Reaching back for that Big Red blueprint

Kahuku’s Aaron Tapusoa pressures Leilehua's Kona Andres, who got hurt on the play but returned later in the second quarter. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser
Kahuku’s Aaron Tapusoa pressures Leilehua’s Kona Andres, who got hurt on the play but returned later in the second quarter. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

Couldn’t help it.

There were many moments during Saturday night’s 41-6 win at Leilehua that took Kahuku fans back. Sefa Ameperosa ran inside and out — mostly in — over and over in the first nine minutes. Moments into the second quarter, the durable running back, was a go-to guy with 12 carries for 94 yards. It was a pace that wasn’t sustainable, not that one high school RB should carry the ball more than 40 times in a single game.

But in more than a few instances, he brought back memories of former great Aofaga Wily. The Red Raiders defense, with six interceptions and a fumble recovery, didn’t just put up numbers. They played with a rangy, athletic accent that brought back images of the “Sharks” unit that fueled state championships in 2011 and ’12, led by safety Kawe Johnson.

The more Big Red plays this fall, the more they look like a blast from the past. That’s saying something in an era of spread offenses. True, Kahuku lines up often in the pistol, but the playbook is as basic and powerful as any Red Raider scheme of the past.

But there was a time, just briefly, when Kahuku football borrowed freely from a newer era. Back when Siuaki Livai coached, he had a strong-armed quarterback named Inoke Funaki. Livai would often drive into town and visit with then-University of Hawaii QB coach Dan Morrison. Livai loved him some smashmouth football, but he was at the point where he wanted that trump card.

He wanted to be able to open up the offense if and when necessary come post-season time. So, with a large lead late in games, Kahuku would temporarily set aside its under-center formation and line up in the shotgun. Funaki had mixed results at first throwing the ball deep, spraying the pigskin to short-route receivers.

It’s not the case right now.

“We don’t have a quarterback-QUARTERBACK,” Red Raiders coach Vavae Tata said after Saturday’s win. “Kesi Ah-Hoy is a quarterback-slash-running back and he’s one of our best 11 guys.”

Kesi is probably going to throw for 200 yards one night. Sooner or later, a defense will fill every gap, slow the ground-and-pound attack just enough to force Kahuku to throw again and again. And Ah-Hoy has enough arm strength and accuracy — more than most running backs — to make a risk-taking defense pay for that possibility.

But until then, the numbers look very reminiscent: 251 rushing yards, 49 carries, four pass attempts. Leilehua, like the five previous opponents on Kahuku’s schedule, knew what was coming. Just couldn’t stop it. The Mules had their share of stops, but most of the night the Red Raiders simply plowed patiently down the field.

Leilehua kept Ameperosa out of the end zone, but he and his line got the job done. LeRod Tongi got past the goal line three times. Harmon Brown got there once. It’s not exactly poaching Ameperosa’s scores, but if Kahuku has a bunch of red-zone play-action in the book, Tata and his staff aren’t sharing.

They might never have to reveal anything. Dominant ground game. Defense — physical, heavy-hitting and intimidating. The Red Raiders had the Mules on the ground getting medical attention so many times, it took the wind out of their sails. It was a concern, no doubt, for fans and neutral observers. Special teams — Kekoa Sasaoka put almost every kickoff deep enough for touchbacks and Keala Santiago was excellent in punt returns.

Take away the 162 penalty yards, including eight of the 15-yard flag variety, and it’s very possible Kahuku wins the OIA and state titles with a 1970s mindset. For the program that has won seven state crowns mostly with that blueprint, it makes perfect sense.


  1. red x September 20, 2015 1:56 pm

    Kahuku needs to be consistent on there drives and have to score atleast in the 30s to have a chance at mililani.

  2. Irish Fan September 21, 2015 9:12 am

    I think BIG RED has what it take to defeat Mililani. They have the physicality and athletic ability to neutralize the potent Trojan Offense. I feel Kahuku is somewhat under the radar but don’t be surprised if that defense leads them to the OIA and State title game.

  3. EwaEwa September 21, 2015 12:51 pm

    Kahuku’s defense will only slow down (not stop) that Trojan Offense but Kahuku’s Offense will not be able to keep up. Millilani will win the OIA.

