Kahuku’s stifling defense has its day

Kahuku head coach Vavae Tata lifted his arms up in celebration as time ran out on last night's 39-14 victory over Saint Louis  in the  Division I state championship game at Aloha Stadium. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Kahuku head coach Vavae Tata lifted his arms up in celebration as time ran out on last night’s 39-14 victory over Saint Louis in the Division I state championship game at Aloha Stadium. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

This Kahuku defense, they had it covered.

You could go all the way back to the first game of the season, when the attacking Red Raiders defensive unit stopped Campbell cold. That was the first sign of things to come.

And it just kept getting better and better. All 11 starters made names for themselves and the team finished up by shutting down three potent offenses in a row, culminating in Friday’s 39-14 victory over Saint Louis for the Division I state championship at Aloha Stadium.

You can’t dismiss the contribution of the offense, with Kesi Ah-Hoy bulling his way behind a bruising offensive line all night long.

But, without this powerhouse defense, the championship koa trophy would have been much harder to get.

Where do you start in this circle of 11, all of whom made life miserable for Crusaders quarterback Tua Tagovailoa?

Well, wherever you start, it just leads to the next guy and so on until you get back to the first guy.

I guess a good place to start is outside linebackers Hirkley Latu and Manaia Atuaia. They add enormously to the pressure that the front four is already giving. Sometimes, when needed, they disguise the pressure and hang back in coverage.

And that leads to the linemen, ends Bradlee Anae and Aliki Vimahi, who are both 6-foot-4 and play an in-your-face style. Run-stopper Lono Kanongataa is at tackle and he gets help plugging up the middle from inside linebackers Pesa Lefau Jr., and Aaron Tapusoa.

Tapusoa pulled through for two sacks against Saint Louis and Kanongataa and Anae had one each.

That’s the ominous front seven right there. What did Tagovailoa think about them?

“That (pass rush) threw everything off for us,” he said after the game. “It’s the best defense we’ve seen all year, by far. We couldn’t get anything going.”

The mastermind of the Kahuku defense, head coach Vavae Tata, explained the concept after the game: “The front seven is there to contain and apply pressure on the quarterback. We want the quarterback feeling like he is running out of time and thinking that he has to get rid of it quick. Harass the quarterback so he throws the ball up and let the defensive backs go and get it.”

That fierce pass rush also led to the vultures waiting in the defensive backfield. Wait, not just vultures. Hawks, too. They attacked and made plays on Saint Louis receivers all night, and then picked the bones clean by intercepting Tagovailoa three times. Two of those were by cornerback Stokes Botelho and one was by a senior leader, safety Keala Santiago. Cornerback Kekaula Kaniho and safety Codie Sauvao led the team in tackles with five each and both had a forced fumble. Kaniho also recovered a fumble as did Santiago and Kanongataa.

Wait, what did we say earlier, that after we named all 11, it would come back to the first guy mentioned? That would be Latu. He was there at Junior Ah You‘s restaurant the day that Tata was hired. And, like any junior going to be a senior, he was worried about what was in store. Would they improve or go downhill with a new coach?

The answer is now in the history books.

Latu had two tackles and two pass breakups in the victory. Late in the game, he wrapped up Saint Louis’ Jahvin Spear near the sideline but had trouble wrestling him down. The whistle blew and so he gave Spear a tap on the helmet as if to say, “Good game.” All the Kahuku coaches were yelling at Latu in celebration and he looked back and gave a knowing smile. This time, it was as if to say back to the coaches, “Yes, we did it. We are champions. I know!!”

Center Jed Heffernan, a captain on offense, summed up what coach Tata has meant to the team in his one year as coach.

“I love the way he coaches,” he said. “At first we had to get used to him and then we got on the boat. He brought in a whole new defense that no one here had seen before. And he brought back smash-mouth football. Not only that, he taught us life lessons and he expected nothing but greatness from us.”

Greatness. Kahuku stopped the player many felt was unstoppable, Tagovailoa, and Saint Louis’ offense that was averaging 39.7 points per game.

The Red Raiders (13-0) also shut down Mililani 20-7 in the OIA title game and Waianae 13-0 in the state D-I semifinals.

Tagovailoa’s 3-yard TD run in the third quarter marked the first rushing touchdown Kahuku has yielded all season.

