Seariders face another stiff test in top-ranked Red Raiders

Kahuku DE Samson Reed (92) brings down Waianae RB Rico Rosario (6) in an OIA Division I semifinal game last season. Steve Erler | SL

Another weekend will bring about yet another test for the Waianae football team.

The Seariders will welcome their third ranked opponent in as many weeks when they host No. 1 Kahuku Friday night in an Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I Blue Conference game at Raymond Torii Field.

Waianae (0-2 overall, 0-1 league) has already faced the No. 2 team in the state in Saint Louis and the No. 3 team in Kapolei. While his team has lost both contests, coach Walter Young says there has been progression since the 49-7 season-opening loss to the reigning Open Division state champion Crusaders.

"You're never happy with an 0-2 start because you want the kids to be successful, but it taught us a couple of things as a team, both the kids and the coaches," said Young, whose squad is coming off a 7-0 defeat against the Hurricanes. "It taught us that we've got to come and work harder and it actually motivates them a lot. They want to get that first win. They understand that we're playing some good competition in these first couple of weeks and you can see it in practice, they're working harder as a unit and preparing harder. It's not a happy place to be at 0-2, but these kids are still holding their heads up high and understanding that we need to put it together to be successful."

The sixth-ranked Seariders allowed 380 yards of total offense to Saint Louis — 277 of them through the air — but buckled down to limit Kapolei to 200 yards, including minus-30 rushing.

"Defensively we're getting better as the games go on. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're getting there," Young said.

It's the other side of the ball that has struggled mightily.

Waianae was held to a minuscule 14 yards of total offense by the Crusaders and just 66 against the Hurricanes. Its quarterbacks have completed just nine of 25 passes (36 percent). To further complicate the matter, the availability of starting QB Justin Tacgere, who left last week's game with a leg injury, remains up in the air.

"We've got some work to do on offense, but these guys are going to keep fighting all the way to the end and they're going to keep on going whether we're winning or losing," Young said. "With the offensive line, we're still trying to put some guys in and mix and match and see which group will give us the best chance. They're coming along. They're working hard. We've got to put together the best bunch that we can and we'll go from there."

The Red Raiders (1-0) have also been putting in work on offense — specifically, their passing game.

"We really haven't passed the ball at all the past couple years, so we're really trying to have a balanced attack and take what the defense gives us," Kahuku coach Makoa Freitas said. "We want to be able to run the ball, but we've also got to be able to pass."

Kahuku was put to the test in its season-opener last Friday against eighth-ranked Leilehua last Friday, which stayed close for three-plus quarters before ultimately falling 24-0.

Senior running back Enoch Nawahine carried 31 times for 166 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Freitas said he hopes to have junior Wes Alo-Maiava, a transfer from Utah, in the backfield Friday night. He did not play last week.

"We want to make sure Enoch is healthy for the whole season, so we're looking for other people to step up and still be productive in the run game," Freitas said.

Sophomore quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava will also be looked upon to aide the run-first attack. Maiava attempted 25 passes against Leilehua and completed 11 of them for 121 yards. He threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in the win and was not intercepted.

We're still trying to find our identity on offense, but we're excited about our defense. We've just got to cut down on the penalties; there's too many of those," Freitas said.

The Red Raiders rushed for 192 of their 313 yards of total offense, while their defense forced four interceptions — two of them by sophomore Kaonohi Kaniho — and surrendered just 37 total yards to the Mules.

Freitas said the takeaways were a result of all eleven players on defense doing their assignments.

"I really think it's our defensive scheme. We have really good coaches on defense and they come up with good schemes week to week and I think everybody prospers because of it," Freitas said. "Don't get me wrong, the (defensive backs) are very talented, as well as our d-line and our linebackers, and when we get a good pass rush we're going to get those things, so it's everybody feeding off of each other."

Kahuku, which captured its 25th OIA title last season, has won its last 19 league games. Its last league loss was a 20-7 defeat against Mililani in the 2014 OIA championship game.

"They're always a tough team to play and we understand that we've got to play mistake-free football to even have a chance," Young said.

Waianae will be trying for its first win over the Red Raiders since Sept. 22, 2000, when it came away with a 12-7 victory.

Kahuku has won the last 17 meetings against the Seariders.

"It's the first time that we'll be down at their place in a long time, so I'm eager to see how our players respond, but Waianae is a good team," Freitas said. "I think they're a good defense. They're tough and they're physical, like most Waianae teams, so it's going to be a big challenge for us."

Kickoff is scheduled for approximately 7:30 p.m.

Seariders face another stiff test in top-ranked Red Raiders

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