The score was set up when a snap went over the head of Kekoa Sasaoka to give Saint Louis first-and-goal at the 5.
But that was all Kahuku would surrender.
"We just executed coach's plan, we worked together and did our assignments, plain and simple," Tapusoa said. "We got it done."
Kahuku 39, Saint Louis 14
Saint Louis (9-2) 7 0 0 0 -- 14
Kahuku (13-0) 13 9 7 10 -- 39
Stl--Kainalulaakea Paikai 10 blocked punt return (Jacob Tobias kick), 11:08
Kah--Kesi Ah-Hoy 11 run (Kekoa Sasaoka kick), 6:29
Kah--Ah-Hoy 6 run (kick failed), 1:48
Kah--Safety, snap out of end zone
Kah--Pua Falemalu 27 pass from Ah-Hoy (Sasaoka kick), 2:03
Kah--Kekaula Kaniho 17 fumble return (Sasaoka kick), 9:52
StL--Tua Tagovailoa 3 run (Tobias kick), 6:29
Kah--Ah-Hoy 19 run (Sasaoka kick), 4:54
Kah--FG Sasaoka 31, 0:07
First downs 12 12
Total Net Yards 139 228
Rushes-yards 16-(minus 52) 51-165
Passing 191 63
Punt Returns 2-30 1-(-1)
Kickoff Returns 3-79 3-67
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 3-113
Comp-Att-In 21-40-3 4-7-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-26 0-0
Punts 4-31.8 5-31.8
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 1-1
Penalties-Yards 11-122 12-131
Time of Possession 19:20 28:40
RUSHING--Saint Louis, Saitaua Lefau 5-16, Tua Tagovailoa 8-(minus 1), Team 3-(minus 67).
Kahuku, Ah-Hoy 30-103, Ted Kenese 4-48, Harmon Brown 13-38, LeRod Tongi 2-6, Cameron Renaud 1-5, Team 1-(minus 35).
PASSING--Saint Louis, Tagovailoa 21-40-3-191.
Kahuku, Ah-Hoy 2-3-0-57, Jordan Mariterangi 1-1-0-5, Cameron Renaud 1-3-0-1.
RECEIVING--Saint Louis, Jahvin Spear 6-45, Ronson Young 4-52, Lanakila Wilson 4-46, Drew Kobayashi 3-33, Noah Alejado 2-16, Saitaua Lefau 2-(minus 1).
Kahuku, Draeton Thompson 1-30, Falemalu 1-27, Brown 1-5, Louis Santiago 1-1.
DEFENSIVE LEADERS-Kahuku, Kekaula Kaniho 5; 1 FF, 1 INT; Stokes Botelho 4; 2-113 INT/Yds; Aaron Tapusoa 2.0/13 SK-Yds Saint Louis, Tainalu Evaimalo 10; 3.0/5 TFL/Yds; Dylan Toilolo 6; 2.0/7 TFL-Yds; Jordan Iosefa 6; 2.0/6 TFL/Yds
MISSED FIELD GOALS--Kahuku: Sasaoka 42 (short).