Kahuku's Te'o happy to be back with family
|||Kahuku turns back Punahou for Division I championship|
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
After finishing last season with Kahuku High School's football team and the Red Raiders' shocking upset loss to Leilehua in the state semifinals, running back Malosi Te'o moved with his family to Salt Lake City, and almost never came back.
He was not there when Kahuku opened fall practice in August, but finally returned once the Red Raiders began their O'ahu Interscholastic Association season a month later.
"Honestly, the reason I came back was Kahuku," said Te'o, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior. "Kahuku is the pride of the North Shore, it's family. And I had to be back with my family."
The Red Raiders and their legion of fans have been elated to have him back, never more so than last night when he rushed for a career-high 262 yards on 30 carries to help Kahuku rally past Punahou, 28-21, for its fourth state title in six seasons.
His totals include a 79-yard touchdown run which helped pull Kahuku to within one point with 7:47 left in the game after the Buffanblu had gone up 21-12.
Amazingly, Te'o put up those numbers despite a Punahou defense that made no secret about trying to stop him, often placing eight, nine or even 10 defenders in the box.
"He's a good back and he has a good (offensive) line," Buffanblu coach Kale Ane said. "He's just a tough, dominating back."
Te'o was quick to credit his line, led by center Latu Tupou, right tackle Ken Livai and right guard Justin Abregano.
"It was everyone except for me," Te'o said. "All I can say is it was all heart. I'm so proud of my boys up front. Punahou came to play, but we put our minds on our goal and kept to it, and we played our best football as a team."
The result was an electrifying performance by Te'o that was reminiscent of those by former Kahuku standout backs Mark Atuaia, Jason Keo and Mulivai Pula. With a 40-yard dash time of 4.4 seconds and a course load that includes advanced placement calculus, Te'o said he has received only one college scholarship offer so far, from Utah State.
But Livai said Te'o belongs in the same class as those other Kahuku greats.
"He has to be," Livai said. "He's exciting, and he makes plays."
Thankfully for Kahuku, he's been making the plays here and not in Salt Lake City.
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.