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Bishop Gorman too much for No. 1 Kahuku, 35-7

Kahuku quarterback Sol Jay Maiava is tackled by a Bishop Gorman defender on a pass attempt. Stephen Sylvanie | Special to SL

LAS VEGAS – Another nationally ranked opponent, another one bites the desert dust.

Two-time defending USA Today national champion and No. 1 Bishop Gorman scored 21 unanswered second-half points to defeat No. 17 Kahuku, 35-7, Friday night at Fertitta Field in suburban Summerlin before a sellout and standing-room only crowd of about 5,000, seemingly more than half cheering the visitors.

Despite a convincing victory, Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez was still impressed with the Red Raiders.

"They were good as advertised," Sanchez said. "They're tough guys, good coaching staff. I thought they had a great game plan. We didn't get up 35-7 until the fourth quarter. We had to keep working for everything we got."

How does Kahuku stack up with the other then-nationally ranked teams Gorman has played?

"Just as good," Sanchez said.

"I think they're up there," said Gorman offensive lineman Jacob Isaia, a transfer from Iolani. "Their defense is coached well. They confused us at times."

The Gaels (4-0) extended their win streak to 43 dating to 2013. The Red Raiders (5-1), first in the Hawaiian Electric ScoringLive Power Rankings, had their 18-game win streaked snapped dating to last year.

It was Gorman's fourth nationally ranked opponent in as many games. The Gaels lived up to their hype, showing better speed and reliable tackling. Kahuku had a number of missed tackles that led to long yardage plays, including one of the TDs it allowed.

"There's a reason why they're national champs," Kahuku DB/returner Stokes Nihipali-Botelho said. "They're good and all that. We came out here and gave our best, nothing we can do about it."

Nihipali-Botelho had no chance to show his returning skills, as all six kickoffs by Gorman were touchbacks.

Kahuku basically used their power formation and gave the ball to RB Elvis Vakapuna most of the time. But the Gaels converged on the scrum, negating any second- or third-effort charges. He finished with 50 yards on 19 carries.

In the second half, the Red Raiders opened with a spread formation and the Gaels quickly called timeout to make adjustments. The Red Raiders still ran the ball, but with the quicker back in Harmon Brown. Still, the Gaels were able to contain the runs. Brown had seven carries for 36 yards.

"In a sense, we knew they were one-dimensional, so we knew we had to stop the run," Sanchez said. "Our defense, I thought, played really well. Our toughness had been questioned, but I don't think so anymore."

Quarterback Tate Martell, an Ohio State commit, passed for four touchdowns and ran for another to account for the Gaels' scoring. He did lose two fumbles that did not hurt his team and credited his team's defense. He was 13 of 21 for 147 yards and 56 yards rushing on 11 attempts.

"They're a tough team," Martell said of Kahuku. "Our defense played really well tonight; they held them to only seven points. I really think we could've played a lot better offensively. I think a lot of it is on me, (the) fumbling.

Running back Amod Cianelli led all rushers with 158 yards on 23 carries, six more yards than Kahuku's net rushing yardage.

Kahuku freshman QB Sol-Jay Maiava scored on a well-executed keeper after faking a fullback dive up the middle. Maiava then raced 45 yards down the left sideline to pull the Red Raiders to 14-7 with two minutes, 44 seconds left in the half. Maiava was Kahuku's leading rusher thanks to that play with 65 yards on six carries. But he was 3 of 10 for 32 yards passing, including two intentional grounding penalties.

Martell fumbled on the Gaels' ensuing series with 16 seconds left in the half, but Kahuku could not take advantage of the turnover.

Before the half, Sanchez was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty that was assessed on the second-half kickoff. Although the Red Raiders kicked off from the Gaels' 45, Kahuku booted the ball in the end zone for a touchback.

The Gaels then moved 80 yards in 11 plays with Martell scoring on a 3-yard run with 5:44 in the third quarter. It appeared the Red Raiders were going to stop the series when Kekaula Kaniho sacked Martell to make it third-and-14 at the Gorman 34. Kahuku pressured Martell, who scrambled back some 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage before gaining 18 for a first down. Gorman eventually reached the Kahuku 10 and settled for a 27-yard field goal by Derek Ng. But a roughing the kicker penalty led to Gorman taking the point off the board and going for it with a new set of downs from the Kahuku 5. Three plays later, Martell scored.

Maiava lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter and the Gaels made him pay with a Martell to Brevin Jordan 3-yard TD pass that made it 28-7 with 5:12 left.

Kahuku punted on its next series and Gorman scored on Martell's fourth TD pass of the game, a 14-yarder to Dorian Thompson-Robinson to make it 35-7 with 2:21 left.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Gaels scored twice on Martell TD passes of 18 yards to Jordan and 14 yards to Austin Arnold. Jordan broke about three tackle en route to the end zone.

The atmosphere was like a college game with tailgating by Kahuku fans in the parking lot. Gorman workers said they had not seen such enthusiasm before a game.

Parking gates did not open until 3 p.m. (local time) and cars were lined up at least from 2 p.m. The parking lot was full of Kahuku supporters. A long line of fans in red shirts lined the wall entering the gate, which opened at 6 p.m.

Once the fans filled the stands, it was a sea of red.

"That's the best crowd I've ever played against," Martell said. "We weren't too friendly to start off, but that was awesome what they did. That's the closest thing to a college crowd since I've been here."

The game was special for Isaia.

"It was special for us Polynesian guys," Isaia said. "We really wanted to play this game. We really wanted to play them because it was culture. Polynesian from the islands."

Defensive lineman Haskell Garrett, who played JV at Saint Louis, enjoyed playing against Kahuku.

"I missed playing people from back home," Garrett said. "I knew it was going to be a great game. I just love playing the local boys because they bring their heart and they're so into the game."

Though disappointed, Nihipali-Botelho remained optimistic.

"It was a good experience for us," he said of facing Gorman. "I'd rather (this happen) earlier in the season. It's a learning lesson, actually. We have to come out next week and push even harder."

Kahuku resumes its Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I Blue season at Moanalua next Saturday.

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