Kahuku, Punahou in super final
By Ferd Lewis
Have the stands stopped shaking at Aloha Stadium yet? Is the rust still rising and the confetti swirling? Has the North Shore shouted itself hoarse yet?
Kahuku High brought back the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai'i High School Athletic Association State Football Division I Championship and did with a classic 28-21 comeback victory over Punahou School last night.
Together they played one Halawa game in the old valley. Great plays, big performers, controversy. You name it and this one had it to the foot-stomping delight of the 24,667 in attendance.
It was a down-to-the-wire thriller that pulsated with drama for 48 minutes, rivaling the Red Raiders' last such title, the 27-26 magic act over Saint Louis in 2003.
Do the Red Raiders and their coach, Siuaki Livai, know any other way to win these things?
For not until Suaesi Tuimaunei intercepted a Brett Kan pass in the end zone intended for Miah Ostrowski with 23 seconds left was this one over and the Red Raider reserves able to begin doing cartwheels on the FieldTurf.
Not until then was the No. 1 team in the state and its army of red-clad supporters able to heave a sigh of relief, put a firm grasp on a fourth state title in six years and begin the familiar triumphant convoy back home.
Indeed, the signs in the Kahuku stands that touted "all (heart)" told the tale for the 11-1 Red Raiders who never led in this one until Kaniela Tuipulotu's stop of running back Kainoa Carlson in the end zone with 5:02 left for a safety and 22-21 lead.
Even when running back Kameula Alisa barreled into the end zone with 2:37 left for a 28-21 lead you didn't get the feeling this one might be, at long last, over.
Not as long as Kan and Ostrowski, who would combine for 11 catches and 108 yards, had the ball — and a breath.
It took all of the mighty Kahuku defense, a unit that had shut out eight opponents this year, to finally put away Punahou, a school that had waited 28 long years for a chance at a title.
It took a safety and three interceptions in the final 7:29 — the Buffanblu's only turnovers of the game — to finally quiet Punahou's "white-out" dressed cheering section.
It took a beyond-remarkable 262-yard performance by running back Malosi Te'o on a workhorse 30 carries to help the Red Raiders survive their own shortcomings, special teams breakdowns and eight penalties for 74 yards. At times you'd have sworn Te'o had not the number 30 on his uniform but a big red "S".
The kind that Punahou's defensive lineman Jonathan Overton, Kahuku's defensive back Chico Ramirez and a half dozen others were worthy of.
But, then, it was a night of noteworthy performances that would leave both fans and the dozen or more college recruiters in attendance talking about this one for a long time.
And it leaves you wondering how the Red Raiders can possibly top this one the next time they get here?
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8044.