This might not be the final chapter, but if it is, the Kaimuki Bulldogs are doing all they can to send coach David Tautofi out with a championship parade.
The spotlight sensations like Jayden Maiava, Naomas Asuega-Fualaau and Koby Moananu delivered big in Kaimuki’s 33-17 win over Kaiser — the same team that handed the Bulldogs their lone defeat in OIA Division II regular-season play — on Friday night at the Cougars’ field in the OIA D-II semifinals. Kaimuki (9-2) moves on to the final against Roosevelt next week.
Maiava, the 6-foot-5 sophomore, was poised against a well-schemed Kaiser defense all night. Though the Cougars often loaded the box and defended the perimeter well, Maiava finally broke through with a 37-yard TD pass to Sione Taufa, and after Kaiser tied the game at 10, he delivered perfectly-thrown TD passes to Moananu three times.
The arch, the timing, the placement were all too good even against perfect coverage. Maiava finished with 336 yards and four TDs, while Moananu clutched up with eight catches for a school-record 203 yards. Asuega-Fualaau endured a rough night in the trenches and finished with 102 yards on 31 carries — not bad after starting the game with 5 yards on eight attempts. Kaiser was ready, but Kaimuki stuck with its version of “Beast Mode” and the lanes opened up in the second half, when Kaimuki ran off 37 plays, not including penalties and punts. Kaiser had 30 second-half plays, most after falling behind 27-10.
There was a stretch from late second quarter into late in third quarter when Kaimuki had 23 of the game’s 27 offensive snaps. The difference between Kaimuki-Kaiser II from the original a month ago was twofold. Kaiser freshman quarterback Easton Yoshino sat out (concussion), and he might just be a plus-30 performer since Kaiser won by 14 points the first time around. More telling, however, is the way players like Matt Williams and Avin Tanioka came up clutch. Williams had an interception and a fumble recovery. Tanioka had two of his team’s four picks.
“(Assistant) coach Billy Masima and Coach T, they started this program for us. Us seniors are going to try and close it out for Coach T, give him a proper farewell,” Williams said.
Farewell? For awhile, Tautofi has hinted that this year may be his last. Five seasons in charge of a Kaimuki program that had fallen on challenging times. With a 36-18 overall record and now, a third state-tournament berth, it is difficult to imagine any other coach and staff that could have done what Tautofi and his assistants did.
Kaiser coach Tim Seaman, in his third decade as a coach, sees an ideal role model in Tautofi.
“When it’s the end of the season, I think all of us (as coaches) sit down and take stock where we’re at. Coach hasn’t said anything to me personally. I know he’s looking forward to continuing his run next week in the OIA championship and in the state,” Seaman said. “He does such a great job for that school, and not just the football team, but the school in general. The positive aspects that any sport can bring, and I see the relationship and the respect that those kids have for Coach T and that staff. He’s a big, big part of why they’ve become what they’ve become.”
Tautofi, a former Kaimuki and UCLA defensive lineman, says there has been no final decision. Yet. The red, teary eyes told the story after the game.
“It’s a curtain call for the seniors. We always have plans and sometimes God has different plans. You’ve just got to be adept and willing to listen to that voice, and that’s where it seems to be for us and for me,” Tautofi said. “But I can’t really focus on that. There’s no real telling until the season ends.”
The Bulldogs — all 23 of them — were poised, stoic even, as they shook hands with the Cougars. They walked to the bus with lightness, joy, but kept their tone quiet.
“It’s awesome, to go to the state tournament three times in five years, it’s awesome. These boys earned it with their preparation, their time and dedication at practice,” Tautofi said. “Guys were waiting for their opportunity, and they understand when it comes. It just makes our team better when they’re ready.”
In the bus, as it began to depart the parking lot, the excitement was too much to contain. The bus was rocking by the time Tautofi boarded.
“It reminds me of USC when they beat Oklahoma in the national championship. Lendale White and Reggie Bush,” Tautofi said.
Yes, indeed, the Bulldogs are going to the ‘ship.
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) October 20, 2019