MAKIKI - McKinley coach Joseph Cho saw the future four years ago.
Cho watched the likes of quarterback Denzel Kalahiki-Gasper, fullback/linebacker Mathias Tuitele-Iafeta and all-purpose Gerime Bradley grow up through his system. The 1972 McKinley alumnus is beginning to see the results of his nurturing.
The three senior Tigers had a hand in all of the scoring in their 35-0 win against Kaimuki Saturday night in an O'ahu Interscholastic Association Red East game at Roosevelt's Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium. The series dating to 1944 stands at 32-30-1 in favor of McKinley and evens their series as OIA members at 17-17.
"We knew when all these guys were freshmen, I knew when they became seniors that we were going to have a decent team. The kids have worked hard. They've learned a lot about the system. 2-0 is nothing. I'd rather be 3-0, but Castle's going to be tough."
The Tigers meet the Knights in Kaneohe on Friday; Kaimuki draws a bye.
McKinley (3-1 overall, 2-0 Red East) hasn't started 2-0 in league play since 2001; Kaimuki (1-3, 0-2), which lists 31 on its roster, has been hampered by its depth.
"It's been a while," Kalahiki-Gasper said. "But we're up there. We're looking to stay on top."
The 5-foot-11, 235-pound Tuitele-Iafeta plowed in for TD runs of 14 and 1 yards; the 5-9, 155-pound Bradley used a bit more finesse when he scored on TD runs of 14 and 7 yards; and Kalahiki-Gasper hit Malik Kuhia on a 4-yard TD pass. For kicks, Tuitele-Iafeta made the final two PATs.
"He can do it all," Cho said of Tuitele-Iafeta. "If he really wants to, he can do it all. We try to limit him, but sometimes he doesn't want to come off the field."
The Tigers were scored in methodical fashion, scoring a TD in each of the first three quarters with two in the fourth, the latter 5:34 left in the game and setting off the 35-point differential mercy rule running clock.
McKinley got on the board first, scoring on its first series. The 10-play, 80-yard drive ended with Tuitele-Iafeta busting through for a 14-yard TD. Liva Logoi's PAT gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs managed to control the ball the next 7:01, keeping the drive alive with a fourth-down conversion. They reached the Tigers' 20, but went backward and ended up punting from the McKinley 38.
Kaimuki got the ball back with 7:38 in the half, but Marcus Aikau's interception of Kaimuki's Tevita Lino gave McKinley possession at the Bulldogs' 27. Four plays later, Kalahiki-Gasper's 4-yard TD pass to Kuhia made it 14-0 at the half.
The Tigers received the second-half kickoff, but Nixon Siona intercepted Kalahiki-Gasper and Kaimuki took over at its 15. The 'Dogs punted again and Tuitele-Iafeta's 12-yard return gave McKinley the ball at the Kaimuki 36. On the second play from scrimmage, Kalahiki-Gasper left the game after being stopped for no gain. Aikau didn't miss a beat, completing a 16-yard pass to Kuhia to the 14. Bradley scored on the next play to make it 21-0 with 6:56 left in the third quarter.
McKinley maintained its rhythm, scoring in the fourth quarter on Tuitele-Iafeta's 1-yard TD run with 9:35 to make it 28-0.
Kaimuki's Sean Noda returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Bulldogs' 39. But again Kaimuki had to punt, but this time Chevas Pacheco blocked it and McKinley took over at the Kaimuki 16 and eventually scored on Bradley's 7-yard run to initiate the running clock.
The Bulldogs' performance is affected by their lack of depth. But they remain hopeful.
"We are a small school, but that's not excuse," Kaimuki coach Clint Onigama said. "This is where we wanted to be. These boys placed themselves in the Red and we're proud to be where we are, regardless of our numbers. We make no excuses about it, but, yeah, if we had a little more depth that would be great. But these boys played their hearts out and we know there are better days ahead this season."