In 13 games, opponents scored 53 points on the Red Raiders — an average of 4.1 points per outing. The Saint Louis offense only scored 7 on Kahuku; the Crusaders’ other TD was on a blocked punt return. A similar thing happened against Mililani, which scored its only touchdown on a return of a fumble by the Kahuku offense.

Only 39 (five TDs, three extra points and two field goals) of those 53 points came against the Red Raiders defense in 13 games, exactly a field goal per game.

“This is what we live for,” Santiago said. “This is what we do. We play football all year long. We play football in the streets or wherever. It runs in our blood.”


  1. Manley November 21, 2015 1:45 am

    Right now the brotherhood is in shock mode. Many were mesmerized by Tua and the Mililani dismantle. All dazzle. Who did St.Louis face all year? They pump up the ILH and the point fest I football.watch ILH and I see bad defense. This carries on to sport writers that get duped by this circus atmosphere. They gather round x make their rankings and use ILH NO defense stats to boost the ILH as the top 4 of a possible 5. These people are fading away from true football .heart is what define Kahuku. They play at another level. These kids recruit coaches then mold them in the Kahuku way. Coach Tata, first year wonder has started a dynasty .Mark these words.

  2. 88 November 21, 2015 2:14 am

    ILH, Lee Boy and the entire Hawaii Prep World staff, do you guys believe now? Do you believe what we here in FOOTBALL COUNTRY have been telling you since August? Will you now renounce your ridiculous ways of assessing football and come to the RED SEA and be baptized into the fold?

  3. Tutu Kane Ale November 21, 2015 2:18 am

    Looks like Former SMU Head Coach June Jones didn’t tutor Tagovailoa about being aware of them blitzing defense like we talking Kahuku’s unstoppable awesome defense?

  4. Good Story November 21, 2015 2:23 am

    Thank you to all those that came out to the game. The 12 man was in full effect.. And to those who watched from where ever. We could feel your support at the Stadium. What a great game! That’s Kahuku football.

  5. Chaddap November 21, 2015 2:46 am

    All I gotta say is there were a lot of you chumps running your mouth during the whole year about our boys. “Caveman” offense, overrated defense who would get shredded by great QBS and wRs. Well where are you now? Lee Boy, ILH, EwaEwa? Don’t act like you fools never say anything bad about us. I made sure to save all those screenshots. You talked about how we had no football IQ, we’ll now what? The whole our team was disrespected and we told all of you we were for real. We were never given the number one ranking, WE TOOK IT! Our boys were never given anything. They were coached to go get it, and that’s what we did. All these unstoppable offenses, psshhh. Mililani? 0 offensive scores, St. Louis? One punt return and a bad snap giving them another short field. WE SHUT EVERYBODY DOOOWWWNNNN. no go study football and comeback when you’re ready to run with the big boys.

    P.s. this post is mainly for the keyboard warriors. As for the Players, great job Kahuku and St. Louis. We showing the nation what kind of brand of football we got.

  6. Paper Crane November 21, 2015 3:02 am

    So believe it people,…like even Kahuku Coaching Whisperer’s took it to the next higher level like Tata and Hao Inc only overwhelmingly shocked the oppositions experienced coaching staff and like one already hoping to return as HC at UH;…Oh when the Saints go marching in…to defeat?

  7. Realistic November 21, 2015 7:47 am

    88 November 21, 2015 at 2:14 am
    ILH, Lee Boy and the entire Hawaii Prep World staff, do you guys believe now? Do you believe what we here in FOOTBALL COUNTRY have been telling you since August? Will you now renounce your ridiculous ways of assessing football and come to the RED SEA and be baptized into the fold?

    No one is surprised that Kahuku won. They have some of the best football players in the state. This is not stunning. Now imagine if that same passion was applied to the classroom? Maybe their atrocious test scores would be the best in the state. Jay (88), Mr. Chang is available for tutoring. He said you know his cell number and is willing to help. We both miss you 🙂

  8. NSfootball November 21, 2015 9:11 am

    You forgot the most important man the 12th man. That sea of red packed the stadium and provided that extra adrenaline for the boys. Respect to both teams and Coaching staff but why did Cal Lee walk off the field and not accept the 2nd place trophy? If he was mad at the pre-game haka, or the field goal with seconds left…..well the person calling those shots were Kahukus New Head Coach Tata, the former St. Louis alum. aaawooooiiiiYA!

