Kahuku’s Tata still looking for complete game

Kahuku's Keala Santiago had two interceptions on Friday against Waianae, including this one on a pass intended for Isaiah Freeney. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Kahuku’s Keala Santiago had two interceptions on Friday against Waianae, including this one on a pass intended for Isaiah Freeney. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Vavae Tata herded his Kahuku boys into the locker room after the Red Raiders’ 13-0 victory over Waianae on Friday at Aloha Stadium.

Some of the players were greeting fans near the mauka sideline and did not get to the locker fast enough.

Whatever he was about to tell them was serious. Celebrating the Division I state semifinal win could wait.

After emerging from the lockers afterward, Tata didn’t say exactly what he told the team, but he did tell Hawaii Prep World about what was on his mind. He was jocular enough to show that he was glad to be going to the state final, but he revealed some of his concerns.

“We’re looking to see a complete game,” Tata said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”

That right there is enough of a worry. The Red Raiders are 12-0, but all of those wins won’t mean as much if they don’t put it all together next week in the final against Saint Louis (9-1). Tata hasn’t seen what he knows his boys are capable of doing.

“We’re starting too slow,” he added. “We’ve got to start faster. Right off the bat, once that ball is kicked, we’ve got to be (in top gear).”

Told that his defense — which is now allowing an average of 3.2 points per contest — played another masterful game, Tata downgraded it to, “It was good. Not great.”

When Tata’s attention turned to some of the individuals who helped get the Red Raiders get this far, it was evident just how much he cares for his kids:

On quarterback Kesi Ah Hoy: “He’s our workhorse and makes many big plays. He’s the driver of our offense.

Workhorse? Little bit of an understatement there. Ah Hoy had 40 carries for 142 yards.

On Keala Santiago: “Keala Boy is a dynamic and explosive playmaker.”

Santiago, by the by, made a game-changing play when he intercepted a Jaren Ulu pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead early in the second half.

On backup quarterback Cameron Renaud: He’s like a pinch hitter for us. He comes through when we need him. The game is not too big for him. He’s calm and collected. It’s nice to have options.”

Tata pointed out that both Ah Hoy and Renaud will be back next year.

Options? Kahuku’s plow-forward, wildcat offense, which Tata confirmed is Stanford’s goal-line package, usually doesn’t call for options. It’s hike the ball to Ah Hoy or backup Harmon Brown and let them run behind a wall of blockers. Simple. Little option.

But when Renaud comes into the game, things all of a sudden open up. He completed two passes — one to Kekaula Kaniho and one to Royce Pao — to bring the Red Raiders into range for Kekoa Sasaoka‘s 22-yard field goal for the night’s first scoring five seconds before halftime.

Renaud, a lefty, did a similarly stellar job in the Red Raiders’ 20-7 victory over Mililani in the Oahu Interscholastic Association championship game two weeks ago. With the score tied 7-7, Renaud came in for one series and brought Kahuku down the field with pocket passing and it led to Sasaoka’s go-ahead field goal.

It appears that Tata won’t be changing the team’s offensive game plan much against Saint Louis, but he is fully cognizant of the fact that he may need his pinch hitter against a Crusaders defense that had eight takeaways in Friday night’s 56-30 win over Mililani in the other semifinal.

“Our DNA is the run,” he said firmly. “The run opens up the pass.”

Tata didn’t forget to talk about the Seariders’ effort.

“They really gave us a challenge, and they were phenomenal on defense,” he said.

Yes, Waianae’s defense did not allow the Kahuku offense to score a touchdown.

Red Raiders offensive coordinator John Hao took responsibility for what was not the greatest of Kahuku’s offensive efforts.

“I failed to move the chains,” he said. “We want to eat up the clock and keep the defense off the field.”

But Hao isn’t about to make too drastic of a change, either.

“We were one block away (from taking it into the end zone),” he said, and he meant one block away multiple times.

Hao, the former star quarterback at Saint Louis and one in a long line of prolific Crusaders passers, said the Red Raiders work hard at practice on the traditional offense with Ah Hoy and Renaud.

He said Renaud throws 50 to 60 passes a day at practice. So, it is possible that Kahuku has some trump cards in the deck that opponents haven’t seen much of yet. He might be waiting for the right time, and the right time — the only time left in the season — is next week.

Hao added that Renaud played a “helluva game” against Waianae.

Renaud was just 2-for-6 for 49 yards, with a long of 34. But he was poised and offered that different look of a dropback passer.

Piles of blockers leading Ah Hoy and Brown down the field worked in the Red Raiders’ two biggest games of the season — against Mililani and Waianae. Will it work against Saint Louis? We shall see.

But, if not, there is that pinch hitter they’ve got who has been practicing against arguably the best defense in the state all season. He might be needed … in a pinch.

