Mission accomplished for Pula
|||Kahuku beats St. Louis for second state football title|
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
Mulivai Pula's next goal is to complete a two-year mission with his church after he graduates from Kahuku High.
And the 5-foot-11 senior did it in champion fashion, rushing for 209 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns in Kahuku's 21-14 win over St. Louis last night at Aloha Stadium.
More than 24,000 witnessed Pula's strong moves up the middle, down the side and all over the field, accounting for 65 percent of the Red Raiders' rushing yards.
But those stats didn't matter to Pula, almost in tears at the end of the Chevron State Football Championship.
"It feels good," he said, sniffling. "But the win is more important to me than the yardage."
The undefeated Red Raiders won their second consecutive state title. The victory was Kahuku's 23rd straight spanning two seasons.
Already wearing a bright red championship T-shirt, Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai raved about his tailback who was nursing an injured knee.
"For him to come out and play the way he did," Livai said. "I know (the Crusaders) have a lot of respect for him."
Pula was the Red Raider offense, which posted just 28 yards passing by senior quarterback Inoke Funaki.
On the first three snaps of the game, Pula rushed for a total of 49 yards, including a 29-yard run tickling the sideline to put Kahuku at the St. Louis 25. Although Kahuku didn't score on that drive, Pula proved he was in the groove and a force to be reckoned with.
"He played a great game," Livai said. "I know he wished for a win."
With nine minutes left in the second quarter, Pula finished a 12-play, 91-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard run into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. By halftime, he had 107 yards on 14 carries. St. Louis posted just 14 rushing yards, compared to Kahuku's 162.
And even with the strong Crusader defense keying on him, Pula still managed to rack up more than 100 yards rushing in the second half, including an 81-yard break-away dash to the end zone with three minutes left in the third quarter, putting Kahuku up 21-7 and sealing the win.
But Pula wasn't thinking about all that. With the thousands of Kahuku fans on their feet by the end of the game, waving signs that read "No Doubt" and "Show No Mercy," all Pula wanted to do was take it in, all of it. With a deep sigh, he rubbed his eyes, almost in disbelief about what just happened: Kahuku, the defending state champion, beat powerhouse St. Louis again in Cal Lee's final year at the helm. That meant it wasn't a fluke. They are champions.
"Right now the win feels good," he said, after breaking away from an emotional huddle with fellow seniors Stanley Pula and Earvin Atuaia. "It's my last year playing for Kahuku, so this is sweet, man. This is sweet."