  4. John pau September 21, 2015 2:50 pm

    I think kahuku is OVERATED and they have a weak schedule on the red side…no one is going to challenge them with their run left run right play action pass/wildcat with kesi ahoy is just plain old overated and worn out…lets put it this way MILILANI DESTROYED FARRINGTON who runs the EXACT SAME OFFENSE with THE SAME SIZE O-LINE and MILILANI DEFENSE STOPPED THEM IN THEIR TRACKS…just saying kahuku fans going hate the time they have to play mililani and then make excuses on why their team should have won…

  5. red x September 21, 2015 5:27 pm

    Everybody knows you can’t stop mililani’s offense and we all knows they have an easy scheduled…duhhh! Kahuku is a whole different team than Farrington. Farrington had success running but went away from it at times and there defense is not even close to Kahuku D. That’s why my post earlier saying that have to be consistent on there drives and to put alot points.I know it’s easier said than done so with that being said Kahuku would have to play a perfect game to beat mililani.

  6. Aitorahi September 21, 2015 5:36 pm

    @john pau
    Farrington put up 28 points on Mililani and Kahuku could probably do the same. Mililani hasn’t really stopped any team in their tracks, they have simply outscored them with superior offense. Milton, Timoteo, and Malepeai are arguably the best trio of offensive players in Hawaii history. But can a good defense keep Mililani under 30 points? That is the question. Kahuku, St Louis, and Punahou look like they have the best chance at that. No need hate on any players. Kesi is an outstanding athlete and an outstanding young man. Best of luck.

  7. Can't Rhyme Like this September 21, 2015 6:25 pm

    Of all the times Mililani has made it to States, they only have 1 title to show for it 😉 buahahahaha

  8. 88 September 21, 2015 6:33 pm

    @John Pa’u; 7 State Titles with an OVERATED run left run right offense. Its all good to talk trash about KAHUKU FOOTBALL but when the MILILANI MARCHING BAND has more CHAMPIONSHIPS than the MILILANI FOOTBALL team your trash talk is WEAK. Win a little more before you put down the “run left run right” RED RAIDERS

  9. EwaEwa September 21, 2015 9:00 pm

    When Nick Saban and the Alabama offense go no-huddle/ uptempo spread you know its time has come, yet Kahuku still think they can win with a caveman offense. This is not 2008 when hawaii high schools who were experimenting with the spread could not get it going, Punahou, St.Louis and Mililani have perfected the spread and it will be the superior system from here on out. If Kahuku wants a shot at the title they need to implement some kind of passing game, at least play action but no they want to huddle up in a group and make fire with stones….caveman!

  10. EwaEwa September 21, 2015 9:09 pm

    Why put it all on your Defense to win the game? Kahuku has a superior defense but gets no love from their offense. They think that they can bully their way down the field with the big hogs on the line but when they enter the playoffs there will be teams that can match that toughness. Kahuku probably has the toughest kids on the field on any given night but the offensive IQ out there on the North Shore is comparable to the lower ranks of the D2 division.

  11. Hawaii Nakoa September 21, 2015 10:49 pm

    Coach Tatas comment “We don’t have a quarterback-Quarterback”? Wow I’ve been coaching for 20 plus years in Hawaii…and for a coach to say that about probably the most important position on the offense is just sad! I coached Kona Neumann and Cameron Renaud from big boys and then onto intermediate ball, I’ve seen both get the job done they both have an Arm!

    @Ewa Ewa: just like last year Mililani was suppose to demolish Kahuku…right? Smh same thing this year? However I do agree with you regarding Kahuku’s offense needs to Open Up The Pass Game Now! There Run is great But they need to air it out too…Kesi is a great athlete…but honestly he does Not belong at QB, he’s a RB or Slot too? That’s just my opinion.

    John Hao wake it up man!

  12. Polo September 22, 2015 2:22 am

    Kahuku is not Farrington! !And DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS! All Mililani got is big plays. Come playoff time we’ll see. Just like how we shut down Punahou in 2011,2012. And outscore thrm. Raider Nation will rise!!! The only schools that will rise in the upcoming years are Kahuku,Farrington and Waianae. Due to the new transfer rule .

  13. 88 September 22, 2015 7:00 am

    @EwaEwa; Kahuku’s Offense averaging 40 points a game. Kahuku defense giving up 3 points a game. If you had ANY FOOTBALL IQ what so ever than you would know that is some pretty impressive stats for caveman football. I believe its even better than the 3 teams ranked ahead of them.

