Game one is in the books for first-year head coach Sterling Carvalho.
The former offensive coordinator has already left an imprint, merging the best of both worlds as No. 2 Kahuku overpowered Konawaena 61-9 on Saturday night at soggy Carleton Weimer Field.
The Red Raiders were in sledgehammer mode early with running backs Wes Alo-Maiava and Toalei Lefau. Alo-Maiava rushed for 130 yards and touchdowns of 55, 5 and 5 yards in the first half, while Lefau rushed for a modest 15 yards, but hauled in a 3-yard TD pass from first-year starter Robbie Sauvao.
The final count: 29 rushes for 240 yards, and 27 pass attempts by Sauvao and backup Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu. Whatever the visiting Wildcats did defensively, Kahuku had an answer for. And Big Red did it with action by everyone on the roster against the capable, but smaller Division II Wildcats.
“We wanted to make sure everybody got their reps, the first to the last, be able to evaluate every single person, every person. We’ve got a tough season. We had the 1s with the 2s, see what combinations we could play,” Carvalho said. “Konawaena’s a great team. You can see why they’re one of the top dogs in D-II. We wanted to make sure we stopped any momentum. We played Kahuku football.”
Carvalho praised his team, but also had a thumbs-up review of Konawaena’s freshman quarterback, Sheynen Nahale. He threw for 244 yards, one TD and just one pick in 47 pass attempts.
“Their quarterback hung in there against one of the top defenses in the state. He’s only going to get better,” said Carvalho, whose team hosted the Wildcats for lunch earlier in the day. “We hope their whole program continues to get better. We’ll be rooting for them.”
Kahuku’s quick and tall defensive ends didn’t get much opportunity to close in on Nahale.
“Konawaena got the ball out fast. They came out with a great plan, but the rest of our defense contributed,” Carvalho said.
Zealand Matagi added a 63-yard TD run to highlight a deep, talented backfield for Kahuku. The offensive line was almost impeccable, allowing just one sack. It’s a promising start for the backfield and big Red Raiders in the trenches.
“It’s a combination of both. We have a great O-line and great backs. We want to be great as a team. It’s what (Konawaena) offered us. We want to be able to use everyone, from wideouts to tight ends. Hats off to Sola Soliai and Alema Atuaia, our coordinators, for utilizing all the strengths of our players,” Carvalho said. “We want to be able to play tempo, be able to control the game. We want to dictate the pace of the game.”
Sauvao, who is also a standout basketball player, showed excellent field vision and preparation.
“Robbie, we have some stuff we wanted to make sure we got in, but yeah, there will be some surprises next week, too. He’s a great athlete, deceptively fast and he’s got a great arm,” Carvalho said.
Sauvao was in a battle for the starting job with Thorton Alapa, who did not play.
“There are some things we’ve got to work out with him,” Carvalho noted.
Sauvao threw three TDs in the first half and finished 14-for-25 for 154 yards with no picks.
“We just wanted to run the ball and see what they gave us. Spread it out. All our receivers are good, so I can throw it to anyone,” Sauvao said. “It depends on what the defense gives us. Our coaches will make the adjustment and our O-line is good.”
Kahuku didn’t seem to miss a beat with highly-recruited offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi sidelined.
“Enokk was injured, but Chaz Evangelista did a good job at left tackle,” Sauvao added.
Alo-Maiava first opened eyes a year ago in a scrimmage at Kamehameha. His rushing and pass-catching skills were phenomenal, but he was derailed by injury before returning late in the season.
“Last year it was all new for me catching the ball. All new experience,” he said after being greeted after the game by cousin Jocelyn Alo, the Oklahoma softball slugger. “The offense opens the field and gives us more room to run.”