No. 5 Kahuku is known for a bruising running game, but it hasn’t always been there this season.
No worries now. It showed up in a huge way in the second half of Saturday night’s 32-0 victory over Waianae at Carleton Weimer Field.
The offensive line surge came at the right time. The OIA rivals were in a 0-0 deadlock at intermission.
It seemed like the team that decided to play more smashmouth football in the second half would take it. And that’s exactly what Kahuku did.
Zealand Matagi delivered 139 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Lalio Kaluna added 55 rugged yards behind a player who coach Sterling Carvalho drew attention to after the contest.
“Jack Tito, our fullback, is the hidden one,” Carvalho said. “He and our O-line are the unsung heroes. They do the dirty work in the trenches and blow the running lanes open.”
Center Siosaia Nisa made his presence felt, especially on a 65-yard TD drive — capped by Matagi’s 7-yard run — that broke the scoreless tie early in the second half. Matagi also went behind Nisa on a 58-yard, up-the-middle burst that made it 12-0 and started what turned out to be a one-sided second half.
Carvalho also pointed to his other starters on the line — Marcus Lombard, Mamoe Manumaleuna, Elijah Faleolo and Cobi Ah Puck. They did it without Arizona State commit Micah Soliai-Howlett, who missed the game after getting ejected in a loss to Mililani last week.
Kahuku’s Zion Ah You, a defensive tackle, got to shine in the end zone on a 1-yard TD run when he lined up as a fullback. It finished the game’s scoring on a long, time-consuming drive in the fourth quarter.
“They put it on the 1-yard line and I followed the O-line,” Ah You said. “They took me in. It was a good win. The defense puts in the extra work. We run every day. We knew that if Waianae didn’t score then we wouldn’t lose. That’s what we worry about on defense.”
Led by backup quarterback Shaydon Lopes, the Seariders drove to the Kahuku 5 late in the game, but came up empty.
For Kahuku (2-1), the win was hugely important. The Red Raiders are all even at 1-1 in the OIA Open Division. They host Campbell (1-2,1-1) on Saturday in another key league showdown.
Waianae (1-2, 0-2) is off next week and will take the extra time to prepare to host No. 2 Mililani (3-0, 3-0) on Sept. 7.
“We knew they would come out and hit us in the mouth and they did in the second half,” Seariders coach Mike Fanoga said. “We prepared for that all week. It was a lopsided second half. The kids lost focus. We just gotta finish the job. Kahuku won because they’re a good team. Other than that it was a good game. I hope the fans enjoyed it.”