  14. John pau September 22, 2015 9:05 am

    pretty impressive stats 88 PLEASE…against leilehua,castle,waipahu,mckinley take those stats and throw them in the trash…DEFENSE MAN YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME…kahuku BARELY beat kapolei pre season with field goals that DEFENSE IS JUST GONNA get demo like farringtons D AND ALL THOSE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS can stay in the past move along with your kahuku 88 sweater/t-shirt too..if YOU HAVE ANY FOOTBALL IQ you would know the red division your in is weak as hell and kahuku would lose to some of these teams in the blue division so until you guys make the championship and WIN…I THINK YOU SHOULD BE QUIET and you wanna talk about defense wins championships…WHERE WAS KAHUKU’S DEFENSE LAST YEAR obviously it didnt win anything so…NOW WHAT YOU GOTTA SAY…OH NOTHING OK…SEE YOU IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP…IF YOU CAN MAKE IT

  15. rrfl September 22, 2015 9:43 am

    Oh john pau you’re one angry person. settle down. go have lunch or something

  16. rr4l September 22, 2015 10:09 am

    John Pau : Just Calm Down, Okay?! & Fyi : we had the defense last year, but it’s because of BULUSEKI calls that the refs made.

  17. red x September 22, 2015 10:15 am

    I don’t understand why Kahuku doesn’t give neumann and renaud playing time out the gun. They are the passing QBs also they could put kesi back and running back or use him as slot. If not why not run a triple option with kesi. They have the players to have an explosive offense but the coaches must have something else planned.

  18. red x September 22, 2015 10:30 am

    @ John pau
    What blue team can match Kahuku aside mililani? Do you even know Kahuku football? Kahuku defense did there job last year but the offense couldn’t hold there own. Everytime Kahuku went to states it’s been there defense vs there offense and we always came on top. Stop being a diva and have a snicker

  19. Y U Mad September 22, 2015 10:50 am

    John Pau must have gotten his team beat by Kahuku too many times, to be hating this much. How are we Overrated? We are ranked 4th, not 1st with this weak schedule. Who would you place ahead of us? Who outside of Mililani would actually beat us in the OIA?They took Farrington from our Division. There are always really only 2-3 teams in the running every year. They need to go back to Red/White/Blue Divisions so that all the good teams actually play each other and don’t waste time with the weaker teams. Mililani has a monster team no doubt and are the favorites. We will see in the playoffs. Kahuku been here for decades not just a couple of years. What will you do when your QB/HB/WR graduate this year? Recruit again?

  20. 88 September 22, 2015 11:40 am

    @JohnPa’u; Kahuku and Mililani had 3 common opponents this year. 2 of them were from the MIGHTY BLUE DIVISION and 1 from THE WEAK AS HELL RED DIVISION. The 2 teams from the MIGHTY BLUE DIV. were able to up 42 combine points against the Trojans and the 1 team from the WASTE TIME RED DIV. got 14. Against the Red Raiders these 3 teams scored a grand total of 7 points. Its obvious your confusing football IQ with MARCHING BAND IQ. Stick to your flute playing and making sure the drummers are in proper formation for their half time preformance

  21. Mika Tufuga-Valai September 22, 2015 12:27 pm

    A lot of football experts in here. You know they had a shortage of coaches around the state, I’m sure they could use your expertise instead of coming in here criticising with a fake name..
    Adults are always trying to take the lime light from the kids. The kids are playing their hearts out representing their schools, all you people can think about is your personal opinions? Get a life.

    If you want to be heard, go to your town meetings, I’m sure they could use experts like yourselves to solve issues in the community.

    The kids got a nice article about them and you people come in here trying to give your opinions. PLEASE…we’ve heard it all before. Just shut up and let the kids do the talking on the field and we do what we are supposed to do, go cheer and support our kids instead of always trying to steal their thunder.

    My name is Mika Tufuga-Valai…a red raider nation for life. and a believer in kids everywhere.

  22. Kahuku 82 September 22, 2015 12:41 pm

    @88 pau must have been born in 2013 cuz until then millilani has never beaten big red!! He talking like they been dominating for the last 40 or 50 years ! Not saying millilani doesn’t have a talented team the past few years! The true test will be when they have to reload! Will they be just another one hit wonder or will they be able to stand the test of time like kahuku has for so many years!!! And if not their championship runs will be just like his last name! All PAU!!!!

