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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 24, 2001

Red Raiders beat Waimea, 21-7, advance to third state title game

 •  Crusaders cruise to 49-7 victory over Kailua and into state final

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Waimea High School football team showed last night why it is indeed among the state's best. But Kahuku showed again why that is not enough to knock the Red Raiders off their championship track.

Kahuku's Ferron Fonoimoana fumbles the ball as Waimea's Rayson Cacal, left, and Kyle Yokoyama close in on defense.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Kahuku held off the stubborn Menehune, 21-7, at Aloha Stadium to advance to its third straight state title game. Waimea (8-2) gave the Red Raiders (13-0) their toughest semifinal challenge, as well as their closest margin of victory since a season-opening 19-14 win over Skyline (Salt Lake City).

"They're good," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said. "They really pack it in with that unbalanced line, and they execute. It wasn't luck that they beat Castle (last week) or Kailua (in 1999). They beat a lot of great teams."

But none as great as Kahuku.

The Red Raiders showed a glimpse of their prowess early in the second quarter, on a five-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that took just 1 minute, 29 seconds. A 24-yard pass from quarterback Inoke Funaki to Ferron Fonoimoana capped it, and Solomon Lee's extra point made it 7-0 with 10:14 remaining in the half.

Kahuku out-gained Waimea 237 yards to 49 in the first two quarters, but the Red Raiders lost two fumbles and the Menehune defense held firm when it needed. The score stayed at 7-0 until the final play of the half, a 22-yard touchdown pass from Funaki to Fonoimoana. The extra-point attempt failed, making it 13-0 at intermission.

"They all pursue well, they fly to the ball," Funaki said of Waimea's defense. "We never executed the way we're supposed to, but I think they forced us to make some mistakes. They were going real hard."

Another factor was the absence of Kahuku running back Mulivai Pula, who played only one down in the first half. Livai said he was "resting" Pula, although Pula did manage to finish with 64 yards and one touchdown on nine carries, all in the second half.

"Just his presence makes us feel more comfortable," Funaki said. "He hits the holes real quick, and that gives us a boost. It opens things up for everybody else."

Pula's 11-yard touchdown run helped give the Red Raiders a 21-0 lead with 1:24 left in the third quarter. The Menehune made it 21-7 with 11:10 remaining in the game after Rayson Cacal returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown.

Waimea had three possessions after that, but failed to gain a first down on any of them. The Menehune finished with only 87 total yards and were hurt by three interceptions.

"We needed to establish our ground game better, and we made some mistakes," Waimea coach Jon Kobayashi said. "If we eliminated those, we might have had a chance. But you gotta give credit to Kahuku. They took it to us."

Said Livai: "I knew our defense would be too much for them. It was just a matter of our offense being able to operate."

Much has been made of Kahuku's size, but Menehune lineman Abraham Apilado said it's the Red Raiders' speed that kills.

"They're just fast," Apilado said. "Especially their corners — they just fly up and hit."

Waimea may have been overmatched in every area, except pride. After the game, the Menehune effort drew a standing ovation from a contingent of several hundred fans who flew over from Kaua'i.

"We have a tradition of playing big in big games, and our young guys have never shown any fear," Kobayashi said. "They came up big again and we got tremendous play from them. They just played their hearts out, and that's all I can ask."