HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Red Raiders rise above distractions
In the midst of turmoil, the Kahuku Red Raiders rose above the storm.
Jray Galeai threw three touchdown passes as No. 3-ranked Kahuku outlasted ninth-rated Farrington 27-7 last night before a homecoming crowd of about 4,000 at Carleton Weimer Field.
Kahuku seized sole possession of first place in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East with a 4-0 record (4-2 overall). Farrington dropped to 3-1 in conference play (3-2-1 overall) despite a gritty effort.
Kahuku has won 10 of the last 11 matchups with Farrington, including six in a row. Farrington ended a scoreless drought of 20 quarters in the series, but wasn't able to stop the power rushing attack of Kahuku.
Perhaps more importantly, the team remained united despite a whirlwind of controversy surrounding coach Reggie Torres. Rumors flew around during the week about a petition to oust the second-year head coach. There was also a rumor last night that Torres, a veteran in the program, would resign after the game.
Instead, the team banded together and team captains met with Torres before the game. One of the allowances Torres gave his players was the haka. The team performed it before the game, a first since Torres took over last season.
Linebacker Paipai Falemalu, who helped lead Kahuku's stingy defense, caught one of Galeai's touchdown passes.
"As players, we have to stick together," said Falemalu, one of the team captains. "We met with him and he listened to us. Doing the haka is for the community, to get them into the game more. They're like our 12th man."
The rumor about Torres stepping down seemed to have no credence. Both principal Lisa DeLong and athletic director Joe Whitford said they continue to give the coach their support. Torres was disappointed about the situation, but happy for his team.
"It's been a distraction," said Torres, who is also in his 19th season as wrestling coach. "The captains got together and worked on getting the team some spunk coming out to the field. We, as a team, just gotta try to work it out, be a team with class."
The home team in red played with class and domination for most of the first half, moving the ball up and down the field against a tough Farrington defense. Galeai directed a 12-play, 60-yard drive on Kahuku's opening series. He connected with Junior Mataafa, who had lined up in the slot, on an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Red Raiders a 6-0 lead with 4:42 to play in the first quarter.
An interception by Farrington's Kalei Stevens derailed Kahuku's next drive, but Galeai responded on his next opportunity. Kahuku drove 65 yards in just seven plays, and Galeai lobbed a perfect 24-yard touchdown pass to Falemalu, who lined up at tight end. The Red Raiders led 13-0 with 4:26 left in the first half.
Farrington, which had just one first down to that point, went to a no-huddle offense with 2 minutes left and found success. Alefesio Iu connected with his receivers for six completions in a row, including a 25-yard TD strike to running back Joshua Fernandez with just 6.9 seconds remaining in the half.
Farrington's momentum skidded to a halt with the opening series of the second half. Kahuku pounded away on the ground before Galeai executed a perfect 23-yard touchdown pass to Willie Ching on play-action. The 6-foot-5 senior gave Kahuku a 20-7 lead with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
Linebacker Coleson Pukahi wrapped up the scoring with a 5-yard interception return with 2:21 left in the game.
Farrington went back to a no-huddle offense and moved the ball once again in the final 2 minutes. Iu suffered a right leg injury on a sack by Kohi Nauahi and was carried off the field. With backup Dayton Kealoha at quarterback, Farrington drove to the Kahuku 9-yard line, but the drive stalled as time expired.
Galeai's steady improvement increases Kahuku's chance of defending its OIA and state titles.
"The thing with Jray, once he settles down, he's a great athlete out there," Torres said. "He's getting more confident in the pocket, and our linemen did great."
Farrington coach Randall Okimoto was impressed.
"Their guys up front were tough; 94 (Jerome Acoba) had good push on us, good penetration, and, of course, 42," he said, referring to Falemalu.
Okimoto, a longtime coach at Farrington, hopes Torres' detractors give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Our primary responsibility is to give these kids an extension of their education. In fact, when you lose, you learn more sometimes," he said. "I feel for him."
Kailua 28, Kalaheo 12
Kale Sumner passed for two touchdowns for the Surfriders.
Brandon Adviento rushed for 109 yards on 21 carries.