Kahale Huddleston has played long enough to know it’s not a one-man show.
Not even after a six-touchdown afternoon at storied Eddie Hamada Field. The Hilo senior rushed for 244 yards and scored six touchdowns, brisk and elusive as the warm trade winds slipping over the natural grass field. Huddleston, whose height and weight weren’t listed in the roster, stands at roughly 6 feet and isn’t quite 190 pounds, according to Coach Kaeo Drummundo. But he was brilliantly untouchable on most plays, and sometimes when he was grabbed, he paid no heed.
“He shredded us,” Iolani coach Wendell Look said.
Huddleston’s offseason work was more like a personal mission. He also started at free safety in the first half. Hilo suited up 30 players and left more than 20 home for various reasons.
“Kahale is special. His burst from the second level into the third level is special. We saw that last year. His vision and patience are great. He’s improved on his strength,” Drummondo said.
Hilo’s 62-35 victory was much more than a display of Huddleston’s development in the offseason, after hitting the weight room and endless running on his own. Hilo’s offensive line has a core of veterans in Tilini Livai, Kaela Vera and Koa Kapahu who have the power — strength and speed, as former UH conditioning coach Terry Albritton defined it — to operate the Vikings’ mix of traps and pulls. It left the smaller Raiders guessing up front at times.
“Their hard work through the spring and summer is what helped us get through the heat. ‘Iolani had quick scores and forced us to keep executing in the second half,” Drummondo said. “The middle three is our strength. Everything else is going to open up on how they control the line of scrimmage.”
Huddleston opened the game with runs of 11, 26 (TD) and 79 (TD) yards. Then came was a stretch of six carries by Huddleston when the Raiders limited him to gains of 5, 0, 8, 6, 5 and 1 yard. Then came the second half, when he scored on 99- and 97-yard kickoff returns, and added TD runs of 68 and 31 yards. The home crowd sometimes moaned in anticipation when he got a handoff or toss. He looked like Marshall Faulk in his San Diego State years running amok against Hawaii.
Huddleston’s timing and patience in following his friends battling up front make all the difference.
“They’re good blockers. They make a lot of holes for me and hopefully they will do that the whole season. We try to change up and pull guys, backside plays,” Huddleston said. “We’re pretty strong and competitive. Today was a learning experience to actually know what it’s like to play a game with only 30 guys.”
The humidity began to take a toll in the second quarter. The Viks used 18 plays to cover 85 yards in a second-quarter drive that melted nearly nine minutes off the clock. Apao’s 3-yard keeper over the goal line made it 35-7 with 2:09 left in the first half.
Then came Huddleston’s back-to-back kick returns to the house. He was simply a blur.
‘Iolani quarterback Tai-John Mizutani finished 17-for-33 with 255 passing yards in a patient, smart effort against a physical, fast and experienced defensive front. In addition to Isaac Liu’s early sack — he also returned a pick 30 yards for a TD — Kadedin Ioane-Ogawa and Kason Milare also brought Mizutani down.
Despite tight coverage, ‘Iolani receiver Justin Genovia finished with 10 receptions for 103 yards with two TDs.