HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahuku's Suaesi Tuimaunei and Kaleo Spallone celebrated after Tuimaunei's interception in the end zone with 23 seconds left sealed the Red Raiders' victory.
4 out of 6 ain’t bad
The Red Raiders need all they have to beat the Buffanblu and earn their fourth title in six years
Goliath never had it this tough.
Top-seeded Kahuku came up with the defensive gems that forge a championship, including an interception by Suaesi Tuimaunei in the end zone with 23 seconds left to preserve a 28-21 win over Punahou last night.
A raucous crowd of 24,667 at Aloha Stadium, second-largest in tournament history, saw Kahuku capture the final of the Division I HHSAA/First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships.
Kahuku (11-1) needed a second-half rally, sparked largely by its defense, to win its fourth state title.
"Every title has special moments, so it's unfair to compare," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said. "But this is sweet."
For much of the night, Punahou (11-3) played well enough to win its first state crown. Defense and a persistent ground attack, however, carried the Red Raiders to their first title since 2003. And the lack of a running game hurt Punahou as it tried to protect its lead.
"They'll make some plays, and we'll make our plays," Livai said. "We just hoped we'd make more plays than them."
Kahuku went ahead late in the game on a safety. Kaniela Tuipulotu's tackle of Kainoa Carlson in the end zone gave Kahuku its first lead, 22-21.
"No one ever really ran on us. It was luck. I saw my guard go down, and Joe (Faifili) held his side up, clogged it up," Tuipulotu said. "I came from the back side. I was surprised."
After the Red Raiders got a 5-yard touchdown run by Kamuela Alisa moments later, they led 28-21 with 2:37 to play.
With no timeouts left, the Buffanblu drove from their own 26-yard line to the Kahuku 3. Kan completed seven of his nine pass attempts during the drive, including a 22-yard strike to Kyle Whitford on a post pattern to the Kahuku 3.
"Some people gave up," Tuimaunei said of Kahuku's wilting defense in the final minutes. "But our team captains, the older guys, told them to pick it up."
Livai gave his team a reminder during a timeout.
"We just had to play assignments right. Guys were panicking, lining up wrong. Give a lot of credit to them. They made big plays under pressure," he said.
On first and goal with 28 seconds left, Kan rolled right and looked for River Kim, who was open briefly. Kan then pumped and fired into the corner, where Miah Ostrowski was double-covered. Tuimaunei intercepted easily, ending Punahou's hopes.
"I had Ostrowski in man coverage," said Tuimaunei, a 6-foot-1, 182-pound senior. "I was really surprised (Kan) threw. Punahou put up a good fight. They're a real good team."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punahou running back Kainoa Carlson tried to keep his footing on a carry during last night's championship game at Aloha Stadium.
In all, Kahuku amassed 410 yards of offense against a resilient Punahou defense. The Red Raiders did it with smashmouth football.
"It's the constant mentality of hard nose, hard nose, hard nose," said running back Malosi Te'o, who rushed for 262 yards on 30 carries. "You sacrifice your body to get those yards. Punahou's defense, it was definitely a reality check for us. They were definitely tough."
Punahou, which won its first Interscholastic League of Honolulu title in 28 years, was nearly inconsolable after the tough loss.
"We have to soak up this experience. That runner-up trophy means a lot. We went a long way," said defensive tackle Jonathan Overton, who had five tackles. He, Jay Angotti and Sam Higgins led a swarming unit.
Kan finished with 271 yards on 22-of-52 passing.
At the start, Punahou was crisp. After stifling Kahuku's opening series, the Buffanblu went three and out, but recovered a muffed punt off Kahuku's Shiloah Te'o at the Red Raider 34-yard line.
From there, Punahou needed seven plays to score. Kan connected with Zac Yamagishi for a 27-yard touchdown pass on third and 14. Punahou led 7-0 with 6:04 to play in the opening quarter.
Kahuku's offense, primarily based on a Power I set with 250-pound Joe Whittacker and 280-pound Joe Faifili as fullbacks, sputtered until the second quarter. That's when the Red Raiders switched to a double-tight end I formation and drove 69 yards in seven plays.
A 35-yard jaunt off right tackle by Malosi Te'o sparked the drive. On fourth and 1 from the Punahou 4, Kahuku went back to the Power I. Alisa followed Faifili, who starts at defensive tackle, up the gut for a 4-yard touchdown run.
Having shunned normal PAT attempts due to problems throughout the season with snaps and misses, Kahuku went for 2. Alisa's run on the conversion try failed, and Punahou remained ahead 7-6 with 8:29 left in the second quarter.