    Work hard Red Raiders and Crusaders and come back stronger next year.

  9. Shaun November 21, 2015 9:12 am

    It is saddening how little class has been shown in this comment action. The championship game was the culmination of years of dedication and hard work by these young men. That’s what its all about.

    Hats off to St. Louis for a great season and congratulations to Kahuku, the great Champion of the State of Hawaii. Well deserved.

    Everyone should be feeling proud and grateful for the efforts of these young men. Celebrate your win as a graceful victor. Thankfully the statements the kids made on the field matter far more than any immature smack-talk following an excellent season.

  10. 88 November 21, 2015 9:27 am

    Was Coach wearing a STATE CHAMPION shirt right after the game?

  11. SimpleSimon November 21, 2015 10:07 am

    ILH not as strong as you ILH fans make it to be. Every offense looks good until they play Kahuku. I asked who has Mililani played? Well who has St Louis played? ILH records in the championship era should be thrown out the window cause they all padded with the weaker ILH schools and the whole ILH in general 😉

  12. OHHREALLY November 21, 2015 10:10 am

    As for the t- shirts they are made for both teams regardless of the outcome!!

  13. Proud Kahuku Teacher November 21, 2015 10:14 am

    So now since we beat everyone in Football you have to degrade our academics. Well, our speech and debate team just beat out all the private schools, we have excellent academic programs, and a community that supports our students 100%. Please just accept defeat gracefully!

  14. FUKI November 21, 2015 10:22 am

    @realistic…there u go wit da cheap shots again. Are u implying that the entire football team doesn’t have “passion in the classroom?” Do u follow them around in school and no for a fact that the entire team doesn’t take school seriously? Blanket statements like that shows ur uneducated opinion. U got a small, baby brain. Grow up UNrealistic. The boys work hard in school, Coach Tata n his staff make sure of it. Keep ur links n stats to urself.

    And dont say nobody’s surprised that Kahuku won. EVERYBODY SAID ST LOUIS WAS GONNA RUN UP THE SCORE!!!! The ILH had 3 of the top 5 teams in the state…Kahuku never faced an offense like this…they lucky Milton didnt play…caveman offense…Nobody but the community understands how hard these kids work all year long. Come out some time n go to Laie park. Check it out Christmas break. The field will be full of families, young n old, playing football. Tradition is indescribable, thick with pride, runs deep!

    U know that QB was watching film wit his dad at home since they had plenty tape of Kapolei getting romped by Kahuku. His dad was the offensive shot caller for Kapolei so he seen it, knew what was coming, knew player tendencies. We still got em!!!

    St Louis was a classy, worthy opponent. Great coaches, players alike. A bunch of whom are from Laie. Its football. Anybody can win at any time. Kahuku jus got em good last night. Good job to all the boys, from both teams. If the football boys are gonna play basketball, they taking states in basketball too…I’m calling it. Kaniho, AhHoy, Anae, Latu are ballers. Sauvao is the best lock down PG in the state that nobody knows about. If he’s playing PG this year, he’s gonna make all the PG basketball players look silly. SE FUKI!!!

  15. realistic November 21, 2015 10:37 am

    @Fuki I am saying the entire community doesn’t have passion for the classroom. If they did please explain some of the lowest test scores in the entire state. I am just reporting facts. The numbers I have been providing is scientific.

  16. rrforlifebaby November 21, 2015 10:42 am

    Obviously for me, a GREAT Game!
    The Haka was Awesome! First time they did something like that since 2003 I think.
    Wasn’t surprised by the late field goal considering they did the same thing in OIA Championship.
    Was it necessary? No. But a kicker like Sasaoka only comes around once so many years, I’m glad Tata gave him one last chance. Honestly, if Big Red was trying to run up the score, they could’ve just opened up their Offense a little more instead of just running up the gut.
    I’m really excited for next year because both squads have extremely talented underclassmen. I do appreciate a talent like Tagovailoa and can’t wait to see how he develops in the next several years….Maybe 2 NFL qb’s from Hawaii playing at the same time in the next 6 -7 years? RRFL!

