Saturday, October 29, 2022 | By: Wes Nakama
Whether in town or country, No. 1-ranked Kahuku proved it clearly is the best football team in the O’ahu Interscholastic Association. Again.
The Red Raiders made it official Friday night with a 35-0 whitewash of No. 3 Mililani at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium, improving to 10-2 and claiming its third straight league championship. Kahuku will begin defense of its state title on Nov. 18 in a semifinal matchup against Campbell, which took third place in the OIA with a wild 49-42 victory over Kapolei on Friday.
Mililani fell to 7-4 and will face either Punahou or Saint Louis in the other state semifinal, also on Nov. 18.
As it was Friday night, Mililani will be without the services of starting quarterback Kini McMillan, who is lost for the season after suffering a knee injury on Oct. 21 versus Campbell.
“He went to sleep (that night) with just the normal soreness, but then he woke up (the next morning) and couldn’t walk,” said Trojans coach Rod York, who learned on Sunday that McMillan would not be available. “But our guys fought hard, that’s not the reason we lost. In the third quarter, whenever we play Kahuku … we just made too many mistakes. And look who we’re playing: give Kahuku credit.”
McMillan’s replacement, senior Mana Tarape, completed 13 of 24 passes for 92 yards but was intercepted three times.
Still, Mililani’s defense kept the Trojans in the game, which Kahuku led only 7-0 at halftime. Waika Crawford’s 19-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper — one play after Shaun Niu Jr.’s interception — and Zaden Mariteragi’s extra point with 9:30 remaining in the second quarter represented the only scores before the break.
“It was just a matter of executing,” Red Raiders coach Sterling Carvalho said. “It was there in the first half, we moved the ball, but then we just stalled. So all we had to do was just go in there and say, ‘Let’s play assignment football.’ Once we were able to execute (in the second half), we scored on every drive. And that’s what we wanted to do. If everybody just does their job, does their 1/11th, that was the outcome tonight.”
Kahuku opened the third quarter with a methodical 13-play, 87-yard drive capped by Carvalho’s scoring run from three yards out. Mariteragi’s PAT made it 14-0 with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter. After freshman defensive back Madden Soliai blocked a punt, the Red Raiders took over at the Mililani 38 and scored eight plays later on Va’aimalae Fonoti’s 3-yard touchdown plunge followed by Mariteragi’s point after to push the lead to 21-0 one minute into the fourth quarter.
Another blocked punt by Soliai then gave the Red Raiders possession at the Trojans’ 17, and Kahuku scored three plays later on Crawford’s 15-yard pass to Kache Kaio, helping to extend the margin to 28-0 with 8:03 remaining.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Red Raiders then closed out the scoring with backup quarterback Sitani Suguturaga’s 28-yard TD pass to Gemini Vendiola, and Mariteragi’s extra point which triggered a running clock with 4:35 left.
Crawford finished with 14 completions in 23 attempts for 157 yards and one touchdown, and added 38 rushing yards and two more scores on seven carries. Fonoti led all rushers with 87 yards and one TD, on 14 carries.
“In the first half, I think everybody was kind of just a little bit frazzled, just flustered,” said Fonoti, a hard-running junior fullback. “But in the second half, we all came together, everybody just did their jobs and assignments. Our running backs coach, Coach Stew (Carvalho), was saying we just gotta keep chipping off and chipping off, every five yards until a first down. Just keep chipping off until we get to the end zone.”
Said Sterling Carvalho:
“We were clicking on all cylinders in the second half. We were able to do what we wanted to do on special teams, the offense was efficient with the run and the pass, and the defense did what they do every single time — hold opponents out of the end zone.
“We found out early in the week (about McMillan’s injury), but at the same time, we knew that Emana Tarape is more than capable — he was their starter last year. So we didn’t take anything lightly. we still had to make sure we had our reads and cues, and come out here and execute.”
Fonoti, who played on last year’s OIA runner-up JV team, said he was inspired by this year’s JV beating Mililani, 42-27, Friday night just before the varsity took the field.
“I’m just happy that both the JV and Varsity won,” Fonoti said. “Now we’re on to states, we just gotta focus and move on to that.”
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