No. 6 Kamehameha outgained No. 2 Kahuku 234-231 in scrimmage yards Friday night.
Yet, it was Kahuku that came out with a 24-7 victory at Aloha Stadium.
The Red Raiders were able to ride the momentum of their 24-0 first half that was, not surprisingly, spearheaded by their defense and special teams.
A punt block, a fumble recovery and an interception turned into 17 points. In addition, Kahuku (4-1, 1-0 OIA Open) also put together a patented, smashmouth, 80-yard TD drive.
It looked like it might turn into a rout at halftime. But not so fast.
A change at quarterback for Kamehameha (2-3, 1-3 ILH Open) did wonders. Kiai Keone, mostly off of play-action, came in for Christmas Togiai and led the Warriors to one touchdown and nearly one more late in the contest. Throughout the second half, the chains were moving for the Warriors.
On the other side, the Kamehameha defense began to shut down Kahuku, but those final 24 inspired minutes by the Warriors were just not enough.
Red Raiders junior linebacker Aaron Fonoimoana-Vaomu was in on all three of those game-changing plays. He blocked the punt, stripped a ball carrier before a teammate recovered, and intercepted a Togiai pass. All three plays led to points.
Tausili Fiatoa was also a wrecking ball for the Red Raiders. He had one sack and three other tackles for loss.
“Aaron is a tough kid,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “He has a motor. He plays one speed and that’s basically how our defense is. Tausili is one of our defensive captains and is always solid. Every night we can count on him to make plays.”
Carvalho would have liked a better second half from his boys.
“We just need to keep improving,” he said. “There are things we gotta do on both sides of the ball to make sure we don’t have second halves like this. It’s early in the season. We just gotta get better each week.”
Kahuku running backs Wes Alo-Maiava and Toalei Lefau combined for 37 carries and 129 yards behind the bulldozers up front for the North Shore boys.
“It was more or less the same game plan we had against Punahou (a 41-28 win at home on Aug. 11),” Carvalho said. “We have two great backs and an awesome offensive line. We wanted to play Kahuku football tonight — establish the line of scrimmage and let Wes and Toalei run the ball.”
Kahuku is without two defensive starters — linebacker Miki Ah You (out for the season with a knee injury) and defensive back Kaonohi Kaniho (expected to return from a knee injury).
Abu Maafala, the Kamehameha coach, is still wondering what he can do to instill in his boys that they can truly compete with the best in the state.
“It was a tale of two halves,” he said. “The way we practice is the way we play. It starts with me. We’ve got to get that fixed and find the ways. We can do it. We proved it in the second half. Things were moving. We just gotta stick to that and keep it moving.
“We have good players, too. That’s the hard part. The No. 1 thing is to keep them confident. In the second half, they figured out they can play with these guys and they responded. I’m hoping we see them (the Red Raiders) again. That’s a really good football team. We have another big one next week against Farrington and they’re just gonna pound the ball. If our players believe, they can play with anybody.”
The Warriors play the Govs (1-4, 0-2 OIA Open) on Friday at home.
Kahuku is off next week and returns to action Sept. 29 at home against No. 4 Mililani (3-2, 1-0 OIA Open).
In final scrimmage yards Friday, Kahuku passed for 55 and rushed for 176 for 231, and Kamehameha passed for 204 and rushed for 30 for 234.