The textbook for Moanalua football in 2018 remains the same.
All Nick Au and his Na Menehune teammates want is to perfect their creation. Au passed for 353 yards and four touchdowns, completing 32 of his 42 attempts, as No. 8 Moanalua coasted past Waipahu 29-5 on a humid Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
Au’s yardage total on Friday ranks ninth in school history. His single-game high came nearly two months ago, a 375-yard performance against Castle.
The precision of the offense and the relentlessness of the defense were on cue. Now 6-0 (7-0 overall) — the best start in the program’s history — Moanalua clinched the top seed in OIA Division I. A 23-10 win over Leilehua a month ago is proving crucial. The Mules are currently in second place at 5-1, but even if each team finishes the regular season at 6-1, Moanalua has the head-to-head tiebreaker for the higher seed in the upcoming playoffs.
True to their DNA, Na Menehune chipped and chiseled away at a physical, explosive Waipahu defensive front. But when the big opportunities arose early, Au didn’t hesitate. He connected with Ezra Grace and Rudy Kealohi for touchdowns of 63 and 45 yards on his first two attempts.
Waipahu contained the deep ball after that, but Moanalua thrived on the short game. Grace had a huge first half with five receptions for 89 yards and two TDs. The Marauders took his threat away after intermission — he didn’t have a single target after that — but that opened up the crossing routes for Kealohi, who had 10 of his 13 receptions in the second half. He finished with 129 receiving yards. In all, nine Menehune caught at least one pass from Au, who was not intercepted.
“The pass game, that’s who we are this year. We tried running the ball and it bit against us,” Moanalua coach Savaii Eselu said. “But I’m very happy with the passing.”
Moanalua certainly tried to establish a ground game, but all four carries by its running backs went for negative yardage in the first half. Even after three periods, no Menehune had gained positive yardage on the ground. That’s why Eselu considers Au’s quick, short passes more like long handoffs.
After the two long scoring strikes to begin the game, Au averaged 6.1 yards per attempt on his remaining 40 throws. That’s more than enough for Moanalua, which finished the game with minus-41 yards on 17 rushes. Six-point-one yards per play — run or pass — is more than effective in the sum total. Especially with no turnovers.
Moanalua’s defensive front, led by DT Tupu Alualu, limited Waipahu to 23 rushing yards on 21 carries. LB Micah Kim was in on two of the unit’s four sacks.
“I like the way we maintained the tenacity up front when the going got tough a little bit,” Eselu said. “The offensive line, they’re going to hear a lot of gripe from me with the front line. We’ve got to make sure we get something going. Waipahu fires off very well. Hat’s off to Coach (Bryson) Carvalho and his staff. They did an awesome job up front controlling us. So we had to stay one-dimensional tonight. We’ve got to get two-dimensional.”
Waipahu RB Alfred Failauga sat out after missing practice during the week due to a root canal. The junior has impeccable career numbers — 3,142 yards and 37 TDs on the ground — but a hand injury sidelined him earlier in the year. He returned last week against Leilehua.
“That changed a lot. We saw him sitting during warmups. We were bummed. We wanted to see their best in there. It allowed us to free up more guys in the box because he’s such a threat,” Eselu said.
Moanalua closes the regular season with a home game against Nanakuli next Saturday. Because their home field needs repairs to the lights, Na Menehune played a recent home game at Radford. Moanalua is considering playing the Nanakuli game at home during daylight hours.