By Paul Honda
A perfect senior-night celebration — a blue wave of pageantry — was the fitting end to a perfect regular season for Moanalua.
Na Menehune rolled over Aiea 31-14 before a capacity crowd at Moanalua’s field, closing the Oahu Interscholastic Association White Conference regular-season schedule with an 8-0 mark (8-1 overall).
“We’ve been working hard on the field, studying the video every day,” defensive lineman Chris Malakai-Park said. “We’re making history.”
Tahje Canyon was scintillating, rushing for 182 yards on only 16 carries. His 65-yard jaunt on the game’s second play from scrimmage set the tone. Moanalua rushed for 348 yards on 41 attempts without losing a fumble.
“It was just good blocking and I cut back. We’re trying to give the defense rest so they can do well,” Canyon said. “We help them out and they help us out.”
Nobody at Moanalua can remember an unbeaten regular season, and though Na Menehune finished first atop the OIA White, there’s nothing automatic about the postseason. Moanalua will need a win over fourth-place Kalaheo in Friday’s playoff to secure a state tournament berth. A loss would end Na Menehune’s season.
“We told them it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” coach Arnold Martinez said. “Aiea’s a great team. We’ve seen them make plays and come back before. Now we’ve got to win the next game against a tough Kalaheo team and take care of business.”
Freddy Taliulu was 22-for-32 with 227 passing yards for Aiea, which scored only one offensive touchdown.
Moanalua’s mix of I formation and double-wing spread was highly effective against an Aiea defense that missed defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound senior. Lagafuaina suffered an ankle sprain Monday.
“We didn’t go that hard. It was a lighter day,” Na Alii coach Wendell Say said. Besides Lagafuaina, at least four other starters sat out, mostly due to injuries.
“We still could’ve done the job. Moanalua didn’t show us anything we didn’t scout,” Say said. “We just didn’t stop them, but hopefully we’ll play them again.”
The front five of left tackle Frank Loyd (6-3, 253), left guard Pono Kalua (5-10, 250), center Jovenn Pacheco (5-8, 240), right guard Roger Soriano (5-8, 200) and right tackle Ryan Cortez (6-0, 200) paved the way for Canyon, quarterback Adam Francisco and a host of ballcarriers.
After Canyon’s touchdown gave Moanalua a 7-0 lead, Joel Talaro’s interception at the Menehune 1-yard line ended Aiea’s first scoring threat.
Moanalua went three and out, though, and Aiea took over at the Menehune 26-yard line after a short punt. Taliulu’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Gabriel in the flat tied the game at 7 with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter. Moanalua’s defense, led by lineman Rich Villasenor, tightened up and permitted only one more Aiea first down for the rest of the half.
Na Menehune attacked up the middle and on both flanks, driving 80 yards in nine plays for a go-ahead touchdown. Francisco faked to Canyon and sprinted up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown to give Moanalua a 14-7 lead with 10:48 left in the second quarter.
Moments later, Moanalua started a seven-play, 76-yard drive to paydirt. A face-mask penalty against Aiea helped, and Francisco’s 4-yard keeper on another fake to Canyon boosted the lead to 21-7 with 6:35 to go in the first half.
Aiea’s offense finished with 271 total yards, but most were between the 20s. A Taliulu pass to Williams at the Moanalua 19-yard line went bad when Williams lost the ball.
Moanalua then marched 70 yards in 10 plays, tossing the pigskin to Canyon for a 1-yard touchdown run. Na Menehune led 28-7 with 11:11 to play.
Matt Blakeley’s 26-yard field goal made it 31-7 with 5:18 left.
Aiea added a touchdown with 2:28 left when Douglas Tautua picked off a pass by Moanalua backup quarterback Keven Amaral and returned it 26 yards.
Moanalua’s only loss, 16-3 against Mililani, came in nonconference play.
Aiea won last year’s matchup with Moanalua 26-8.
Radford 35, Waialua 6
Doug Brown threw two touchdowns as the Rams defeated the Bulldogs.
Phil Hogan led Radford with 129 yards on the ground and Chris Parmer finished things with a 76-yard run. The Rams held the Bulldogs to 12 yards rushing and 99 yards passing.
Anuenue 61, Kalani 25
Ikaika Gante rushed for 185 yards, including a touchdown from 65 yards out to start the scoring, to help Na Koa over the Falcons.
Keliikoa Aki finished the scoring with three rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter and ended up with 155 yards on the ground as Na Koa outrushed the Falcons 469-146.