The first head-turning moment of Friday night’s game between Moanalua and Kahuku at Carlton Weimer Field came courtesy of visiting Na Menehune.
Moanalua, fresh off a bye week, held firm on defense and forced Kahuku to punt on the Red Raiders’ first drive. Never mind that Big Red had some backups out there at key skill positions with quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava being swapped temporarily for Thorton Alapa and leading rusher Enoch Nawahine out with a concussion. This was still Kahuku.
Na Menehune held, to the delight of their fans who made the drive up the Windward coast. It was a refreshing development for a team that opened the season with a 35-7 loss to Punahou followed by a 44-0 drubbing to Kailua.
Moanalua got a Chad Mann Jr. 22-yard shovel pass touchdown from Nick Au to draw within 12-6 with 5:59 left in the third quarter — the team’s first offensive TD of the year, as well as the first defensive one yielded by Kahuku — but Kahuku would score 28 unanswered from there to pull away for a 40-6 win.
“We were solid,” second-year coach Savai’i Eselu said. “The score is one of those things, the score doesn’t do it justice. We were solid. It’s just, we can’t finish it. Once we put it all together, we should be OK.”
On Moanalua’s first drive, Au (15-for-40, 167 yards, TD, INT) and running back Makana Spencer (11 rushes, 34 yards) moved Na Menehune into field-goal range, aided by a Red Raider personal foul. Improbably, Na Menehune had a chance to get on the board first on the No. 2 team in the state after kicking off to Big Red to start the game.
But a 32-yard FG attempt was wide left.
Na Menehune held the Kahuku offense at bay the next series as well, as Alapa went incomplete over midfield to turn it over on downs. Unfortunately for Na Menehune, they managed only a first down before Au threw an interception, leading to the first of Kahuku’s six rushing touchdowns — three by newcomer Sione Mahe.
Moanalua had struggled mightily with turnovers (nine picks) in their first two games, but that was Au’s only one pick this time; however, Kahuku had chances at several other tipped balls.
“(He fared) OK,” Eselu said in a supportive tone. “I thought he was much more poised in the pocket, regardless of all the times they kept bringing the heat. He did OK, considering our size.”
Moanalua’s scoring drive was aided by a Kahuku roughing the kicker penalty, plus a personal foul later in the drive. But the shovel-pass play was a legit score by Mann, who weaved left through the secondary.
The fourth quarter unraveling was aided by two Moanalua fumbled connections in the backfield. Kahuku scored swiftly off of both. Those miscues contributed to net negative yardage on the ground — of course, many teams have experienced that against Kahuku, against which Moanalua dropped to 0-13-1 all-time.
“Most definitely (we can show our guys positives),” Eselu said. “If our schemes worked, in relation to our execution, we can hang with anybody. It’s just one of those nit-picky things and one of those small stuffs. The more small issues stack up, the bigger the issue.”
That’s an important mentality for Moanalua (0-2 OIA Blue) to keep with more challenges ahead. Na Menehune, who don’t have access to their own field this season, play top-10-caliber teams Waianae and Campbell in “home” games at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium over the next two weeks.