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No. 1 Kahuku turns back No. 3 Mililani, 29-17

Sunday, October 16, 2022

By: Wes Nakama

KAHUKU — With its muscles flexing and trademark athleticism on full display Saturday night, No. 1-ranked Kahuku turned back visiting No. 3  Mililani, 29-17, in an action-packed O’ahu Interscholastic Association football showdown.

An electric and vocal overflow crowd of about 3,000 at Carleton E. Weimer Field watched the defending state champion Red Raiders use big plays in all three phases of the game to pull away after a tight first half and improve to 8-2 overall and finish the OIA Open Division regular season at 6-0. Mililani (6-3, 5-1) will be the No. 2 seed behind Kahuku when the league playoffs begin.

Those roles seemed up for grabs after a tight first half Saturday, at which time the Red Raiders held a slim 7-6 lead, and especially so after the Trojans took a 9-7 lead on Makel Paiva’s 23-yard field goal with 7:15 remaining in the third quarter. But a blocked punt plus two interceptions — including a back-breaking 58-yard pick-6 by free safety Brock Fonoimoana — opened the door for Kahuku.

“We just had to stay patient,” Red Raiders coach Sterling Carvalho said. “We don’t panic. We’ve been in these situations, we’ve been in big games before. So we just had to settle down and play assignment football. Once we do, we’re gonna hold the football, we’re gonna execute. And that’s what we did in the second half.”

The Red Raiders responded to the third-quarter deficit by immediately marching 85 yards in 10 plays on the ensuing possession, capped by Waika Crawford’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Kache Kaio. The two-point conversion pass failed, but Kahuku took the lead for good at 13–9 with three minutes to play before the fourth.

On the very next play from scrimmage, sophomore defensive back Aiden Manutai stepped in front of a receiver running an inside curl route and intercepted the pass at the Mililani 35-yard line. Four plays later, Va’aimalae Fonoti rambled into the end zone from seven yards out to push the lead to 19-9 with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

Three plays into the next series, Fonoimoana intercepted a pass at his own 32, bounced to the right sideline and then streaked 68 yards for another TD. Zane Mariteragi’s extra point made it 26-9 with 0:08 showing on the clock, still in the third.

“After I had a nice block from Aiden, that sealed the deal,” said Fonoimoana, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior who verbally committed to the University of Utah in August. “We knew we had make plays on defense, but once the offense started picking up, they executed and did really good.”

On the opening possession of the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders forced the Trojans into a fourth-and-14 situation from their own 31, and then freshman defensive back Madden Soliai broke through the protection and blocked a punt, with linebacker Leonard Ah You recovering at the 23.

That set up Mariteragi’s 26-yard field goal with 7:37 remaining in the game, putting Kahuku ahead 29-9.

“It’s unique that they are the No. 26 team in the nation (in MaxPreps’ ranking) at this point in the season, usually it’s at the end,” Mililani coach Rod York said of the Red Raiders. “They’re loaded with talent, they have great coaching, they play physical with heart … Hat’s off to them.”

The Trojans closed it to 29-17 with 2:29 left after Raymond Roller returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown and then ran in the two-point conversion, but Kahuku recovered the onside kick and proceeded to run out the clock.

The Red Raiders opened the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Fonoti, followed by Mariteragi’s point-after with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter. Mililani answered with Kini McMillan’s 11-yard TD pass to Onosai Salanoa with 10:17 left in the half, but the extra point attempt was wide right, and that’s how the score stood at halftime.

Fontoti finished with 104 yards and two TDs on 21 carries, and Crawford was 11 of 22 for 164 yards and one touchdown, but he also was intercepted twice. McMillan, a hard-throwing sophomore, completed 26 of 34 passes for 268 and one TD, but was intercepted twice.

Receiver Davyn Joseph led all pass-catchers with seven grabs for 105 yards.

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