Maybe it was meant to be for Nanakuli native Duke Ho‘ohuli.
The Damien sophomore linebacker — and backup quarterback — was pressed into duty in his secondary role on Saturday night in the Nanakuli Valley, as starting signal-caller Jake Holtz was knocked out of the game with a sprained ankle on the Monarchs’ opening drive against the Golden Hawks.
Ho‘ohuli stepped in like nothing happened and completed the 96-yard drive, lofting a pass to Lindon Sevilleja for a 12-yard fade route touchdown one play after absorbing a sack. From there, the Monarchs were off and running to a 34-0 shutout of the Golden Hawks, as sophomore running back Aperamo Sulu rushed for 217 yards on 16 carries and scored all three of his touchdowns before halftime.
Holtz had started it well, going 3-for-3 for 67 yards, but when he couldn’t run full speed on the sideline, coach Eddie Klaneski decided to rest him.
Ho‘ohuli’s main task was hand off to Sulu in the first half and the Monarchs’ reserve backs for a lot of the second, but he also was called upon to pass in obvious passing situations. He finished 6-for-20 for 83 yards with the aforementioned touchdown and an intercepted ball that got tipped.
“He’s one of our five Nanakuli kids. It’s just awesome, it’s kind of funny that it worked out for him,” Klaneski said. “He was able to show up. He was our starting linebacker, but he’s our backup quarterback. For him to get that opportunity to play in front of his home crowd was awesome for him. We’re real proud of how he settled in and made plays for us.”
Damien moved to 2-0 overall as well as 2-0 in ILH/OIA Division I crossover games.
Sulu, who became the sixth Damien player to rush for 200 or more yards in a game, said things kept rolling once Ho‘ohuli made his quick entrance.
“It was nothing different. Two good quarterbacks,” Sulu said. “They’re both the same, they both know everything about the offense and how it goes. Making that switch was kind of awful, huh? But we knew what was coming, and we knew Duke would hold it down for us at QB. Thank God for him.
“He’s from Nanakuli. It meant a lot to him. When we was on offense, he kept making sure that we scored on the plays, or made plays on every down. You know, he’s just a good player and I’m glad we have him on our team.”
Speaking of backup quarterbacks, Nanakuli was pressed into using its No. 2 as well, as the starter for the last two weeks, Charles Hauhio, rolled an ankle during last week’s 35-27 loss at Aiea. Hauhio was able to finish that game, but coach Kili Watson held him out this week as a precaution, which makes an extra dose of sense when you realize that OIA teams do not count these crossover ILH games toward their league standings like the ILH teams do.
Sedric Crawford, coincidentally also a linebacker by trade, went 9-for-29 with a pick and 68 yards passing. Fifty of those yards went to Rylen Yap, who nearly scored a second-half touchdown but couldn’t hang on in the end zone.
Nanakuli dropped to 0-3 overall, but is still only 0-1 in the OIA Division I standings.
“We had a week to prepare,” said Watson, whose team has scrimmaged the Monarchs in recent years. “Definitely put a lot more emphasis and focus into our run game. We tried going to our quick passes to the flats, and our seams. Obviously that didn’t work. Hat’s off to Damien. They’re a well-coached team. Coach Eddie does a good job over there.”
As for Mr. Sulu, who went at warp speed through the Nanakuli defense for scoring runs of 7, 47 and 45 yards, Watson made an observation.
“We know he was a threat from the back. But I gotta give props to that O-line. That line was able to find the gaps in our defense. And I think it was a field day for the running back.” Watson chuckled.
Here’s a photo gallery of the game.