And Tata himself said it (see above), knowingly or not: “The run opens up the pass.”


  1. Hossana November 14, 2015 2:20 pm

    Personally, I think Kahuku will run over, around, and through that porous run defense of St. Louis although no question that St. Louis will score some points but, in the end, Kahuku will come out on top and I don’t think it will be close as Kahuku’s defense is something St. Louis has never experienced this season as their secondary is tall, quick, and fast and very deceptive in covering the receivers and, of course, there will be so much pressure on SL’s QB that he won’t have time to set and throw as he will be running for his life the whole game…..oh, well, the game is played on the field so let the dice roll………

  2. Realistic November 14, 2015 2:28 pm

    Fair analysis.

  3. hi808 November 14, 2015 5:45 pm

    remember 2006 when Kahuku looked and played terrible in their semi final game against Baldwin that they almost lost? While in the other semi final game St. Louis rolled Leilehua?

    Kahuku beat St. Louis in the title game. You never know so lets just sit back and enjoy the game as its played on the field.

  4. Manley November 14, 2015 7:48 pm

    Yes,hi808,Kahuku won 7-6 with a converted db, Richard Torres playing Qb. It was ugly.

  5. AOK November 14, 2015 8:18 pm

    No question Kahuku has the best D in the state. But, also no question they haven’t faced a team as skilled as throwing as STL. If Milton had played who knows how the OIA Final would have played out. I am not naive nor ignorant enough to claim Mililani would have won. But, we might have seen a team challenge Kahuku through the air. One thing I know is that Coach York showed the state how to play Kahuku’s run game. Averaging 3 ypc will NOT get it done vs STL. But, we will see. Go Crusaders!

  6. Insideoutsidein November 14, 2015 8:41 pm

    @aok. Coach York did not show the state how to play against Kahuku’s run game….lol… A popwarner coach would have figured that out. It’s what your box is capable of doing and handling. If the boys can handle the hits simotanioulsy it’s all good. Stls has not faced a smashmouf offense all year. OIA teams has and understand what to expect. Coach Lee a legend indeed, knows what his boys will have to endure all 4 qtrs. 4

  7. SimpleSimon November 14, 2015 9:29 pm

    Kahuku hasn’t faced a QB like Tagovailoa and St Louis hasn’t faced a defense like Kahuku. Should be an EPIC game and I can’t wait!!!!!!!

  8. AOK November 15, 2015 12:05 am

    @Insideout So why could nobody contain the run until Mil did (to a certain extent). And, if I remember correctly, and I do, then why did Waianae not allow an offensive td to Kahuku a month after giving up 30? Hmmm…din’t bother answering because I’m right. Mililani gave the blueprint, now we all gotta follow through.

  9. Insideoutsidein November 15, 2015 6:12 am

    @aok. hmmm? We sleep at 12:05am. Hoy like I said, it was always there. Don’t bother replying. We’ll Just wait and see next week. Different teams next week!

  10. EwaEwa November 15, 2015 1:37 pm

    AOK, When healthy that jumbo O cannot be stopped as proven by running all over Waianae and Farrington those first 2 games (both of those teams are the toughest run stopping defenses in the state).

    The blueprint Mililani layed out was to chop block (some legal and some illegal chops) which ended up taking out our best blocking guard, that oline has not been the same, by the end of the game our top two running backs were injured and our best blocking back was out. Did u ever notice Kahuku got called 3 formation penaltys in a row in that 1st quarter? its because Mililani illegally chopped and took out our guard so our replacement was wearing an improper number on the oline and he does not open up holes like our starter was doing.

    The 2nd time against Waianae our two best blocking backs did not play and two o-linemen were battling through injuries. I do not understand why Hao did not balance out the offense play calling and using our throwing QB more often. I guess we are too confident with our D not allowing any points that the offensive took the gamble of trying to play through a major slump.

    That is the downfall of a jumbo offense and why Stanford and most other teams only run it on the goal line, because of the potential for injuries. Kahuku did it all 4 quarters for 5 straight games and now half of the offense is nursing injuries. If you ask me, for a Stlouis Alum coach in Tata that is pretty pathetic to make your young men endure so much smashing.

    You guys can make excuses about Milton being injured and why they lost a game but cant recognize Kahuku players being injured too? yet they still manage to win, ugly as it may be, at least they are not a ONE man team like Mililani and Im sure if Tua got hurt all excuses would come from everywhere which means St. Louis is a one man team too.

    Unfortunately we are not going into this St. Louis game at 100% healthy on the offensive side, If Tata and Hao go Jumbo again the entire first half and not produce a single point then I would say they are worse then our previous RR alumni coaches.

