Even though the final score was 24-0, this was no walkover.
No. 2 Kahuku, the defending Oahu Interscholastic Association champion, was clinging to a 10-point lead well into the fourth quarter before finishing strong to beat Leilehua.
As has been the case for years, it was the Kahuku defense that carried the day in the home and season opener. The Red Raiders (1-0) came up with four interceptions, including three in the first half, to turn the tides. The defensive unit held the Mules to 40 yards total from scrimmage.
Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu, Lauina Falatea, Kaonohi Kaniho and Nalu Emerson made the interceptions for the Red Raiders.
Emerson’s pick led to Duke Heffernan‘s 28-yard field goal, and Kaniho’s interception set the stage for sophomore quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava‘s 2-yard touchdown run for that 10-0 lead.
Emerson also had a sack of Leilehua starting quarterback Kona Andres, and teammate Miki Ah You sacked backup Max Nichols. Samson Reed, Feso Malufau and Fatu Atuaia added tackles for loss.
“There’s a lot more we can do to get better,” Kahuku coach Makoa Freitas said. “I liked the job the defense did, the mentality they had and how they flew around out there. On offense, we’ve got to cut down on mistakes and penalties.”
Enoch Nawahine carried the load on offense for the Red Raiders, rushing for 163 yards on 30 carries and a late touchdown. He ripped off long runs of 24 and 26 yards, but neither of those went for a touchdown, and he got bottled up quite a bit by the Leilehua defense on key situations.
Donovan Ugalino, Kalaika Sinclair (two sacks), Sunny Kanamu Jr., Richard Shimasaki (sack), Vitale Afoa (tackle for loss) and Marcus Spencer (tackle for loss) were major forces for the Leilehua defense.
Aside from Kahuku’s four scoring drives, the Mules forced Kahuku to punt four times and caused them to turn the ball over on downs four times.
Stopping Kahuku’s offense on eight of 12 tries. Not bad.
“They’ve got talent, but we showed we can play with them,” Mules coach Mark Kurisu said. “That’s what I wanted to see. That’s how we ball out.”
Leilehua (1-1, 0-1 OIA Red) visits Mililani next Friday in what will be the season opener for the Trojans. On the same night, Kahuku (1-0, 1-0 OIA Blue) travels to Waianae.