  17. MSUalum November 21, 2015 11:11 am

    Kahuku fan base and support is admirable. But during the pre-game ceremonies, when Don Bothelo was being recognized for his work, the fans should’ve demonstrated some respect by perhaps waiting until the ceremony was completed before getting into the tomahawk chant. Otherwise, congratulations. I agree with Proud Kahuku Teacher. Now let’s see how successful “the athletes” are in the classroom to be able to move on to the next level. That’s the other part of the equation of a successful program for the student-athlete.

  18. rr4l November 21, 2015 11:29 am

    I’ve always respected Coach Tata even though he went to Saint Louis he’s putting his time and energy into our kids and because of that we won. With that said for everybody on the North Shore that was against him start grinding his Tatas lmao #RR4L oh and thank you Saint Louis for giving a great Coach

  19. Good Story November 21, 2015 11:35 am

    Just ignore realistic + 100 names. He’s a fraud. Makes up other screen names to support himself cause no one else does. He’s a racist bigot, who says African Americane are physically superior and Asians are intellectually superior to Polymesians. Don’t waste your time talking with that punk!

  20. Pukateet November 21, 2015 12:06 pm

    @realistic, maybe if your boy tupu had as much passion in the classroom as he did on the feild he would have had an easier time with the SAT’s. What are you doing associating yourself with stupid people. Hahaha you got caught.

  21. FBfan November 21, 2015 12:30 pm

    Defense wins Championships!! Solid Game plan by the coaches n excecution by the players. CONGRATS Redraider Nation you ALL deserve it. Congrats to the Uso Vae Tata!!!

  22. Good Story November 21, 2015 2:34 pm

    For anyone who missed it or if you wanna relive it he Haka and see what St. Louis saw, MoStreet Productions posted up a SWEET video. Someone else can post a link but it was called “The Penalty”- HHSAA. 2015 D1 Finals on you tube.

  23. OHHREALLY November 21, 2015 3:07 pm

    Good story- rather watch the replay of kahuku winning the championship title lol.. Again!!

  24. Good Story November 21, 2015 3:32 pm

    You right. That’s tonight’s and every night’s Family Home Evening for the rest of the Year!

  25. OHHREALLY November 21, 2015 3:58 pm

    Well if that means showing my kids the possibilities of earning an athletic scholarship playing the sport they love in a community that loves them.. Then yes haha
    Actually it’s already been the motivation for a lot of these athletes playing in colleges all over the country.
    If you want to join me or watch the replay it’s on ch2012 🙂

  26. Jerry Campany November 21, 2015 4:57 pm

    Thanks, Good Story, we will probably post it on this site to help it along. Awesome.

  27. Good Story November 21, 2015 5:16 pm

    @ Ohhreally
    Mahalos, had it DVR’d I’ ll probably watch it chokest times tonight and break down film with kids. Lol Das watwe do!

    @ Mr. Campany. You are welcome! Not sure if you are in a ratings competition with Scoring Live but if comments are an indication…Hawaii Prep World is killing it! Mahalos for allowing all posts…good and not so good. All deserve to be heard.

  28. Good Story November 21, 2015 5:18 pm

    Yes…even Realistic

  29. Good Story November 21, 2015 5:18 pm

    Plus 200 other names.

  30. Jerry Campany November 21, 2015 5:41 pm

    I don’t think we are in a ratings competition with scoringlive, they do their thing and we do ours. I can’t imagine there is a single person out there who would refuse to click prepworld because scoringlive gives them everything they need, or vice-versa. You crazy fans want more information, not less.

    We just do this as an addition to the paper because of the unlimited space and try to present interesting stories that don’t fit anywhere else, but mostly we do it because it is fun. Check out Jason Kaneshiro’s post I just published, it kind of sums up the whole reason we do it. That guy covers all kinds of stuff for the paper and doesn’t have to do preps at all, but he does because there is nothing else like it.

    As for the comments, I am sure the day will come where the bosses will try to reign them in but I kind of like to give people the freedom to present themselves in an unflattering way if they so choose. I do know that if they had to put their name on this stuff it wouldn’t be nearly as ridiculous, but what can you do? I believe that 99 percent of the people on here can see through that kind of stuff.

  31. Realistic November 21, 2015 10:16 pm

    @Goodstory, when citing, please get it correct. It’s 174 names sir!