    Reggie Torres (a true RR alumni) took Kahuku to a state title his first year as head coach back in 2006 and I believe the offense was the same predictable smash mouth system, yet it was the defense that held and limited the opponent to minimal points. So if Tata does not do it next week with maybe the most dominant defense in hawaii history then I would say he is an underachiever.

  11. AOK November 15, 2015 8:58 pm

    @Ewaewa I agree with some of your points, disagree with some. But, that’s not what I’m here to say. I truly believe that if football was strictly a smashmouth game, Kahuku would win every year hands down. No matter how many athletes ILH schools steal (this coming from a STL supporter), Kahuku has the horses to overcome those losses, and still win. But, the game of football has changed. Ask the old timers. If the Green Bay Packers of the 60s saw the 2010s Patriots, they would fall out of their chairs. The game would be unrecognizable to them. So is the game of football in Hawaii high school changing as well.

    Now, before all the RR4L come out and get all fired up and claim: Yes, I know you all have the most koa trophies. OK, I get it. Let me ask you this though: how many have come in the past 5 years? And, I don’t care about the Marcus * asterisk * season. Yes, you probably would have won it that year. But, guess what that’s not the record books show. So, drop it already.

    All I’m saying is that Kahuku needs to adapt and change with the times. Yes, their bread and butter can still be their smashmouth run game. Like I said already, that is their strength. But, unless they incorporate more passing, they will never be a dynasty. Don’t get me wrong, they will win championships here and there. They might even win one this week. Not predicting that, gotta go with my Crusaders, but they might. But, overall, they will never become a dynasty again.

    My 2 cents. Win or Lose, will be interesting to see what changes Hao makes moving forward. He does have both Kesi and Renaud returning. I hope Hao has them passing more next year.

  12. 88 November 15, 2015 10:18 pm

    In the last 5 years Kahuku won back to back state titles in 2011 and 2012 with Alofaga Wily. They should of won it last year too with his younger brother but they had an idiot for a Coach. As for the Dynasty thing I dont think anyone will ever be the Dynasty the Crusaders were in the 80s and 90s. Maybe the Crusaders, with Coach Lee back, will control the ILH again but with the popularity and success of the Big Boys program, especially with the Laie Park team Kahuku looks like they can give those 80-90 Crusader squads a run for their money.

  13. 88 November 15, 2015 10:23 pm

    One more question. If Kahuku happens to go 30-0 and win the State Title this year, should other teams follow suit and play caveman football?

  14. 88 November 15, 2015 10:24 pm

    My bad, i meant 13-0….

  15. AOK November 15, 2015 11:15 pm

    @88 I sorta believe with you that it’s gonna be tough for any school to just dominate like Crusaders used to. Never know how far the Lee Bros are gonna go in order to build a dynasty. I didn’t think they could turn around STL as fast as they did. So, only time will tell. In all honesty, I like the fact that there are 4-5 teams annually who have a shot at the koa trophy, instead of 1-2. Hopefully Mil and York can keep up their recruiting act so that they don’t fall off a cliff.

    You are not reading what I wrote. I said that nobody in the state has the athletes or sheer manpower to do what Kahuku does. Like I said, even when STL and PUN raid your school, they still don’t have the boys. What kahuku does is what they and only they alone can accomplish. When teams try smashmouth with them (Farrington, Waianae to a certain extent) they look like little boys. But, props to Waianae in the Semis. Played a helluva game. Honestly, I do hope Hao opens up the playbook. Still run hard. But, instead of 95-5 run-pass, more like 70-30 run-pass, and that would make Kahuku more dangerous overall.

  16. EwaEwa November 16, 2015 12:28 am

    I like how over the past decade the talent level of our hawaii football athletes has risen. With camps and specialized off season training our talent level will continue to rise, great for all of Hawaii football. Before it was only St. Louis that was dynamic and skilled but now it seems that there is room for every one to thrive at their home schools. Former NFL and college athletes are giving back to their communitys and the quality of coaching is wide spread, even the neighbor islands are enjoying success.

    Now when it comes to the High School State Playoffs, I agree that its great to have 3-4 teams annually with a chance to win it. The whole state was captivated by the rise of Mililani these past 2 years, I think it would be boring for Kahuku to continually dominate its way to the title game with a one dimensional offense. Add a passing game to their already dominant defense & special teams and I think the state would love to see Kahuku go on a dynasty run. I do think that parents on the North Shore that may have a potential D1 QB will be lured in by the ILH schools, case and point Ephraim Tuliloa. Imagine if Empraim stayed home and was our QB last year and this year? We have another 8th grader at Laie Big Boys who might be the next Mckenzie Milton but I think a St. Loius offer is on the table.

