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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 4, 2006

Mata'afa breaks long one as Red Raiders rush past Leilehua, 13-7

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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kahuku's Tiave Oto puts the brakes on Leilehua's Martin Iosefo after the receiver caught a pass in the first quarter. Iosefo caught six passes for 102 yards, including a 20-yard TD pass from Bryant Moniz.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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With much of the same physical, athletic talent, and a rookie head coach at the controls, Kahuku is back in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association football championship game after holding off Leilehua, 13-7, last night at Aloha Stadium.

The Red Raiders, ranked No. 2 in The Advertiser's statewide Top 10 poll of coaches and media, improved to 8-2, and will try for their fourth straight league title and eighth in nine years Friday against Wai'anae.

Junior Mata'afa scored on an 82-yard touchdown scamper with 7:12 remaining to break a 7-7 tie, and Kahuku's defense held strong in the final three minutes to deny the No. 7-ranked Mules (7-3).

"I think we have so much talent at Kahuku, we just need a coach to guide us there," said Mata'afa, who finished with 99 yards on just four carries. "We just need someone to get us to come together."

That someone is Reggie Torres, who ran the Red Raiders' JV team for 10 years before taking over for Siuaki Livai as varsity head coach this past spring. On the field, Kahuku does not look much different in personnel and execution.

The Red Raiders' power running game finished with 284 yards, but did not break the big one until Mata'afa took an inside handoff and shot into the secondary, bounced outside, and then sprinted down the left sideline. He sped past two diving Mules at about the 20-yard line, despite one appearing to have a good angle to make the tackle.

"I kept telling our offensive line, 'Keep pounding, keep pounding and stay intense,' " Mata'afa said. "I looked to my right (during the run) and saw them closing fast, and when they dove I thought I stepped out of bounds. But I just kept running."

Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said Kahuku's depth played a factor, since that was only the third carry of the game for Mata'afa.

"That's what happens when you have fresh legs," Tokuda said. "They just kept rotating guys in and out."

Fellow running backs Lehi Aumua and Neal Lokotui contributed 54 and 52 yards, respectively, but Torres said Mata'afa added a different dimension.

"He gave us the speed to hit that hole," Torres said. "The blocks were there, but we couldn't sustain them. Junior has great football speed."

However, four minutes after scoring, Mata'afa made a crucial mistake that led to the Mules gaining possession with 2:59 left. On second-and-9 from the Leilehua 33, Mata'afa gained eight yards and was tripped up with an open field in front of him. He spiked the ball, drawing an unsportsmanslike conduct penalty that made it third-and-15 from the 39.

One play later, Kahuku punted into the end zone.

"I thought I was going to break another one, so I was frustrated," Mata'afa said. "I let my team down, so I was apologizing to as many teammates as I could."

But after advancing to their 42, the Mules threw two incompletions, and then running back Micah Abreu Laybon was dropped for a 4-yard loss on a screen pass. A long pass on fourth-and-14 was knocked away, and the Red Raiders proceeded to run out the clock.

"Our defense came through," Torres said. "The main thing is, they bent but didn't break."

Leilehua had taken a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter on Bryant Moniz's 20-yard TD pass to Martin Iosefo and Micah Uehara's PAT kick. Kahuku tied it with 28 seconds remaining in the half on Richard Torres' 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Siaosi Vaifo'ou and Kaika Sasaoka's extra point.

The Mules suffered a bad break late in the first half when starting middle linebacker Roman Seui left the game with an apparent knee injury. He did not return.

"That hurt us," Tokuda said. "In our defense, the middle linebacker is the one who will make all the plays."

LEILEHUA (7-3) 0 7 0 0 7

KAHUKU (8-2) 0 7 0 613

Lei Martin Iosefo 20 pass from Bryant Moniz (Micah Uehara kick)

Kah Siaosi Vaifo'ou 5 pass from Richard Torres (Kaika Sasaoka kick)

Kah Junior Mata'afa 82 run (kick failed)

RUSHING Lei: Micah Abreu Laybon 18-78, Bronson Pausa 2-3. Kah: Lehi Aumua 15-54, Richard Torres 13-67, Junior Mata'afa 4-99, Neal Lokotui 11-52, Pelefoni Soliai 1-2.

PASSING Lei: Moniz 18-32-0156. Kah: Torres 1-6-25.

RECEIVING Lei: Iosefo 6-102, Abreu Laybon 9-33, Kaipo DeRego 1-2, Aric Edra 1-7, Tony Belen 1-12. Kah: Vaifo'ou 1-5.

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com.