Of all of the plays in third-ranked Kahuku’s offensive arsenal, the simplest might be the most effective.
The two-time defending champions usually can be counted on to run the ball, and run it a lot. In Friday’s win over Kaimuki, they showed off a variety of option pitches to both sides, off-tackle plays and traps. Every one of them went to talented tailback Soli Afalava, who toted the ball 18 times for 120 yards, including second-half runs of 30 and 23 yards.
But the most impressive might have been by the senior who usually paves the way for him.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Kahuku was in charge 34-14 but faced a fourth and 1 from its own 46. Kaimuki’s offense had shown an ability to move the ball, so Kahuku coach Reggie Torres opted to go for the first down. PJ Liua, who had been stopped on short-yardage plays twice previously, took the handoff from his fullback spot and hit the line hard. Kahuku’s line made an impressive hole for him, but Kaimuki’s swarming defense still met him at the point of attack. Liua, however, flattened both defenders there.
After he safely moved the chains, Liua refused to go down. He bounced off a linebacker and hit the secondary, where one safety missed a tackle and another ran him down afterward. That safety’s attempt to grab Liua’s ankles from behind was futile, and the fullback took a play that was designed to pick up 2 yards and turned it into a 54-yard touchdown. It was a huge chunk of his 115 yards for the evening, better than the 25 yards he gained on his previous carry.
“I honestly didn’t think that I was going to make it,” Liua said. “I just tried to bring out the things I have to remember and get to that end zone. All I could see was the end zone.”
Kahuku couldn’t take many positives out of its 40-14 win over Kaimuki — it committed way too many penalties and struggled to execute in the first half. But it can take a positive in the fact that last year’s run to the title started largely the same way.
Liua gained 116 yards in Kahuku’s second league game last year, a 35-6 win at home over McKinley, with a 51-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The two touchdowns could have been copies of each other, the only difference being the color of the uniforms he left in his wake.