Kahuku turns back Punahou for Division I championship
|||Iolani tops Radford for DII title, 34-20|
|||Kahuku's Te'o happy to be back with family|
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Nothing like second-guessing for Kahuku.
Instead of gambling on fourth-and-17 from the Punahou 47, Kahuku punted. It made the difference as the top-ranked Red Raiders scored the go-ahead points on a safety to rally past No. 2 Punahou, 28-21, last night for the First Hawaiian Bank Division I state football championship.
An Aloha Stadium crowd of 24,667 watched the Red Raiders (11-1) come back from a 21-12 deficit early in the fourth quarter to nail down their fourth title in six years.
Running back Malosi Te'o rushed for 262 yards, including a 79-yard TD run that pulled Kahuku to 21-20 with 7:47 left in the game.
But it was lineman Kaniela Tuipulotu's tackle of running back Kainoa Carlson in the end zone for a safety that put Kahuku ahead, 22-21, with 5:02 left. He also had an assist from linebacker Kaeo Alo.
It was all set up when Kahuku punted from Punahou's 47 and Keoki Hong landed on the ball at the 2.
"We called a timeout (before the punt) because we were going to go for it," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said. "But it was a long shot, fourth down and 20 (17). I'm glad that we called a timeout to talk about it and the plan was to pin it down there, and you know what? That's exactly what happened."
With Punahou (11-3) at its 2, Kan threw two incomplete passes before Carlson took a handoff. Tuipulotu shot the gap and caught Carlson about 3 yards behind the goal line.
"Coach told us to dig deep and find the true players that we are," Tuipulotu said. "We showed a lot of character to come back."
Chico Ramirez's second interception of the game set up insurance for the Red Raiders, who followed with a 5-yard TD run by Kamuela Alisa to make it 28-21 with 2:37 left. But Kahuku failed to convert on a 2-point conversion to keep the game within striking distance for Punahou.
The Buffanblu started from their 26 with 2:31 on the clock and worked their way to the Kahuku 3 with 28 seconds left after a 26-yard pass from Kan to Kyle Whitford. Kahuku called a time out. On first-and-goal from the 3, Kan rolled right and fired to the right side of the end zone toward Miah Ostrowski. But Suaesi Tuimaunei cut in front of Ostrowski to pick off the pass in the end zone for a touchback to end the threat.
After a scoreless third quarter, Punahou opened its lead to 21-12 early in the fourth on Kan's 24-yard TD pass to Whitford.
For the Buffanblu, they were nearly flawless up to their 21-12 lead. But after Te'o's long TD run, the Kahuku defense picked up, coming up with three interceptions. For three quarters, it was Kahuku that was killing itself with penalties (8 for 74 yards) and turnovers (two fumbles led to Punahou scores).
"I'm proud of the way they fought 'til the end," Punahou coach Kale Ane said of his players.
"It was a great game like we anticipated it to be," Livai said. "This could have gone either way."
PUNAHOU (11-3) 7 7 7 0—21
KAHUKU (11-1) 0 12 0 16—28
Pun—Zac Yamagishi 27 pass from Brett Kan (River Kim kick)
Kah—Kamuela Alisa 4 run (run failed)
Pun—Kan 1 run (Kim kick)
Kah—Devin Unga 72 pass from Kaulin Krebs (run failed)
Pun—Kyle Whitford 24 pass from Kan (Kim kick)
Kah—Malosi Te'o 79 run (Alisa run)
Kah—Safety, Kaniela Tuipulotu tackled runner in end zone
Kah—Kamuela Alisa 5 run (run failed)
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.