Kahuku and Waianae are trying to get back on track this week.
The problem, though, is that only one can actually do it. That’s because the Seariders (1-1, 0-1 OIA Open) visit the Red Raiders (1-1, 0-1) for a Saturday night game. There can be only one winner. Both squads are feeling the sting after a loss in their league openers.
The loser will fall further behind in the OIA race. The winner can gain some much-needed momentum.
“Kahuku has a tradition,” said Waianae coach Mike Fanoga. “They’re a smashmouth football team, a very good team and that’s the reason why they’ve won all of those state championships. I respect people over there. I have family over there in Laie and I’ve always liked that area. Both teams are hungry for a win.”
Fanoga, a first-year Seariders coach, lives with his wife Soana in Makakilo. She is a Brigham Young-Hawaii graduate.
“Our kids were a little nervous against Kapolei (a 28-20 loss two weeks ago),” Fanoga added. “But we’re thankful to be playing in this (Open Division) conference. This game is an opportunity for us. We’ve got to be laser focused and mindful of who we are and on doing our jobs. As that Kapolei game went on, we started to pick it up. They realized that we can score and we can compete.
“And that’s what I told them at halftime. Compete, compete, compete. We fell short.”
According to Fanoga, Seariders quarterback Sheldon McLeod, defensive back Samson Cook, linebacker Angus Ramaila and defensive lineman Zion To’oto’o are among the players who have been resilient and consistent.
“And you’ve got to do that … you’ve got to be able to bounce back when you play a top opponent like Kahuku,” the coach said. “When was the last time we beat Kahuku at their place? (Ed note: 1965, though they tied there in 1969) We’re going to go there and do what we can do as a team. It all starts with discipline and doing the small things.”
Fanoga expects Kahuku to be a much different team than the one that lost to Mililani 32-0 last Friday.
“They didn’t come out and play like they normally do,” he said about the Red Raiders. “I know they will come out and play like they normally do against us. We know they’re going to come out and hit us in the mouth. We’re trying to prepare the kids for that. We’re going to try to do the same thing. Hold our ground and battle to the end. Fight.”
No way is Kahuku coach Sterling Cavalho taking Waianae lightly.
“They gave us the hardest time a few years ago, when (quarterback) Sol-Jay (Maiava) had to win it (10-7 in 2017 state top-tier semifinals) on the last drive of the game,” he said. “(Coach Vavae) Tata also had a very tough game with them (13-0 in 2015 state top-tier semifinals), too, before that.
“Waianae and Kahuku are bred from the same type of cloth — tough, hard-nosed football players. It’s like your fighting with your own. In this Open Division, you need to play every game like it’s a championship game. That’s the type of caliber teams we’ve got here. You want to make it to the OIAs and eventually the states, but you cannot lose, especially to OIA teams.
Carvalho mentioned that his team has been through the process of reevaluating the right and wrong things they’ve been doing.
“Finding out what we can do better,” he said.
Carvalho talked highly of the development of quarterback Tiger Adolpho.
“That was a great experience for him, going against Mililani,” the coach said. “He was able to battle through to the end.
“We’ve gotta make sure that we pay attention in every aspect. Mililani’s special teams were great. Ours wasn’t. We will be paying attention to that.”