Punahou responded with a nine-play, 59-yard scoring drive. A pair of offside penalties by Faifili helped Punahou, which also got a 39-yard completion from Kan to Whitford. On third and goal from the 1, Kan leapt for the goal line and was met by linebacker Kevin Unga. The ball got loose, but the play was whistled dead before Kan hit the ground, and there was no indication of a score or a turnover.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahuku running back Malosi Te'o ran into Punahou defender Sam Higgins in last night's game. Te'o finished with 262 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries.
After a 3-minute conversation, officials ruled that Kan had a touchdown. Kim's PAT kick gave Punahou a 14-6 lead with 4 minutes left in the first half.
Kahuku needed just three plays to answer Punahou's score. Kaulin Krebs found Devin Unga open on a play-action pass for a 72-yard catch and run. Inexplicably, Unga did a flip over the goal line as he scored, drawing an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
Kahuku's ensuing 2-point try from the 18 went nowhere. Krebs was stopped for a short gain on an option keeper, and Kahuku still trailed 14-12 with 2:32 remaining in the first half.
Using a three-man defensive line, Kahuku's defense shut out Punahou in the third quarter. Kahuku's offense, however, didn't capitalize. Overton and Stephen Dannaway tackled Te'o on a fourth and 7 run off tackle, stopping a Kahuku drive at the Buffanblu 30-yard line.
Moments later, safety Angotti picked off a Krebs pass at the Punahou 14-yard line to end another Red Raider threat.
That set up a pivotal series for Punahou. Instead of wearing down late in the third quarter against the larger Red Raiders, the Buffanblu went to the air. Kan completed an 11-yard pass to Carlson and four in a row to Ostrowski, mostly on crossing routes. A roughing-the-passer call helped move the chains in favor of the Buffanblu.
Kan found Whitford open on a post route, and the 5-9, 155-pound junior broke a tackle attempt by Afa Bridenstine for a 27-yard touchdown play. Punahou led 21-12 with 11:53 left.
Kahuku seemed to be fizzling out, especially after punting back to Punahou moments later. After a three and out by the Buffanblu, Kahuku's offense awoke. On the Red Raiders' second play of the series, Te'o broke loose off right tackle and raced 79 yards for a touchdown. After Alisa scored on the 2-point conversion, Kahuku trailed 21-20 with 7:47 left in the game.
Punahou's fall continued. On first down from their own 36-yard line, Kan's pass was tipped by Kim and intercepted by Kahuku's Chico Ramirez at the 40.
Punahou's defense rose to the challenge, stopping Te'o on the ground and sacking Krebs to set up fourth and 17. After a time out, Kahuku wisely elected to punt.
"First of all, we had some time on the clock," Livai said. "We believe in our game, that we can score from anywhere, any time. A run is as good as a bomb."
The Red Raiders kept Greg Nagy's punt alive inside the 5, where Punahou fell on the ball at the 2. On third and 10, defensive tackle Tuipulotu got into the backfield, stuffing Carlson for the go-ahead safety.
On Punahou's next play from scrimmage, Ramirez picked off Kan for a second time, returning the ball 20 yards to the Buffanblu 5-yard line. Alisa bolted in on the next play to give Kahuku a 28-21 lead with 2:37 remaining.
Kahuku, still unwilling to try a 1-point kick, was stopped on the PAT run when Alisa fell a foot short. That gave Punahou new life.
Kahuku 28, Punahou 21
At Aloha Stadium
Pun--Zac Yamagishi 27 pass from Brett Kan (River Kim kick).
Kahu--Kamuela Alisa 4 run (run failed).
Pun--Kan 1 run (Kim kick).
Kahu--Devin Unga 72 pass from Kaulin Krebs (run failed).
Pun--Kyle Whitford 24 pass from Kan (Kim kick).
Kahu--Malosi Teo 79 run (Alisa run).
Kahu--Kanie Tuipulotu safety.
Kahu--Alisa 5 run (run failed).
RUSHING--Punahou: Kainoa Carlson 9-15, Ryan Nobriga 5-2, Colin Viloria 1-1, Kan 1-1. Kahuku: Teo 30-262, Alisa 5-14, Jose Whittacker 3-5, Krebs 3-(-9).
PASSING--Punahou: Kan 22-52-3-271. Kahuku: Krebs 5-9-0-138.
RECEIVING--Punahou: Miah Ostrowski 11-108, Whitford 3-89, Carlson 3-27, Yamagishi 2-36, Kim 2-5, Viloria 1-6. Kahuku: Unga 2-108, Alisa 1-18, Redmond Tutor 1-7, Jason Evans 1-5.