Zealand Matagi rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown as No. 5 Kahuku survived a late rally for a 21-13 win over No. 6 Kamehameha on Saturday night at Carleton Weimer Field.
The Open Division regular-season opening win doesn’t count for Kahuku in the Oahu Interscholastic Association standings, while the loss does count for Kamehameha in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu ledger. Kahuku, though, toughed out the win in a playoff-like atmosphere in front of a robust home crowd.
Kahuku opened a 21-0 lead with a bruising ground-and-pound offense and a stellar defense.
“We made sure everybody got into the game because we want everyone to be healthy. In the Open, it’s a very tough division with every single game being physical. Everybody got reps. You know, not everybody did their job, but at least we finished the game with a ‘W’,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said.
It was a valiant effort by Kamehameha, which had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the final three minutes.
“You can see the maturity come through,” Warriors coach Abu Ma‘afala said. “They played together. The same thing happened last year. We played a game right down to the wire. We’re pushing each other, pushing our players to stick together as brothers.”
Masi Pasi, who transferred from Chandler (Ariz.) in the offseason, had two of Kahuku’s five picks.
“It feels good. We’ve been working hard this offseason, in the summer. I think we’re going to be a good team,” he said.
It was a performance carried by Kahuku’s offensive line — the Red Raiders rushed for 215 yards on 47 carries — and the defense until those last nine minutes. Running back Kawika Clemente’s first touchdown, a 15-yard run, put the visiting Warriors on the board with 8:31 remaining.
With 3:28 left, the Red Raiders missed a 41-yard field-goal try, and on the ensuing play, quarterback Kiai Keone executed deft deception on a handoff to Clemente, who raced around left end and went untouched for an exhilarating 80-yard TD with 3:09 to go.
Kamehameha’s Philadelphia Eagles special on the PAT failed, an incomplete pass by slotback Skyler Ramos. Down 21-13, the Warriors opted for a normal kickoff for a touchback. On the next snap, versatile Mana Fonoimoana-Vaomu returned at QB and executed a perfect option keeper for a 31-yard gain. However, he fumbled at the end of the play and Kamehameha defensive back Colby Tam recovered at the Warriors’ 49-yard line with 2:57 left.
The Warriors advanced to the Kahuku 29-yard line after two Kahuku penalties. Keone completed a 21-yard pass to Ramos to the Kahuku 9, but it was called back for offensive pass interference. Kana Fonoimoana-Vaomu, brother of Mana, came up with a key sack — one of eight takedowns by Big Red — to stifle Kamehameha’s hopes.
Keone’s Hail Mary pass from midfield was picked off by Mana Fonoimoana-Vaomu with 20 seconds to play, and Kahuku took a knee to secure the tough win.
“I felt relieved. Fumbling at the end of that long run, I wasn’t expecting it,” Mana Fonoimoana-Vaomu said. “But the interception at the end relieved all the stress.”
The Red Raiders possessed the ball for 17 minutes and 23 seconds out of a possible 24 minutes int he first half. They scored on a 1-yard burst by Matagi just before the end of the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Frisco Aveau picked a short pass by Keone and went 56 yards to the house to give Kahuku a 14-0 lead with 9:28 to go.
After Matagi scored on an 8-yard run with 4:23 left, Kahuku had a 21-point cushion.
Kamehameha senior running back Tanner Moku left the game after suffering a knee injury on the first play from scrimmage.