Strong second half helps Kahuku deny Punahou
Kahuku RB Wesley Alo-Maiava found paydirt four times on the ground and was one of three Red Raiders rushers to go over the century mark. Leighland Tagawa | SL
KAHUKU — After a back-and-forth first half, Big Red dominated the second.
Wesley Alo-Maiava ran in four touchdowns to help No. 2 Kahuku pull away from No. 4 Punahou, 41-28, in an Open Division football game at Carleton E. Weimer Field Saturday night.
A crowd of about 1,000 fans saw the Red Raiders (2-0) overcome three different first-half deficits and score a string of 27 consecutive points to turn back the visiting Buffanblu (0-1), who were making their season debut.
The teams matched each other score-for-score in an entertaining first half and were knotted at 21-all at halftime. However, the second half was all Kahuku.
Offensively, the Red Raiders pounded out 200 of their 333 rushing yards after halftime, while the defense clamped down after surrendering 239 passing yards first half.
Buffanblu quarterback Hugh Brady completed 19 of his 29 first-half attempts with two touchdowns and no interceptions but connected on only eight of his 22 second-half throws.
After racking up 250 yards of total offense before halftime, Punahou managed just 57 after it.
"The difference in the second half was just we had to step back and just take a look at everything and just see what we could do to expose their weaknesses and I feel like we did that (well)," said Kahuku defensive end Tausili Fiatoa.
Fiatoa, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior, had four tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks.
"Honestly, we had to just dig deep and we had to just execute. We started off very slow, but honestly, we just had to dig deep. Just plain and simple," Fiatoa said.
The Red Raiders were intent on getting pressure on Brady, sending blitz after blitz at the Buffanblu junior. They succeeded to the tune of seven sacks, four other tackles for losses and a number of hurried passes under pressure.
"Credit to my coaches, first of all, making the adjustments that were needed and I think it's showing how good of a staff I have, which makes my job easier as a head coach, but our boys, they just want it. The offseason workouts, all the time we put in the weight room it showed toward the end of the game," Kahuku first-year coach Sterling Carvalho said.
Carvalho credited defensive coordinator Sola Soliai and his staff for implementing a few halftime adjustments.
"Just our basic coverages, working out our blitzes, our basic schemes and just getting home. As you saw in the second half, we were able to get to the quarterback, but throw out the coverages in which (Brady) had to hold on the ball — that's a lot more difficult there — so coach Sola did a good job there, the defensive coaches as well," Carvalho said.
Aaron Fonoimoana-Vaomu's (left) sack on Punahou QB Hugh Brady was one of seven the Red Raiders defense racked up Saturday night. Leighland Tagawa | SL
Punahou took its third lead of the first half with 5:46 left in the second quarter on Sitiveni Kaufusi's 1-yard TD plunge to cap a 10-play, 89-yard drive that included three third-down conversions, including the scoring play.
Kahuku evened the score at 21-all after Punahou's following possession ended with a special teams miscue. Tim Horn had his punt blocked by Kahuku's Ace Kaufusi and KJ Macatiag picked it up and scored from five yards out with 2:39 until halftime.
Fiatoa said the momentum-swinging play was just what the Red Raiders needed going into the break.
"That was big. On the sidelines we were all like, ‘feed off of that, feed off of that,' and I feel like we did that," Fiatoa said.
The score remained tied until just past the midpoint of the third quarter, when Alo-Maiava ran in a 1-yard TD — his third of the night — to give the Red Raiders the lead for good. The score was set up by a 51-yard completion from quarterback Robbie Sauvao to tight end Ethan Erickson to move the chains on third-and-8 one play prior.
Duke Heffernan's extra point gave the hosts a 28-21 lead with 5:49 left in the third quarter.
Kahuku made it a two-score advantage after Alo-Maiava's fourth TD — a 2-yard jaunt with 7:52 to play — and took its largest lead of the game at 41-21 following a 65-yard Toalei Lefau TD run with 3:21 remaining.
"At halftime we just came together, corrected our mindset and just executed our plays from then on," Alo-Maiava said. "I think we had our ups and downs, but ultimately we came out with the W. We just pulled together and relied in each other, trusted in each other."
Punahou got a late score in the closing minutes on Vincent Terrell's 6-yard TD run to close out the scoring.
Red Raiders QB Robbie Sauvao (23) was 8 for 14 for 187 yards through the air and added 112 rushing yards on just nine carries. Leighland Tagawa | SL
Alo-Maiava, who carried the ball 23 times for 101 yards, was one of three Kahuku backs to eclipse the century mark in the game. He also scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and an 8-yard run in the second.
Afterward, Alo-Maiava praised his offensive line for paving his way to the end zone early and often.
"They're the true players of the game. It's all up front, so I give it to my line," he said.
Lefau carried 13 times for 113 yards and Sauvao added 112 rushing yards on nine carries.
Sauvao, who started his second consecutive game in place of starter Thorton Alapa, completed eight of his 14 pass attempts for 187 yards without an interception.
"That's what we want as a team, that anyone on any given day can step up and be ready to play," Carvalho said.
Kahuku amassed 520 yards of total offense and averaged nearly seven yards per rush attempt.
"Halftime, we didn't have to say much," Carvalho said. "We know what we did. We took Punahou's best in the first half and it was still tied, so that was the message to them, that as good as they came out in the first half, we're still tied with them, up and up, so now all we have to do is play Kahuku football and finish the game."
Brady finished 27-of-53 passing for 307 yards with two interceptions. He threw a pair of 18-yard TD passes in the first half — to Koa Eldredge and Kanoa Kalahiki — that gave the Buffanblu leads of 7-0 and 14-7, respectively.
Terrell rushed 15 times for a team-high 59 yards for the Buffanblu, who averaged just 1.2 yards per carry. They finished with only 30 total rushing yards.
Marist Liufau led Punahou defensively with a game-high 11 1/2 tackles, including its lone sack. Trent Shiraki added 7 1/2 stops and Kennedy Freeman six in the loss.
Nalu Emerson and Peter-John Mataira each recorded an interception and five different players registered at least one sack for the Kahuku defense. Emerson also posted a team-high eight tackles. Mataira had seven tackles and two pass break-ups, Aaron Fonoimoana-Vaomu made 6 1/2 stops with two sacks and Miki Ah You added six tackles and a sack.
Both teams next play Friday. The Buffanblu visit No. 7 Kapolei, while the Red Raiders travel to No. 11 Waianae.
Just prior to the opening kickoff, a moment of silence was held for longtime Kahuku assistant coach Pele Leiataua, who passed away on Aug. 1
Strong second half helps Kahuku deny Punahou
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