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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

Kahuku win sparks early-morning party

 •  Kahuku win sparks early-morning party
 •  Photo gallery: Kahuku's punt return

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Maybe the true measure of Kahuku's status as king of Hawai'i high school football is the toned-down celebration that followed Friday night's thrilling 27-26 state championship win over Saint Louis.

Toned-down by Kahuku standards, that is.

When the Red Raiders won their first crown three years ago, a crowd about 300 screaming fans greeted the team bus on campus at 1 a.m. after Kahuku ended Saint Louis' 14-year dynasty as Prep Bowl/state champion. That victory party lasted until sunlight.

The Red Raiders repeated in 2001, so this title is their third in four years, making the celebration a little more ... normal?

"We stayed (on campus) until about 3:30 or 4 (a.m.)," said tight end Tevita Finau. "We didn't want to sleep; we were still all excited from the game."

The immediate reaction to the victory, which happened after Darren Magololo capped a comeback from a 23-7 deficit with a 3-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left, was wilder than any other. The sea of red that was Kahuku's huge cheering section spilled onto the Aloha Stadium field after the Crusaders' C.J. Santiago missed a 55-yard field-goal attempt to win it as time expired.

But the field had to be cleared for one more play as the Red Raiders were flagged for roughing the kicker. After Santiago missed his 40-yard reprieve, Kahuku fans rushed the field again.

A half-hour after the game, people leaving the stadium parking lot were honking their car horns in joy, and the same thing was happening simultaneously on Kahekili Highway in Kane'ohe — making for a loud 12-mile stretch on the H-3 at midnight.

As with two years ago, cars pulled over on Kamehameha Highway past Kahana Bay and fans cheered and waved pom-pons to others passing by. But unlike 2001, the team bus beat everybody back to campus and police set up flares on the highway to prevent people from pulling over and holding up traffic.

After the players showered and changed, they were greeted by a throng of supporters in the courtyard fronting the gym.

"Once we came out, hoh, it was like a big party," Finau said.

But this one was a bit shorter and more calm than the ones in 2000 and 2001, and there were no parades or big celebrations yesterday.

The team had a meeting in the morning and turned in equipment, then most players went home to catch up on sleep. Head coach Siuaki Livai and others were busy preparing for a family wedding.

"(The celebration) was not as big as the other years," Kahuku athletic director Joe Whitford said. "The last couple times, it was chaotic."

That's not to say this championship is appreciated any less. If anything, the end result was more surprising, considering the Red Raiders lost the ball on downs with 2:17 left and had only 41 seconds and no timeouts when Saint Louis punted from its own 32-yard line.

That's when Toriano Taulogo returned a punt 62 yards to the Saint Louis 3, setting up Magalolo's touchdown.

"When we lost the ball (at 2:17), I didn't know if we could get it back," Finau said. "When Tori returned the punt, I had my eyes closed, but then I heard the crowd going nuts.

"When we had the roughing the kicker (on Santiago's 55-yard attempt), I thought, 'Oh, no, this is it.' When (Santiago) kicked it, I had my eyes closed again. I didn't even want to watch."

Finau, a senior who transferred from Maui last summer, then opened his eyes to another North Shore celebration.

"It's a blessing to have this experience," he said.

Note: Videotapes of Friday's game may be purchased from Aloha Stadium Stars by calling 486-9557.

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2456.