Kapolei can’t seem to avoid Kahuku no matter what changes come to the OIA divisional structure.
On Aug. 14, the ‘Canes lost to Kahuku 27-7. Last season, they lost a regular-season opener at Kahuku 33-19 on a night when offensive lineman Noah Punahou Mahelona‘s father, John, collapsed in the bleachers and later died. Two months later, Kapolei lost at Kahuku in a playoff matchup, 9-0.
Kapolei does have a history of winning at one of the toughest sites for any visiting team. In 2007, QB Mason Koa kept the ball on the ground and the Hurricanes grinded out a 14-7 upset win.
This year’s ‘Canes are far more dependent on the pass. Taulia Tagovailoa passed for a school-record 534 yards in last week’s 41-0 playoff win over Castle. WR Ty-Noah Williams had eight catches for a new school mark of 313 yards, plus four TDs. Stellar OL Toleafoa Sean Auwae is expected back from injury and will be a key factor at left tackle against Kahuku’s elite defense.
Coach Vavae Tata has not strayed from his preseason promise to play smashmouth football. The Red Raiders have pounded away with a mammoth offensive line, using offensive coordinator John Hao‘s blend of double-tight ends, double-fullbacks plus an H-back to make QB Kesi Ah-Hoy a formidable Wildcat style first-down machine. Ah-Hoy (617 rushing yards, 11 TDs) has been healthy in this setup compared to last year, when he was menaced by various injuries as a full-time RB.
Sefa Ameperosa (559 yards, six TDs) leads a RB crew that spends as much time blocking as it does carrying the ball. Harmon Brown (eight TDs), Ted Kenese and LeRod Tongi have been scary-good with and without the ball, and TE Kasen Latu has been sneaky good both as a pass catcher and blocker. On one of Ah-Hoy’s TDs against Waianae, he pancaked two defenders.
Ah-Hoy went nearly three quarters without throwing a pass against Waianae. He has thrown 32 passes in eight games with three TDs and no interceptions. The ground-and-pound game gives Kahuku’s defense plenty of rest and rejuvenation time, and they’ve responded by permitting just 22 points all season.
Manaia Atuaia, a third-year starter at LB, has been steady while OLB Hirkley Latu uses his speed and length to put QBs in panic mode.