Following its first back-to-back losses in the regular season since 1996, Kahuku held a players-only meeting at the start of the week.
“They know that they needed to right the ship,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said.
An 80-yard touchdown pass from Farrington quarterback Chris Afe to super-sophomore Raymond Millare on the third play from scrimmage at Skippa Diaz Stadium on Friday night suggested that might not be the case for the three-time defending OIA champions.
It turned out to be the only blip on the radar for Big Red, which pitched a shutout the rest of the way and scored 34 unanswered points with a 34-8 win.
Quarterback Robbie Sauvao tossed two first-quarter touchdown passes and Zealand Matagi rushed for 72 yards and another score to help Kahuku (5-3, 2-2 OIA Open) win for the seventh time in its last eight games against the Governors (2-8, 1-4).
Kahuku threw the ball more than it ran it against the Govs based on what the Farrington defense dictated. The Govs spent most of the game in a zero-safety look with eight or nine players in the box and man-to-man coverage on the outside with no help.
Sauvao hit on only 10 of his 31 attempts but averaged nearly 23 yards per completion.
“We’ve got to be able to push the ball and get it (out) there,” Carvalho said.
With running back Wes-Alo Maiava (shoulder) the latest casualty in a long line of key injuries for the Red Raiders, Matagai, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore had to carry the load, averaging 3.6 yards on his 20 carries.
Kahuku held out eight players due to injury, including five starters. They hope to get OL Enokk Vimahi, Alo-Maiava (who is having an MRI on Saturday) and DB Kaonohi Kaniho back for the playoffs. LB Miki Ah You and DB/RB KJ Macatiag are out for the season with knee injuries.
Kahuku junior Mason Paulo came up with the majority of big plays for the Kahuku offense, finishing with 135 receiving yards on five catches, including a 44-yard touchdown to put Kahuku on the board in the first quarter.
“They did a lot of cover zero and we wanted to make them play with one-on-one matchups on the outside,” Paulo said.
Sauvao’s first two completions were touchdowns with a 16-yard pass to Toalei Lefau out of the backfield giving the Red Raiders a 14-8 lead in the first quarter.
The Red Raiders committed to the run after scoring on only two of their first five drives.
Their sixth was a 10-play, 87-yard drive that took nearly six minutes, capped off by Matagi’s 19-yard touchdown run. The first six plays were all running plays.
“Even though they stacked the box we were able to run the ball,” Carvalho said. “We were able to impose our will and that’s what we want to do heading into the playoffs.”
Duke Heffernan added field goals of 23 and 29 yards and Kai Noeau’s scoop-and-score on a 13-yard fumble return helped Kahuku add 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“They did get that swag back,” Carvalho said. “Although they gave up an early touchdown, after that, they pitched a shutout. They had to settle their nerves and play Kahuku football.”
The win clinched a playoff spot and put Kahuku in position to earn the No. 3 seed behind Campbell, which beat the Red Raiders 28-27 last week.
“They showed an urgency and a determination (after the players-only meeting), especially our seniors,’ Carvalho said. “This is the time now. Enough is enough. We buckled down, head down, shoulder to the wheel kind of thing and that’s what how it was.
“To get a win, to get the momentum going is what we needed to do. Get back to getting our players to feel good.”
Kahuku closes its regular season on Friday against Kapolei in a make-up game from late-August due to Hurricane Lane.
Farrington (2-8, 1-4) is still in the playoff race despite its regular season coming to an end. A Campbell win over Kapolei on Saturday night and wins by Campbell over Waianae and Kahuku over the Hurricanes on Friday would force a three-way tie for the final playoff berth in the division between the Govs, Hurricanes and Seariders.
A coin flip would determine the fourth team in the playoffs.