A shirtless Sol-Jay Maiava was on crutches on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, fresh off No. 3 Kahuku’s 35-31 victory over No. 2 Mililani in the OIA championship game that certainly lived up to the hype.
The sophomore has sustained multiple injuries this year, and the only loss the Red Raiders had this year was a 17-0 game to Bingham (Utah) in which he didn’t play. But with Kahuku’s third consecutive OIA Division I title on the line, Maiava wasn’t going to sit this one out. He wasn’t going to let the game slip away, either.
Kahuku found itself down 14-0 and 21-7 late in the first half, and the Red Raiders didn’t take their first lead of the game until 7:31 to go when Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu returned a fumble for a 45-yard touchdown. The Trojans responded when Dillon Gabriel and Kilifi Malepeai connected for an 11-yard touchdown with 5:05 left.
With 1:34 left in the game, Maiava hit sophomore Kaonohi Kaniho perfectly in stride for a 28-yard touchdown. The Red Raiders’ defense held up and the comeback was complete.
“An ugly win is better than a beautiful loss. I’m just glad that we got the dub tonight especially for this team. We made a comeback and got into the end zone,” Maiava said. “The O-line held up good, the wide receivers came up at the end. It was a great game.”
In his freshman season with the Red Raiders under coach Vavae Tata, Maiava threw 110 passes in 13 games, an average of 8.5 pass attempts per game.
Maiava has been given an increased role in the passing game this year for the Red Raiders under new head coach Makoa Freitas, and Saturday’s performance might have been his best one yet in that regard. He was 17-for-25 with a career-high 248 yards, no interceptions and touchdown. He also added nine rushes for 46 yards and another touchdown.
“It was great. That’s what we came here for,” Maiava said. “We train all week to prepare for this, I don’t know how to explain it.”
As for the injuries, Maiava says he’ll be good to go for Friday’s matchup with Waianae in the HHSAA Division I-Open semifinals. A win there would mean an opportunity to avenge last year’s second-place finish in the state final.
“It’s just minor. I’m probably back to practice on Monday,” he said. “It’s all good.”