  17. red x November 16, 2015 8:45 am

    @Ewaewa Yeah I heard there was a Good QB coming about from laie park raiders but I also heard that he’s going to punahou. The ILH knows if Kahuku gets a real throwing QB then it’s pretty much over and a guarantee state champs. Its bad enough losing players to ILH but we have alot of studs players playing in utah too and I’m hoping they return for next year

  18. Kahuku 82 November 16, 2015 10:27 am

    @AOK all ye of little faith, they laid the groundwork last year and introduced their boys to their system of football, and over the summer filled a lot of missing pieces on offense and defense!! Not surprised at all they playing in the championship game. As for the one lost to punahou you can blame the refs for that. But you can bet more kids gonna elect to go there instead of punahou in the future . Good luck to both the best damn offense in the state and the best damn defense in the state this Friday.

  19. Kahuku 82 November 16, 2015 10:51 am

    I got no doubt Tua will be able to put up numbers between the 20s it’s gonna be the red zone numbers that’s gonna count the most! And if kahuku can grind out a running game and chew the clock then opportunities are goin to be limited. That’s if kahukus O can play sound smart football and not give up yardage on penalties and go 1st and 15 or 1st and 20 lol..

  20. Kahuku 82 November 16, 2015 10:54 am

    Hoping Tata’s season long dream of a perfect game shows up Friday. Would be the best timing ever!!!!! Go Big Red

  21. realistic November 16, 2015 11:09 am

    88 November 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm
    One more question. If Kahuku happens to go 30-0 and win the State Title this year, should other teams follow suit and play caveman football?

    88 November 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm
    My bad, i meant 13-0….

    I told you man, take adult school seriously! I know it’s hard to count for you, but you still have a chance! I am confident that you can one day use your expertise to secure a job and not live off your mommy’s earnings and government assistance.

    BTW, Mr. Chang says hello! We are at lunch if you know what I mean (wink wink), lol.


  22. 88 November 16, 2015 11:53 am

    That’s gross. But hey it’s your body…..

  23. realistic November 16, 2015 12:20 pm

    Yeah, after I kicked you to the curb, I had to move on. It was fun while it lasted Jay, or should I say 88!

  24. oia#1 November 16, 2015 12:36 pm

    Waianae needs a qb…

  25. Kahuku 82 November 16, 2015 12:45 pm

    OMG we talking football and realistic talking balls balls, ban dis sucka already! Pun intended lmao

  26. realistic November 16, 2015 1:20 pm

    Kahuku 82 or should I say David, I am just replying to comments made to me from 88 aka Jay in other strings and above.

    If you want to get serious, I can do that too. The sad test scores demonstrated by the school’s 2014 SBAC Test should really point the red flag in that school’s direction.

    I applaud the efforts made by the principal for hiring a Coach (Tata) who demands academic improvements!

    I also applaud the principal for opening up all of the athletic head coaching positions the other year and making everyone apply. That is smart business. Many people complained because they have never been in a leadership position before.

    Case in point. My brother was the leading salesperson for a successful drug company. He outsold mainland people from Hawaii even though he had a location with far less people.

    The company was sold, a new CEO was brought in, and the entire West Coast Team, including my brother was let go. Now we are talking the leading salesperson who generated over 2.5 million in sales, yet he was let go.

    Why might you ask? The new leadership and CEO wanted their own team. That is often how it works. When you have new leadership they want to bring in their own people.

    At least the Kahuku principal gave the existing coaches an opportunity to apply and interview. If she didn’t open up all the positions then I would say she was being careless. She did something that practically all companies do.

    I am just befuddled that so many people disagreed when that is common practice.

  27. Gedada hea maynn November 16, 2015 11:38 pm

    In all honesty guys, I’m hoping that the Punahou-Mililani state championship era is over with. It’s great to see 2 old rivals clash on Friday just like the old days. I think it’ll be a state championship run between Saint Louis and Kahuku in these next few years. They’ve got a lot of young talent and both programs are starting to rise again. Storied schools with such storied histories. Can’t wait to watch this classic Stl-Kahuku game!

  28. jason Keuma November 19, 2015 1:42 pm

    Looking forward to the game. Play well, stay healthy…both teams. All the talk (or typing) doesn’t mean a thing, that’s why they play the game on the field. Kahuku shut down Mililani, St. Louis demolished Mililani, Does that mean St Louis will beat Kahuku? Possibly, not necessarily. Any team can be beaten under the right circumstances, that’s why we watch, and cheer for our teams. With that said, cant wait to watch the game.

  29. T. Au November 19, 2015 7:59 pm

    A highly anticipated football game with two great teams. Go get um to both teams, play hard, play clean and I hope injuries are limited. The best this year are here, good luck to all.
    GO BIG RED!!!!

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