Sterling Carvalho offered his team a boxing analogy at halftime.
No. 2 Kahuku had absorbed all of Punahou’s best shots and broke a 21-all stalemate for a 41-28 victory over No. 4 Punahou on Saturday night at Carleton E. Weimer Field. It was the regular-season opener in Open Division play for both teams.
Down 21-14 late in the first half, Kahuku’s Ace Kaufusi blocked Tim Horn’s punt and Jarrin Sato returned the ball 5 yards for a touchdown. That tied it at 21 with 2:39 to go in the second quarter.
“That was our message at halftime. We took their best shots and we’re still standing, even. Now it’s our turn to counter offensively and defensively,” Carvalho said.
Kahuku turned to its offensive line to neutralize Punahou’s explosiveness and momentum.
Wes Alo-Maiava scored on a pair of point-blank touchdown runs, and his backfield mate, Toalei Lefau, put the game out of reach with a stunning 65-yard TD run.
The Red Raiders wore down the Punahou front seven, rushing 49 times for 324 yards. Much of it came after intermission: 28 attempts for 200 yards behind maulers Enokk Vimahi, Bryce Beatty, Trycen Man, Marcus Lombard and Micah Soliai Howlett.
Lefau finished with 114 yards on 13 carries, including a 65-yard jaunt to paydirt to open the lead to 20 points in the fourth quarter. Alo-Maiava finished with 87 hard-earned yards on 23 carries, scoring three touchdowns. In all, Kahuku finished with 507 yards in total offense, refraining from turnovers until the final minutes.
Punahou’s first-year starter at quarterback, Hugh Brady, was on point and delivered thrills for the 200 or so faithful fans who made the trek to the North Shore. He was 18-for-26 for 233 yards and two touchdowns at one point. Kahuku’s defense, however, had already begun to shift the tide with a ferocious pass rush. Big Red tallied eight sacks, including 3.5 by linebacker Tausili Fiatoa.
OIA-ILH OPEN DIVISION
>> Punahou at Kapolei, 7:30 p.m.
>> Kahuku at Waianae, 7:30 p.m.
OIA-ILH DIVISION I
>> Aiea at Moanalua, 7:30 p.m.
>> ‘Iolani at Kailua, 7:30 p.m.
>> Waipahu at Radford, 7:30 p.m.
OIA-ILH DIVISION II
>> St. Francis at Waialua, 6 p.m.
>> Kaiser at Pearl City, 7:30 p.m.
>> Kaimuki at Roosevelt, 7:30 p.m.
>> Lahainaluna vs. Baldwin, at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.
>> American Leadership Academy (Gilbert, Ariz.) at Kamehameha-Maui, 7 p.m.
>> Narbonne (Los Angeles) vs. Saint Louis, at Aloha Stadium, 7 p.m.
>> Classical Academy (Escondido, Calif.) vs. Waimea, at Hanapepe Stadium, 7 p.m.
>> Honokaa (11-man) at Molokai (8-man) 7 p.m.
“Coach Sola (Soliai) had adjustments. That’s the difference between a good team and a great team,” Carvalho said of his defensive coordinator. “That just showed that our team plays four quarters. That’s makes this team and this community better.”
Brady was 9-for-25 the rest of the night, including two interceptions.
“We’re disappointed. I thought we played like it’s our first game, but Kahuku is great. They’re relentless,” Buffanblu coach Kale Ane said. “They brought great pressure. We had guys open, but just didn’t have the time. We’ll work on it and get there.”
The game was a classic matchup of contrasting styles. The first half was a bonanza of passing offense for Punahou — until Kahuku’s pass rush caught up. Then Kahuku tied the game on a blocked punt on Horn, a Washington commit.
Punahou’s opening drive was a flurry of no-huddle darts by Brady, who tossed a 19-yard pass to Koa Eldredge in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Kahuku slowed down the tempo to a snail’s pace and drove 65 yards to tie the game. A tough 38-yard catch by Duke Heffernan on a pass from Robbie Sauvao was the catalyst. Alo-Maiava’s 1-yard run out of the wildcat gave Kahuku its first score, tying the game with 2:55 to go in the first quarter.
Punahou then blazed downfield behind the passing of Brady and stellar pass protection. Kanoa Kalahiki hauled in an 18-yard TD pass on a post route, going down with an injury. The visitors led 14-7 with 2:16 left in the opening quarter.
Tausili Fiatoa’s sack of Brady ended the quarter, an omen of things to come. Kahuku finished the first half with five sacks, including 2.5 by Fiatoa.