  23. EwaEwa September 22, 2015 1:12 pm

    Its a game of match-ups not common opponents. Kahuku’s best bet to beat Millilani and any ILH school would be to follow what the article eluded to and what worked in the past
    – eat up the clock to keep the opposing offense off the field
    – sustain long drives and hopefully get a few touchdowns out of it
    – score with special teams and defense

  24. nineteen90 September 22, 2015 1:32 pm

    Hey @88 leave the band alone. Lol. Our boys will prove it on the field like they do year after year. Mililani is like a one hit wonder song.

  25. 808polytics September 22, 2015 1:39 pm

    but what happened to millz “D” against liberty???THEY GOT RAN OVER!! going be pretty shame if millz win states…. not a good look for the state of hawaii … on another note the govz abandoned there running game and defense played horrible…kahuku will not break down mentally…they will pound the ball like liberty and the defense will have enough stops to make it a game,,,, ILL TAKE A STOUT D VS A FLASHY OFFENSE ANYDAY!!! i agree with Y U MAD..what happens when millz loses milton,vavae and timoteo?? i do believe they have more talent coming up from jv squad that york also i guess we will see,,, DONT BE SUPRISED IF YORK JUMPS SHIP TO IOLANI IN THE NEAR FUTURE! U HEARD IT HEAR FIRST LOL

  26. nineteen90 September 22, 2015 1:43 pm

    If your defense cannot stop Kahuku’s caveman run game and we drive down the field, score and wind down the clock, these potent spread offenses might not have time to do a dang thing, especially if our defense has the ability to slow down the pass. They’ll have to resort to running. Offense wins games, defenses wins CHAMPIONSHIPS. ie: Hawaii Warriors 2007 high octane, outscore it’s opponents, pass happy offense couldn’t do a damn thing against Georgia and it’s relentless, sacking, pressure the qb defense.

  27. Y U Mad September 22, 2015 1:49 pm

    Thats what Kahuku does or at least tries to do with anybody they play, not just Mililani or ILH teams every year. We are getting knocked because we haven’t been like everybody else going to the spread. Just because Farrington has the same make up as our team doesn’t make it the same team as the hater was suggesting. You can run the same scheme have the same make up but you don’t have the same players and athletes. Farrington is a good team I’m not trying to knock them, but I don’t feel like they have the athletes that Kahuku does.

  28. Y U Mad September 22, 2015 1:58 pm

    Last Year Punahou avg near 50 pts a gm. How many offensive Touchdowns did they score vs Kahuku? I’ll wait…….. ZZZEEEERRRROOOO. Hilo avg 40 pts a gm, they got 10. Even the unstoppable Mililani attack got at the very least slowed down and had their lowest output of the season and shut out in the second half after scoring 20. No we did not win, our offense was bad last year. This year you put up a similar defense with a much better offense….. I like our chances even against Mililani.

  29. 88 September 22, 2015 3:00 pm

    @Miguel-Tufuga; Easy there Peter Pan. I’m happy that your a “believer in kids everywhere” however this is an open forum where people can post their opinions whether you agree with them or not. I’m sure no one in here is trying to steal anything away from any kids but if they were, I feel comfortable knowing that we have a “BELIEVER IN KIDS EVERYWHERE POLICE” defending the Keiki’s of Hawaii… Dont be a Grumpy Smurf, just post and enjoy…

  30. EwaEwa September 22, 2015 3:29 pm

    @Miko-Tuna-Valentine, I hear there is also a shortage of referees and they are looking for some short referrees to blow 88’s whistle!

  31. 88 September 22, 2015 5:04 pm

    Why, when your doing a great job EwaEwa

  32. seariderfan September 23, 2015 8:54 pm

    Im surprised the kahuku fans didnt bring uo the fact that their qb suffered an injury in the game, i think that really slowed the offense down, had he been healthy it wouldve been alot closer…

  33. Homegrown September 24, 2015 2:19 pm

    @searider fan I highly doubt that. Leilehuas defense was no match for Kahuku and the only thing that kept this from being a complete blowout was the weather

  34. Kahuku 82 September 24, 2015 2:57 pm

    Well their QB just got the wind knocked out of him! He did manage to come right back and throw 4 more interceptions! Not really sure what game braddah was watching but dunno how much closer the game could have been??? Besides our QB got knocked out in week 2!!!!

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