The last time Hilo’s Kahale Huddleston visited Oahu for a football game, he torched ‘Iolani for 244 rushing yards and six touchdowns at Eddie Hamada field.
Huddleston and his Vikings return to the island on Saturday to take on Damien in the state tournament, trying to etch a Big Island school onto the Koa trophy for the first time.
Huddleston has helped remake Hilo into a Big Island force, reaching the state tournament for the fifth straight year. That run is matched only by Kealakehe’s stretch of state appearances from 2004-2008. The Wildcats lost in the first round of each of those tournaments, but they were at the state’s top level while Hilo competes in the middle in what is now Division I.
So Huddleston has already helped remake his program, now it is time to take the next step. The senior already holds the school’s HHSAA record in career rushing with 273 yards to eclipse the 147 by Kaale Tiogangco and Royden Nabarro‘s 141. Huddleston is also the only Viking to score multiple rushing touchdowns in state tournament games with three.
Among running backs with 30 or more carries in the state tournament, no player has eaten up yardage at the 9.1 YPC that Huddleston has. Iolani’s Jordan Lee (8.3), Kahuku legend Malosi Teo (8.0), Moanalua’s Stanford Leti (8.0) and Mulivai Pula of Kahuku (7.9) figure to move up if Eddie Klaneski‘s Damien defense can bottle Huddleston up.
One thing Damien might have going for it is the stadium itself. A BIIF team has never won a state game at Aloha Stadium, going 0-4, and has been close only when the Vikings fought to the end against Kahuku in 2014. Isacc Liu, Manuel Kapahu and Loni Bloomfield were freshmen on that team and return to the scene as seniors on Saturday.
While that trio probably has pleasant memories of Aloha Stadium, Huddleston might not. The only other time he has played in Halawa was 2015, when Rod York‘s Mililani monsters overwhelmed the visitors 62-18. Kaale Tiogangco, Ponon Landford and Isaac Lerma carried the rushing load for Hilo’s relatively effective ground attack in that game, but Huddleston was limited to one carry at the end of the first quarter and was stopped for a 5-yard loss by Tasi Sappa and Kelii Clemente. Huddleston started the game at running back but was most effective as a kick returner, gobbling up 95 yards on four returns, and caught a pass for 5 yards on three targets.
Huddleston is not the only running back who can make his mark on the state level on Saturday. Lahainaluna’s Joshua Tihada is two touchdowns away from joining Jared Rocha-Islas for the most by an MIL player in the state tournament and needs 120 yards to match the former Luna’s yards mark.
Marcus Faufata-Pedrina‘s next rushing touchdown for Damien will break a tie with Ranson DeCosta for the school record.
State tournament career carries
1. Ammon Baldomero, Iolani, 119
2. Aofaga Wily, Kahuku, 112
3. Vavae Malepeai, Mililani, 108
Marcus Faufata-Pedrina, Damien, 63
Joshua Tihada, Lahainaluna, 52
Kahale Huddleston, Hilo, 30
Career rushing yards
1. Pesefea Fiaseu, Saint Louis, 668
2. Aofaga Wily, Kahuku, 650
3. Vavae Malepeai, Mililani, 648
Joshua Tihada, Lahainaluna, 309
Kahale Huddleston, Hilo, 273
Marcus Faufata-Pedrina, Damien, 145
Career rushing TDs
1. BJ Batts, Saint Louis, 12
2. Aofaga Wily, Kahuku, 9
3. Tyler Taumua, Farrington, 9
Joshua Tihada, Lahainaluna, 5
Marcus Faufata-Pedrina, Damien, 4
Kahale Huddleston, Hilo, 3