Offensive fireworks are the norm in high school and college football these days, but don’t discount defense and what it can do for your team.
Think back to the old days, if you can, about your proverbial daddy’s football team. That’s when runs up the gut were what you did extensively and close games were usually decided by a 2-point conversion or the unsuccessful attempt at such. For every 76-53 rampage where there is all kinds of offensive wizardry in this day and age, way back when there were the 8-6 and 14-12 slogfests. That was the definition of football at the time.
Well, we might not get many of those any more, but no fear and no tear, we still have defense. In the case of one Hawaii high school football team — the Kahuku Red Raiders (8-0) — you might want to have the cheerleaders chime in on their “mighty, mighty defense” chant.
And it is all of that. Some stats to take a gander at:
>> Four shutouts
>> Yielding 2.8 points per game (less than a field goal, on average)
>> Have not been scored on in 11 quarters
>> Have not allowed a rushing touchdown
>> Have not given up more than 7 points in a game
The big-time stoppers at Kahuku are becoming quite well-known in state circles: linebacker Manaia Atuaia, safeties Keala Santiago, Hirkley Latu and Kekaula Kaniho, cornerback Stokes Botelho, defensive end Bradlee Anae, and defensive tackle Samson Reed, to name a bunch.
The Red Raiders host Kapolei (6-3) in an Oahu Interscholastic Association quarterfinal game on Saturday. The two teams met earlier in the season, when Kahuku prevailed 27-7 on the road. This time, the game is on the North Shore, the scene of the Red Raiders’ 9-0 win in last season’s quarterfinals. Talk about defense!
KAPOLEI LIVES BY ITS DEFENSE, TOO
Sure, sure, Kapolei’s offense has been making a name for itself this season, with freshman quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa distributing the ball to many pass-catchers, including two-way standout Ezra Savea, who can also play QB.
But have you looked at what the Hurricans’ defense is doing lately? Here’s some numbers:
>> Giving up 4.8 points per game in their last four games, including a shutout of Castle in the first round of the OIA playoffs
>> Have not allowed a rushing touchdown in those four games
>> Have not allowed a touchdown in nine quarters
Savea has been a playmaker as defensive back as has Jay Amina and Jonathan Liana. Linebackers Omar Mareko and Rocky Savea and lineman Noah Punahou Mahelona are among the potent run-stoppers.
RADFORD RAMS YOU WITH DEFENSE
And, now, on to Division II and OIA regular-season champion Radford. Like Kapolei, the Rams have a powerful offense to boot, but it’s defense that they thrive on.
“Defense is our bread and butter and defense wins championships,” Radford head coach Fred Salanoa said after wrapping up the regular-season crown with a 28-7 win at Nanakuli two weeks ago.
This is what the Rams (9-0) have been doing all season on defense (numbers do not include a 2-0 forfeit win over Anunenue):
>> Three shutouts
>> Five touchdowns allowed all season (another TD allowed was against Radford’s offense)
>> Yielding 4.3 points per game
>> Have only allowed one rushing touchdown
Radford’s defensive menaces abound. There’s defensive back Sipa Leafa, pass rusher Thomas Reid (who also excels as a wide receiver), and sack master Dillon Sunday, among others.
The Rams have a rematch against Waialua (5-4), a team they beat 35-0 last Friday, in the semifinals of the OIA D-II playoffs on Saturday at the Aiea High field.
To outside onlookers, Salanoa’s Radford squad is on a collision course with Kapaa (7-0) for the state title. But, alas, that is way too far in the future to really discuss at length. There are plenty of other solid D-II teams across the state in the mix to be able to foretell such a tale. But, the truth is, some people are thinking it.
Nanakuli (7-2), of course, wants to avenge its 28-7 defeat to the Rams that clinched the regular-season championship for Radford — a title that belonged to the Golden Hawks last season.
So, there you have it folks, a little bit of a primer on three teams who put emphasis on the somewhat lost art of defense.