Kahuku claims spot in OIA Open title game

Oct. 23—Kapolei held Kahuku down for as long as it could, but the Red Raiders ultimately couldn't be contained in their 44-7 blowout win over the Hurricanes in Saturday's OIA Open Division semifinal.

Kapolei held Kahuku down for as long as it could, but the Red Raiders ultimately couldn't be contained in their 44-7 blowout win over the Hurricanes in Saturday's OIA Open Division semifinal.

After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Kahuku's offense erupted to punch its ticket to its eighth consecutive OIA title game. The Red Raiders will take on Mililani in the OIA final for the fifth straight year on Friday at Farrington.

"It feels good. We work in the offseason for these moments. We work to get to the championship, whether that's OIA or states, " Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. "I'm just grateful that all the hard work these guys have put in has come to fruition. This is what we wanted, and this is the opportunity we have, to play for a championship."

"Our team is peaking at the right time, " Carvalho added. "We just want to make sure we stay healthy going into the championship, and we were able to do that tonight."

Leading the charge for Kahuku was starting quarterback Waika Crawford, who passed for 213 yards completing 15 of 29 passes and throwing the first three touchdowns of the game.

"I thought I played alright. There's always room for improvement, " Crawford said. "There's a lot of stuff I missed, a lot of stuff I could have done better, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do that next week."

Kaimana Carvalho caught one of those passing touchdowns, along with a team-high 122 receiving yards on seven catches. Liona Lefau and Brock Fonoimoana caught Crawford's other two touchdowns.

The Kapolei defense stormed out of the gate, holding the Kahuku offense scoreless in the opening frame. But the Hurricanes couldn't turn those opportunities into points. The Red Raiders returned to their usual form on the strength of Crawford's arm.

"We've been in these situations before, " Carvalho said about the team's turnaround. "We know we can make adjustments, and we do make adjustments. I'm grateful for my coaches and my players being able to make the proper adjustments, and move forward and execute. That's what we did tonight."

His first touchdown came on a 17-yard pass to Carvalho. The score capped off a 5-play, 49-yard drive in the opening minute of the second quarter. Crawford repeated the feat on Kahuku's next drive. He completed six of seven passes on the 8-play drive, leading the Red Raiders into the red zone. Again, he wrapped up the drive with a passing touchdown, this time a 13-yard toss to Fonoimoana.

Crawford completed the hat trick on the next Kahuku drive. He led the Red Raiders on a 10-play, 72-yard drive that was extended by a roughing the passer call. He finished the drive by throwing his third touchdown pass on the final play of the half, a 5-yard throw to Lefau.

With a three-score lead, Kahuku leaned on the run game in the second half. Starting with great field position after a blocked punt, the Red Raiders needed only four plays to gain 28 yards. Vaaimalae Fonoti started the drive with a carry, and ended it the same way, with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Kahuku's second unit took over from there, picking up where the starters left off. Backup quarterback Sitani Sugutaraga and running back Keona Poouahi-MacPherson led Kahuku to its fifth touchdown, a 24-yard run by Poouahi-MacPherson. On the next drive, Sugutaraga threw a 40-yard pass to Carson Mariteragi for Kahuku's sixth touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Red Raiders defense did its part, hounding the Hurricanes into two second-half turnovers, and nearly two more. Kapolei quarterback Tuli Tagovailoa-Amosa's fumble was recovered by teammate Tryton Keliikipi in the end zone for a Kahuku safety. On the next drive, Tagovailoa-Amosa was picked off by Aiden Manutai. Tagovailoa-Amosa fumbled again on the next drive, recovering his own fumble. But on the next play, Tagovailoa-Amosa threw his second interception to Madden Soliai.