No. 8 Moanalua is standing pretty tall in OIA Division I after a 31-13 victory over Damien on Friday.
But just how good are Na Menehune? Five wins in five games is a great way to start a season, but everybody knows the games of real importance haven’t been played yet.
Can this fast start (5-0 overall, 4-0 OIA D-I) glide easily into a sustained ending?
Coach Savaii Eselu was mostly smiling after the homecoming win, which was played at Radford due to a problem with the lights in Moanalua.
But he had his reservations.
“It was a win, but it was a sloppy win,” he said. “I want to see a full game. I don’t want to see stalls or miscommunication on any end. If we can get a full game, we’ll be dangerous. Until then, we’ll try out best. We’ve got to stay humble and play all the way through.”
One disappointing moment for Moanalua came about one second after a positive one. Aukai Grace intercepted a Damien pass (one of four on the night for Na Menehune), but he was tossed from the game for excessive celebration and unsportsmanlike conduct.
In the stretch run, those are the kinds of things that can work against a team’s ability to move on.
Moanalua’s defensive pressure, led by Tupu Alualu (one sack) and Buffalo Kruize (three sacks), gave the Monarchs fits. Tre Barrett also had a sack. Keanu Kekawa came up with two interceptions and Christian Sison had one.
Offensively, Na Menehune shook off a slow start and ended up highly productive. Quarterback Nick Au threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns and completed 30 of his 47 passes. Rudy Kealohi was the recipient of 12 of those passes for 120 yards.
Damien switched to a straight-on running game led by Logan Lauti and Aperamo Sulu in the second half and it nearly worked in messing up Moanalua’s defense. Lauti’s 25-yard TD run brought Damien within eight points, 21-13, with 8:28 to to in the third quarter.
The Monarchs got all the way to the Moanalua 25 on their next possession, but a fumble and Barrett’s recovery put the momentum back on Na Menehune’s side for good. They tacked on 10 points to seal it.
“They (the Monarchs) were popping off gains of 5 and 6 yards and they were catching us sleeping,” Eselu said.
Eddie Klaneski, the Damien coach, did not want to comment after the game.
In yards from scrimmage, Na Menehune passed for 278 and wound up with minus-13 rushing for 265 total yards. Damien passed for 130 and rushed for 67 for 197 total yards.
Damien (3-3, 3-2 ILH D-I) will try to get back on the winning track next Friday at Kailua (1-6, 1-4 OIA Open). On the same night, Moanalua plays at Radford (1-6, 1-3 OIA Open).