The loss of coach David Vimahi could have stonewalled the Kahuku Red Raiders.
Instead, the top-ranked football team in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10 rose to the challenge with a 55-20 victory over No. 3 Mililani on Saturday night at John Kauinana Stadium. At 5-0, Big Red is alone atop the OIA Open Division standings. Mililani took its first loss after three wins. The visiting team in white uniforms and red helmets spoiled Mililani’s homecoming, but it wasn’t easy despite the final margin.
“The most important thing is we wanted to do it for coach Dave. That was a heavy heart we had during this week with his passing,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “He was my director of recruiting. Auntie Lori is my director of operations. That family plays a huge part of our Kahuku football program. His passing is a big loss. We miss him a lot. Our hearts go out to his family and Auntie Lori. We just love them and whatever we can do to support them.”
David Vimahi was a fixture at Kahuku sporting events even after son Enokk graduated and matriculated to Ohio State, on and off the football field. He provided the music as a DJ, keeping the gym bumping at Kahuku basketball games in pre-pandemic times.
“The last thing he told us was to be 1-0,” coach Carvalho said.
Big plays were all over the field for Kahuku, and often it was Kainoa Carvalho involved. He was 2-for-2 on field goals, 5-for-6 on PAT kicks, and scored on touchdown catches of 70 and 16 yards. He also had 107 return yards on kickoffs and punts. The 10 receptions for 194 yards were game highs.
“It’s a great team win. We all executed on all three phases of the ball. We enjoyed every second of it,” he said. “Off the start, we knew we got ‘em. Our coaches put us in a good position to win and we all executed our jobs.”
Waika Crawford stepped in when starting quarterback Jason Mariteragi left during the second quarter after a roughing-the-passer penalty. Crawford’s elusiveness was a big factor against a tenacious Mililani pass rush. Crawford finished 11-for-16, 174 yards with five TDs. One TD pass to Carvalho came out of the elephant set.
“I know Kaikai never stops on a route. Whenever I’m scrambling, I know I can always look for 11 because he’ll find a way to get open, so I found that and I delivered,” Crawford said.
Defensively, Kahuku came up with four takeaways against Mililani’s potent offense. Trojans’ quarterback Emana Tarape was on point for much of the first half, but eventually, Kahuku closed those passing lanes and brought enough pressure to disrupt that early momentum. It was 6-all early in the second quarter, all on field goals.
Kahuku came up with three interceptions of Tarape, who began the season as a backup to Kini McMillan, who suffered a knee injury last month. Two of them were by Brock Cravens Fonoimoana in classic tip-drill fashion.
Liona Lefau, one of the state’s most heavily recruited players, started at linebacker and continued his offensive rampage. He hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Crawford moments after starting QB Jason Mariteragi was injured on a roughing-the-passer play.
“It was great man, the crowd was into it today,” said Lefau, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior. “My goal as a wide receiver is just to add another weapon to what we already have. We have athletes. I just want to contribute in any way possible when it’s game time.”
Kruze Keanu, another two-way standout, caught an 8-yard TD pass and also snagged an interception.
“Our athletes make plays. That’s what we had to do, get the ball into the hands of our athletes. When we started to get up, we needed to slow down the clock and you know we can run the ball,” coach Carvalho said.
Kahuku went from an empty-backfield formation early in the game to a mix of shotgun and elephant sets once the lead was 27-13 entering the second half.
“Now teams are going to have to prepare for us,” Carvalho said. “What are we going to do? Hat’s off to these boys. They come week in, week out and work hard. That’s the fruit of their labors right here, just working hard and doing the best that they can.”
One intriguing fact: With both defenses chasing receivers up and down the field, Kahuku could have kept playing the aerial game in the second half rather than chew up clock with its sledgehammer elephant package. Instead, Kahuku played its hand perfectly, and Mililani’s quick-strike potential couldn’t keep momentum going. However, if, if, if Kahuku ever decided to go full aerial assault in a shootout type of game, it doesn’t seem like Big Red would ever run out of gas in the tank.
Is it possible Kahuku is the best conditioned football team in the state?
“We hope so,” Lefau said. “We are only going to get better. We need to work towards little to no mistakes out there.”
At John Kauinana Stadium
Kahuku (5-0, 5-0) 6 21 7 21 — 55
Mililani (3-1, 3-1) 3 10 7 0 — 20
Kah—Kainoa Carvalho FG 35
Mil—Makel Paiva FG 27
Kah—Carvalho FG 27
Mil—Paiva FG 38
Kah—Liona Lefau 13 pass from Waika Crawford (Carvalho kick)
Kah—Carvalho 70 pass from Crawford (Carvalho kick)
Mil—Lando Werner-Celes 5 pass from Emana Tarape (Paiva kick)
Kah—Kruze Keanu 8 pass from Crawford (Carvalho kick)
Kah—Clyde Taulapapa 6 run (Carvalho kick)
Mil—Werner-Celes 57 pass from Tarape (Paiva kick)
Kah—Carvalho 16 pass from Crawford (Carvalho kick)
Kah—Taulapapa 8 run (kick failed)
Kah—Jamerus Tai Hook 20 pass from Crawford (Taulapapa run)
JV—Mililani 32, Kahuku 28.
RUSHING—Kahuku: Jason Mariteragi 2-23, Clyde Taulapapa 15-51, Kana Loa Kaluna 5-25, K. Carvalho 3-7, Kingsley Ah You 3-4, Crawford 3-(-12). Mililani: Tarape 5-(-5), Nehemiah Timoteo 9-70, Jaylan Johnson 1-8, Kapono Ho‘okano-Sallas 2-(-1),
PASSING—Kahuku: Crawford 11-16-0-174, Jason Mariteragi 9-14-0-123. Mililani: Tarape 14-29-3-183.
RECEIVING—Kahuku: K. Carvalho 10-194, Ah You 1-8, Keanu 1-7, Lefau 4-53, Kaio 3-15, Tai Hook 1-20. Mililani: John Herold-Namu 6-87, Werner-Celes 4-69, Raymond Roller 1-7, Gavin Hunter 1-7, Timoteo 1-4, Ho‘okano-Sallas 1-11.