Offseason work pays off for Leilehua DL Kiaka Pio

Leilehua defensive lineman Kiaka Pio (56) had two sacks in the first half against Waipahu. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Leilehua defensive end Kiaka Pio didn’t mind that Waipahu running back Alfred Failauga broke the state rushing record on Friday. In fact, the Mules junior sent words of respect Failauga’s way after the game at Hugh Yoshida Stadium.

For the eighth-ranked Mules, a 23-13 victory powered by a swarming defensive performance were the numbers that mattered most at the end of the night.

“I want to congratulate him. We used to play in outside leagues so it’s a big stepping stone for him,” Pio said of Failauga. “But for us, it wasn’t really stopping him from making the record, but our mind-set was to win day by day and come out with a 1-0 record each and every week.”

Leilehua turned in shutouts in its first two wins this season and the Mules took a 23-0 lead into halftime to run their streak of scoreless quarters to 10. Waipahu broke up the shutout with an interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter and it wasn’t until Failauga broke loose for a 22-yard score with 50 seconds left that the Mules defense allowed an opposing ball carrier into the end zone.

“We’re young and we’ve got a lot of new guys,” Leilehua coach Mark Kurisu said. “We graduated a bunch of guys that were tremendous playmakers and we’re putting in a whole bunch of new guys in there and it’s good to see growth in tough moments. It was good to see them fight, I like the grind that they go through, pushing themselves.”

After Failauga broke the rushing record with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter, the Mules ended by drive by stopping him on two carries inside the 5-yard line to keep the shutout streak intact. Failauga finished the night with 186 yards on 39 carries, but the Mules dropped quarterback Cody Marques behind the line of scrimmage for 47 yards in losses and had 13 total tackles for loss to limit the Marauders to 170 yards in total offense.

Pio was a menacing presence in the Waipahu backfield throughout the night. He forced a fumble on his second sack of the first half which Jaku Hanohano-Baptista pounced on to set up a field goal in the second quarter.

“It ’s a fun thing but it’s teamwork,” Pio said of chasing down quarterbacks. “The rest of the D-line was doing their job to make my job and the rest of secondary’s job easy. I do my job and the rest of the D-line gets the sacks. So it was pretty fun but we have to come back next week harder.”

Pio, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior, in his role coming off the edge contributed to a collective performance highlighted by four takeaways with Cy Acohido and Ethan Kuth coming up with interceptions in the second half. Acohido also recovered an errant punt snap in the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown that gave Leilehua a 13-0 lead.

Kurisu credited Pio’s surge to “just his maturity. He is a talent and he works really hard.”

“He actually dropped a lot of weight,” Kurisu added. “I think he dropped close to 30 pounds so he can stay in the game longer, he can move like a normal defensive end should at a high level.

“So it’s good to see him do well, because everybody’s going to look at him, he’s a big guy, but he’s fighting though adversity every day. He doesn’t have the same range of motion like everybody else, but he has great heart and I give all the credit to his parents.”

Leilehua quarterback Kalei Akagi threw two touchdown passes in the first half to help power the Mules to a commanding lead at halftime. Although the Mules struggled offensively in the second half, the defense kept Waipahu from generating a serious threat at a comeback to set up an early showdown with Moanalua (2-0, 1-0) next week atop the OIA Division I standings.


  1. ??? August 17, 2019 8:39 am

    Leilehua’s young D-Line is Tough & Scrappy!

  2. HI 808 August 17, 2019 12:22 pm

    Leilehua looks good.

    If they go undefeated in the regular season, I think next year they can compete in the OPEN Division.

  3. Tony Paahana August 18, 2019 6:34 am

    Leilehua is lead by a great Coach in Kurisu! Very humble, prepared, and gives credit to the kids and his staff! To do what they do with the kids they have year in and year out speaks highly of their program! Wishing them a great season!

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