By Wes Nakama
MILILANI — Bouncing back with a vengeance, Kahuku stormed past Punahou, 28-16, Friday night to advance to next week’s First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division State Championship game.
A vocal capacity crowd of about 3,000 at John Kauinana Stadium watched the two-time defending champ Red Raiders come up with four interceptions and four sacks in improving to 11-2. Punahou, the two-time ILH champion, ends its season at 7-3.
Kahuku will face Mililani (11-1) for the state title at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Hawai’i’s Clarence T.C. Ching Stadium.
Va’amalae Fonoti rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries for Kahuku, and quarterback Tuli Tagovailoa-Amosa completed 9 of 12 passes for 148 yards and two more TD’s to lead the Red Raiders’ offense. The victory comes two weeks after Kahuku was stunned by Mililani, 28-21, in the OIA title game.
“Punahou is a great team — well-coached, great players — so we’re just fortunate to come out with a ‘W’ tonight,” said Red Raiders coach Sterling Carvalho.
After the teams were tied at 7-7 at halftime, Kahuku opened the second half with a seven-play, 45 yard-drive capped by a 10-yard scoring pass from Tagovailoa-Amosa to Diezel Kamoku. Zaden Mariteragi’s extra point made it 14-7 with 8:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Less than three minutes later, Tagovailoa-Amosa connected with Mana Carvalho on a 40-yard touchdown pass play and Mariteragi’s PAT pushed the lead to 21-7. The Buff ‘N Blue cut it to 21-10 on Carson Beard’s 29-yard field goal with 1:27 still left in the third, but the Red Raiders extended the lead to 28-10 after Fonoti’s 12-yard TD run with 7:32 remaining in the game.
“They just did a good job of executing,” Punahou coach Nate Kia said. “They didn’t do anything that caught us by surprise, but that’s the sign of a good team, is when you know what’s coming and they’re still able to execute. But I’m proud of our guys, they hung in there.”
The Buff ‘N Blue closed it to 28-16 on Ty McCutcheon’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Noah Macapulay, but failed to convert on the two-point pass play immediately after.
The Buff ‘N Blue did recover the ensuing onside kick, but McCutcheon’s deep pass was picked off by Mana Carvalho.
“That’s a big thanks to our D-line and linebackers blitzing,” said Carvalho, who made another interception earlier. “(Them) being able to get up in his face, he just has to throw it up and let us back five (defensive backs) make a play. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Although the names might seem familiar — with a few younger brothers or cousins of graduated players — Kahuku players and coaches insist this is a “new” team different from the one that won the past two Open Division State Championships.
“I told the team, ‘This is not the two-time defending state champion,’ ” Sterling Carvalho said. “The majority of our seniors (from the past two years) are gone. This team, they’re going for their first championship, and that’s the mindset that we’re taking and we gotta be hungry and make sure we take care of business. So now it’s time to get back to work, starting tomorrow.”
MILILANI 44, CAMPBELL 7
Kini McMillan completed 33 of 45 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns and added 67 yards on nine carries to help the Trojans race past the Sabers (9-4).
Campbell led 7-6 early but Mililani ran off two TD’s to lead 21-6 at halftime, then scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter to extend it to 35-6 entering the fourth.
Photos: Lori McKeown
Photos: Grant Shishido