Ram Tough: Defense leads Radford to title

Radford clamped down on Kaimuki in the OIA championship game on Friday. Jamm Aquino / Star-Advertiser
Radford clamped down on Kaimuki in the OIA championship game on Friday. Jamm Aquino / Star-Advertiser

Fred Salanoa was prepared for anything that the Kaimuki Bulldogs, the ultimate underdogs, might have in store for his Radford Rams.

For a second time this year, Radford prevailed over Kaimuki. This time, it took all the Rams had to get past Kaimuki in a 28-6 win that was a one-point game at the half. The Rams dominated every foe on its schedule this fall, but showed that they can be human. Waialua pushed Radford hard before the Rams ran away in the second half.

At Aloha Stadium in Friday’s OIA Division II championship game, Kaimuki and its gritty band of ironman athletes hung tough. The Bulldog defense limited league-leading rusher Ace Faumui to less than 100 rushing yards (13 carries for 89 yards).

Radford dared the Bulldogs to throw deep, often going with zero coverage (no safeties deep). Twice, Kaimuki had a receiver breaking loose down the hash marks, only to be overthrown as quarterback Keanu Pratt faced a heavy Radford pass rush.

Another key moment: a muffed punt that would’ve given Kaimuki the ball inside Radford territory. It was a pivotal play in the first half, switching the field-position edge.

In the end, Radford’s defense withstood Kaimuki’s pummeling ground attack with Billy Masima carrying the ball. Masima, playing both ways like many of his teammates, rushed for 81 yards in 17 carries.

“Billy’s a great running back. We had to make sure we tackled him. He had a couple of (long runs),” Salanoa said. “We tip our hats off to our defense and their aggressive style, coach Matt Manuma being defensive coordinator. He and his assistants did a really good job at coming up with a good game plan and doing what they do best, and the kids executed. That’s a testament to their hard work and attention to detail.”

Radford allowed just 40 points in nine league games (4.4 per contest). Ranked ninth in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 — one of just two D-II team in the rankings — the Rams improved to 11-0 overall with the win, and will now await the HHSAA’s seeding results. Those will be released on Sunday morning.

“We’ll celebrate, but I told them we have to continue to be humble and hungry. This was our first goal out of two goals. We were able to win the OIA, and now our second goal is to win the state championship. It’s not over. I told them to celebrate and have fun, be humble. Be respectful. Let’s get ready for practice on Monday for whoever we face next in the state championships.”


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