Moanalua coach Savai’i Eselu arrived at the field on Saturday with a cast on his hand.
By the end of the night, he had far too much company on the Na Menehune sideline in nursing an injury.
Holding up against Kahuku’s red surge on both sides of the ball is challenging enough with a fully stocked depth chart. Moanalua’s was thinned early in Saturday’s 42-0 loss to the top-ranked Red Raiders, leaving Na Menehune hoping to get healthy in time for Friday’s regular-season finale against Aiea.
“That’s the biggest hump, trying to get us close to 100 (percent),” Eselu said. “We’ll see. Preparation tells it’s tale and we’ll go from there.”
Seven Moanalua players reportedly left the game due to injuries in the first half against Kahuku, including key two-way contributors in Brandon Bender and Kea Rodrigues, who returned a fumble 38 yards in the first quarter. Eselu said linebackers Jacob Ramelb and Jeremy Rodriguez were also sidelined.
“Some guys actually were trying to suck it up and play, but at the same time you really have to think down the line,” Eselu said. “We took a hit with the injury bug, so you just try to pick up the pieces and go from there.”
Even at full strength, few defenses locally have contained Kahuku’s power run game. The Red Raiders rushed for 431 yards in Saturday’s win with two backs going for at least 150, Elvis Vakapuna (22 carries, 177 yards) and Harmon Brown (18, 150).
“I was waiting for (Kahuku) Coach (Vavae) Tata to call it. We were all yelling on the side, ‘here it comes,’ ” Eselu said. “That elephant (package), if you don’t have the right studs to play it constantly, over and over and over, it’s going to be a really big uphill battle.”
On the other side of the ball, a stifling Red Raider defense held Na Menehune to 84 yards in total offense in its fourth straight shutout in OIA Blue play.
“I’m glad they didn’t take it easy on us,” Eselu said. “In any fight or any game I never want anybody to take it easy on me. I want your best. Just go with what you’ve got. Unfortunately we didn’t have the right pieces, and we started losing the pieces we did have. We just had to kind champ at the bit and see what we had from there.
“We had a whole lot of inexperienced guys going in and playing and just a learning curve, kind of a sudden learning curve.”
Eselu counted the opportunity for some of those reserves to see action against the defending state champions as a positive from the evening heading into the matchup at Aiea.
Na Alii enters the finale at 3-3 followed by Moanalua at 2-4. The winner finishes fourth in the OIA Blue with a chance to host a first-round game in the OIA Division I playoffs.
“The good thing is we saw our twos and threes … we saw them get in and get their feet wet,” Eselu said.
“It’s a positive going into next week with Aiea. (Na Alii) know how to play their game and they do a very good job at it. It’s no walk in the park by any means.”