  32. Realistic November 21, 2015 10:22 pm

    Proud Kahuku Teacher November 21, 2015 at 10:14 am
    So now since we beat everyone in Football you have to degrade our academics. Well, our speech and debate team just beat out all the private schools, we have excellent academic programs, and a community that supports our students 100%. Please just accept defeat gracefully!

    Like I have said in many previous threads, EVERY SCHOOL has a bunch of great students. But Proud Kahuku Teacher, please explain these numbers to us then.

    Math Meeting Standard – 28%
    ELA/Literacy Meeting Standard – 20%
    Science Proficiency – 26%

    Each three is far below the state average. Please explain this.

    As for beating the speech and debate team, congratulations. Will these kids be attending Princeton? Harvard? Yale? MIT? I figure if there are beating the cream of the crop from Iolani and Punahou (and with all the academic monies available nowadays) it should be easy for these students to get into these schools.

  33. Realistic November 21, 2015 10:29 pm

    Good Story November 21, 2015 at 11:35 am
    Just ignore realistic + 100 names. He’s a fraud. Makes up other screen names to support himself cause no one else does. He’s a racist bigot, who says African Americane are physically superior and Asians are intellectually superior to Polymesians. Don’t waste your time talking with that punk!

    You can say all you want. But you have yet to refute the facts I have provided. And you have yet to dispel my opinion that the scores are very low. And science shows that African Americans excel in certain sports such as basketball, skills positions in football, and track. They have more quick twitch muscles. This is a fact maam. I am sorry that you are too ignorant to see this.

  34. Realistic November 21, 2015 10:30 pm

    Mr. Campany, you and your colleagues, just like the ones on the radio and Scoringlive do a fine job.

  35. Tim November 21, 2015 10:35 pm

    @MSUalum, I was at the game on the Kahuku side cheering and yelling with everyone else. With all the excitement I didn’t even notice or pay attention to what was happening on the field at that time. I think that is probably true for most of the people in the stands. Now that I’ve watched the replay on TV, I agree it would have been nice to wait till after Mr. Bothelo was recognized, but there was no disrespect intended.

  36. Pukateet November 22, 2015 9:05 am

    Hey realistic, You still haven’t explained why you’re associating yourself with stupid people. because you and your boy was in the same class trying to figure out how to pass the SAT’S. Stop acting like you are a smart guy, all you are is a smart-ass.

  37. Chaddap November 23, 2015 8:32 am

    Still looking for EwaEwa and Lee Boy, and maybe Better Story. You three have been the biggest doubters who really thought Mililani, and any passing team would run right over us. Even saying we have no football IQ and “wait and see what an accurate passer and great wide receivers will do to your defense”. Even going as far as saying Mililani was a lock for states and for us to only comeback if we win states. Well here I am now buddy, where are you? what computer no work anymore? Mililani wins one state championship and they think they have a dynasty going. Let me give you some numbers, 25 OIA championships, 8 STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS. So please don’t ever try and tell US we don’t know about football. WE ARE FOOTBALL. Sit back, take notes, enjoy your off-season. We’re undefeated, You’re not. We’re the champs, you’re not. We shut every offense down.

  38. eastside hooligan November 23, 2015 8:56 am

    @ MSU Alum …….. If you sat in the Sea of Red or even went to the game you couldn’t hear what was being said on the field about Don Bothelo. As we watched the replay the next day my wife and I felt said that we was showing respect but the Adrenaline was pumping and so nobody could hear the announcer.

    I am truly disappointed that St Louis did not wait to get their 2nd Place trophy and for the Coaches and Players to do there own thing is very disrespectful. NO CLASS to stick around and to acknowledge the loss and to respect the winner.

    To all the haters ……. Hahahahahahaha !! LOVE YA!!

  39. rrfl November 23, 2015 10:51 am

    can anyone tell me why the coaching staff and players of the st. louis crusaders did not stick around after the game to accept their award?

  40. 88 November 23, 2015 3:24 pm

    Like what Matni said in the Kahuku Hype Video ” No one remembers 2nd place. No one!”…. So does it matter? Hell no.

  41. Freedly Frem November 24, 2015 9:53 pm

    its sad that Cal Lee displayed such a poor example for his boys by not sticking around for their trophy.. funny the most “religious” ones are the ones with the worse values and character

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