No. 2 Kahuku to host No. 4 Mililani Saturday

Kahuku's Toalei Lefau shakes off a tackle by Mililani's Darius Muasau in the 2017 OIA Division I championship game. Leighland Tagawa | SL

Home, sweet home.

No. 2 Kahuku will celebrate homecoming this weekend when No. 4 Mililani makes the trip up north to Carleton E. Weimer Field Saturday night in a rematch of last year's OIA Division I championship game.

The Red Raiders, who won the 2017 contest between the two squads, 35-31, have been nearly unbeatable at home in the last decade. Since dropping a 14-7 season-ending game to visiting Kapolei in 2007, Kahuku has rattled off 49 straight wins on its home field.

"There's no place like home," first-year Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. "We're ready to play at home, especially it being a homecoming week. There's a lot of activities, a lot of hype going on in the community. We're excited to play at our home field in front of our home fans."

The Red Raiders sing their alma mater in front of their home fans after a 41-28 win over Punahou on Aug. 11, 2018.

Kahuku (4-1 overall, 1-0 OIA Open) is coming off a much-needed bye week that helped many of its players recover from nagging injuries. During the same timespan, the Red Raiders added a familiar face to their coaching staff in former defensive coordinator Byron Beatty, who ran the defense under coach Siuaki Livai in the early part of the century.

But Beatty is on the other side of the ball this time around.

"We brought on Byron Beatty to our offensive staff, who would be more or less our offensive play-caller," Carvalho said. "Just like any good team we're always looking for ways to improve amongst players and coaches."

Carvalho added that Beatty will help the offense be better prepared against opposing defenses.

"He's a great football-minded person, very detail-oriented. He watches a lot of film so he'll expose the weakness of the opponent."

The Trojans (5-2, 3-0) have also made adjustments in recent weeks. Since dropping a 52-14 game to nationally-ranked St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and a 43-21 decision to Punahou, Mililani has rattled off two straight wins, which includes a 35-0 shutout over Waianae.

Mililani coach Rod York said those early-season losses were needed for his team to get better.

"When we played the good teams, it exposes our weaknesses. One thing for sure now is we know where are weaknesses are at and we worked on them in practice."

York also said the losses have led to some experimentation with his squad.

"I'm more talking about weaknesses as far as personnel wise. We see what we can do and cannot do, what certain kids can do and can't. We'll find new combinations. We're getting closer."

As the Trojans continue to find pieces to fit the puzzle, they do have the frame of the picture in place with senior quarterback Dillon Gabriel at the controls. The Army-commit broke the state's all-time career passing yard record last week 362 passing yards to give him 8,329 yards - and counting.

"I think they really have the best QB in the state in Gabriel," Carvalho said. "It's going to be a chess match all night, having the best quarterback in the state on that Mililani team, and having a well-coached staff with coach York. We're expecting a great battle this weekend."

York also spoke highly of the Red Raiders' offense, giving praise especially to their offensive line and fullback Toalei Lefau.

"I'm looking at Kahuku's O-line and I have them right up there with (St. Joh) Boscoe pretty much. They're physical and aggressive, and what they do well is they double to the backers very well.

"To me, their best blocker is not on the O-line, but their best blocker is No. 44 (Lefau) at full back. You got him coming in and literally bulldozing guys, and makes it easy for the running backs to find holes. Their runners do a good job moving to their feet and going to the open area."

Kickoff is slated for approximately 6:30 p.m.

No. 2 Kahuku to host No. 4 Mililani Saturday

#ToaleiLefau #SterlingCarvalho #ByronBeatty #SiuakiLivai