Posted with permission, article and pictures, courtesy of Bedrock Sports Hawaii
Story by: Nick Abramo
That was A football game. Wait … that was an A+ football game.
You hear about new-fangled things all the time, with the tagline of, say, “This is not your father’s car.”
And sure, there’s a lot of newness in high school football these days compared to the classic glory days. Artificial turf. Lots of passing.
But everyone lucky enough to be there in person for Kahuku’s dramatic rally from behind to beat Punahou 27-20 on the North Shore on Saturday night would probably agree that the passion shown by both teams and the fight for every inch makes this brand of the game every bit of “This IS your father’s high school football.”
With bragging rights to be called the No. 1 team in the land on the line, these boys gave it all to the end. Every snap, every block, every tackle, every pass, run, route and decision were ALL important. The pressure was intense, yet the great majority of these players thrived, did not buckle and looked almost as emotionally comfortable as if they were hanging at the beach with friends.
On one side, you had Kahuku, winners of 13 games in a row, playing in front of home fans and not ready to yield the No. 1 banner they earned by going 10-0 and capturing the state Open Division championship a year ago.
On the other side, you had Punahou, traveling to the North Shore with one thing on the players’ and coaches’ minds — beat those Red Raiders and show that it’s the Buff ‘N Blue’s turn to take hold of the supremacy they think they can attain.
And Punahou still thinks it can do just that.
“We know we are capable of beating these guys and we’re capable of beating anybody,” Buff ‘N Blue linebacker Ko’o Kia said.
When asked if the squad thought those things coming into the game, Kia said, “Yes sir. Absolutely. Respect to what (the Red Raiders) did. They balled out. Hopefully they make it to states with us.”
Junior quarterback Ty McCutcheon, who led Punahou to a 20-13 lead with second half touchdown passes to Astin Hange and Noah Macapulay after being inserted for starter John-Keawe Sagapolutele, expanded on his team’s confidence:
“We fight, We’re relentless and I think it showed tonight. How we came out in the second half and really played. And we really are the No. 2 team in the state (right now), but I believe we’re No. 1. Our team really believes we are the No. 1 team in the state and I think we can do that by the end of the season.”
When Kahuku roared back from a 13-6 deficit on Manulele Ah You’s 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 13-all tie, it gave the Red Raiders some desperately needed invigoration and slowed Punahou from grabbing even more momentum than it already had been building.
After falling behind again, 20-13, Kahuku got some real mileage from its power running package and Clyde Taulapapa’s 1-yard TD run made it 20-all with just 4:17 left. That play would not have been possible had it not been for Vaaimalae Fonoti’s 45-yard run around right end on a risky fourth-down and 2 deep in the Red Raiders’ territory.
Later, Fonoti was at again, scoring what turned out to be the winning touchdown with a 13-yard, power-package run up the middle, making it 27-20 with only 0:52 left.
And that was the first of two major “woo hoo” moments for the Red Raiders, who were not expecting the Buff ‘N Blue to be quite this tough.
“I just gotta say that we were just humbled,” Ah You told ScoringLive.com. “We all thought that we were going to come out here and just mop them all over the ground, but they humbled us and they showed us our weaknesses that we can strengthen.”
And after Fonoti’s TD, his second of the game, Kahuku had to dig deep to come up with the next “woo hoo” moment because the Buff ‘N Blue were not done grinding and came steadily down the field in that final minute.
McCutcheon got the visitors all the way to the Kahuku 4, but Nitus Auelua saved the victory for the Red Raiders with a sack as the final seconds ticked away.
For sure, Punahou wants to see Kahuku again when the state tournament rolls around. And don’t forget, there will definitely be heavy noise made by Mililani (3-1) and Campbell (3-1) — teams with a legitimate shot at that coveted top spot — the rest of the way. Also, Kapolei (4-0) may have what it takes to join in that future fun of going for it all. And just because Saint Louis is only 1-2, it doesn’t mean the Crusaders have thrown in the towel yet.
“I felt pretty confident that we could beat these guys today,” Buff ‘N Blue coach Nate Kia said. “And we should have. I hope to see them again later.”
Red Raiders’ Kainoa Carvalho Out After Having Surgery on His Ankle
One of Kahuku’s best players, Kainoa Carvalho — a Utah commit and the returning state offensive player of the year — did not play. He is out with a fractured ankle and is recovering from surgery he had on Monday.
His father, assistant coach Stewart Carvalho, showed Bedrock Sports Hawaii a picture of t X-rays showing two screws in Kainoa’s ankle.
Apparently, Carvalho suffered the injury during practice and played with that fractured ankle for about three months. He’s hoping to make it back before the season is over.
From the scooter he used to help him get around, Carvalho was super happy that his Red Raiders pulled through.
“The boys stepped up,” he said. “When we needed a play, we got a play. And we had the red sea (fans) rocking and it was a great atmosphere.”