Moanalua's running game effective in any weather


POSTED: Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pregame hype billed Friday night's Moanalua-Kaiser game as a chance to watch two of the best rushers in the state slug it out. Mother Nature ensured that football fans got their wish. But the unsung heroes were in the trenches grinding it out in muddy anonymity.

Tahje Canyon weathered the elements to run for 279 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries for Moanalua, while Kaiser's Josh Gonda got the ball 21 times for 147 yards and two scores as Na Menehune prevailed 32-20 in an OIA White division battle on rain-drenched Moanalua Field.

With the win, Moanalua remained at the top of the White division and improved to 7-0, while Kaiser fell to 3-5 and likely ended its hopes of postseason play.

A brief-but-heavy late afternoon rain left the field soggy, and the earlier JV game created numerous mud puddles that made the ball difficult to handle and the Kaiser players virtually impossible to tell apart in their visiting white-turned-brown jerseys.

“;It became a good old-fashioned dirty battle out there,”; said Kaiser coach Pat Samsonas. “;Both sides had trouble holding onto the ball and it became an individual fight between the top two runners in Division II.”;

;  Moanalua coach Arnold Martinez had a similar observation.

“;It was like trench warfare,”; he said. “;Both offensive lines worked their tails off, and I think Kaiser actually did a better job in the first half.”;

Gonda, the 5-foot-10 Cougars workhorse, set the tone with a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Moanalua tied the score on the following drive but fumbled the snap on a botched punt at its own 1-yard line to put Kaiser up 14-7 at the half. Na Menehune coach Arnold Martinez used the halftime break to make adjustments.

“;I told the guys we had to focus on ball security, holding onto the ball,”; said Martinez. “;It came down to who could keep the ball and would have the better running game.”;

Martinez got extra towels for Canyon to dry off and had the quarterbacks practice taking snaps in a muddy area on the sideline. After drying off, the senior running back took control of the game. He pounded the Kaiser defense on play after play and got three of his four touchdowns in the second half.

“;My fullback (Chasen Hamasaki) was opening holes up for me, and our line did a really good job tonight,”; said Canyon. “;I got a little tired toward the end but just held onto the ball, kept my feet moving and followed my blocks.”;

Hamasaki got the postgame hard hat — a Moanalua styled construction worker helmet given to the team's hardest worker.

“;Tahje had a fantastic game, but every time he got the ball, Chasen was in front with the block,”; said Martinez. “;Tahje is a great athlete, but also a great person and student as well. Sometimes you get kids with his talent, but their attitude isn't right.

“;Tahje embodies what we look for in a student-athlete. I have to include a lot of other kids in that category as well and it's a big part in why we're having such a good season. We have some great kids who work hard and believe in each other. Win, lose, or draw, we love these kids and they're a real blessing to coach.”;