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Mariteragi's play at quarterback brought added dimension to Kahuku's offense

CJ Caraang | SL

This was the only way that Jason Mariteragi was going out. 

In the final game of his prep football career, the Kahuku senior passed for 186 yards and three touchdowns in Thursday night's 49-14 win over Saint Louis. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Mariteragi completed 10 of his 13 pass attempts without an interception to help the Red Raiders complete an unblemished 10-0 season with their first state championship in the Open Division era. 

"He did an awesome job," Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said of his quarterback. "He executed the game plan perfectly, he took care of the ball, he took what was given and as you can see, he made Saint Louis pay. Whether it was by his arm or by his feet, he took advantage of every opportunity."

Mariteragi's touchdown passes went for 19, 61 and 16 yards — the final two found the hands of Kainoa Carvalho — but it was his feet that set-up Kahuku's second touchdown in a 21-point first quarter. He escaped for a 21-yard run and an 8-yard pick-up on back-to-back plays to set-up Kana Loa Kaluna's 4-yard TD run that gave their team a 14-0 lead with three minutes and nine seconds left in the opening quarter. 

Mariteragi "only" ran for 30 yards on six carries, but he was able to elude pressure and turn negative plays into positive ones. Mariteragi was sacked just once by the Crusader defense. For the season he averaged 5.7 yards on each of his 120 carries and has finished with negative rushing yardage in only one game all year. 

"At times this season he's been able to get us to a score, or put us in a position to score," Carvalho said. "Most people don't see him as a dual-threat quarterback, but he is mobile enough to get out of bad situations and/or if there is a crease and green field in front of him, he's able to run down that field."

On the final play of the first quarter, Mariteragi moved the chains with a 6-yard scramble on 2nd-and-4. Two plays into the second stanza, he connected with Liona Lefau for a 19-yard TD pass to make the score 28-0. 

It was one of the very few times that Mariteragi threw a pass more than 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage; even his 61-yard scoring strike to Kainoa "Kai Kai" Carvalho early in the third quarter came on a short screen pass to the left flat. 

"I know a lot of quarterbacks like the bomb to show off their arm strength, but Jason is just efficient and he's able to read defenses and for the high school level, that's huge," Sterling Carvalho said. 

He went on, "You have a quarterback that is able to break down the coverage and know the defense he's playing (against) and he was able to pick apart a lot of defenses this year because of his ability to read them. Most high school quarterbacks know plays, but if you know exactly what the defense is giving you, then you can know where your check-down is or whether you can take a shot."

Kahuku extended its lead to 42-14 with Mariteragi's 16-yard TD pass to Carvalho to cap the six-play, 68-yard scoring drive that saw him complete all three of his passes for 42 yards. 

Mariteragi finished his lone season as the starter with a 71.2 completion percentage. He was 94 of 132 through the air for 1,412 yards (156.9 per game) with 19 touchdowns against four interceptions. 

But beyond the stats, Sterling Carvalho made note of the intangibles that Mariteragi possesses. 

"His biggest strength, and this is what we liked, was his leadership. His command of the huddle, the command of the offense and he just brings that poise that you would want a quarterback to have leading an offense," Carvalho said. "He doesn't get rattled easily, he doesn't lose his cool, doesn't lose his temper; He just has a great quarterback mindset of leadership."

Mariteragi's mental fortitude was put to the test in the latter half of the season. He suffered an injury in the first half of a regular season game at Mililani on Nov. 13 that forced him to miss most of that contest and all of Kahuku's 49-23 win over Campbell to close out the six-game Oahu Interscholastic Association regular season. 

"For three weeks he would do his rehab before practice and then he came to practice — because he doesn't want to miss a practice — and he did that for three weeks," Carvalho said. "He dedicated himself to that and because this was his last year he did everything that he could to get back and we're glad he was able to get back."

In an OIA semifinal game against Waianae on Dec. 4, Mariteragi returned from injury to throw for a season-high 344 yards on 17-of-21 passing (81 percent). He threw three touchdowns and ran in another score, but was intercepted twice. A week later, Mariteragi was relegated to the bench after he was picked off on Kahuku's first drive of the league championship game against Mililani. After the Red Raiders went on to rally from an early two-touchdown deficit to a 21-14 win, Carvalho said that he inserted backup Waika Crawford at quarterback to protect Mariteragi because he wanted to utilize  the QB more on designed runs (Crawford carried 10 times for 32 yards). 

Whatever the reason for the quarterback change, Mariteragi — a member of both the basketball and golf teams — handled it positively. 

"He was supportive, he was cheering on (Crawford), cheering on the offense the whole time," Carvalho recalled. "He's the ideal player you want to coach because whether he's in the game or on the sidelines, he's always focused on the game, helping out the offense on how we could move the ball and get better. He never got down and just kept working and that shows his leadership that, ‘even though I'm not contributing on the field, I can contribute with the game plan  with the support, lifting the morale on the sideline — because that Mililani game we could have easily gone south, down 14-0, in the cold and rain — but in all my years of coaching I never saw a team or coaching staff come even closer in a game than against Mililani. It was like everybody knew that we would come back and they just kept plugging away, drive after drive, we stayed the course, and Mililani is a good team."

Just a week later, Mariteragi went 12-of-15 passing for 115 yards and three total TDs (one rush) in a 21-0 state semifinal win over Campbell. 

In Kahuku's two state tournament games, Mariteragi completed 22 of 28 passes (78.6 percent) for 301 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions; He also ran 11 times for 76 yards (6.9 per rush). 

Alvin Mariteragi, Jason's dad, is the team's strength and conditioning coach. Carvalho noted that father and son tend to share one distinct tendency. 

"He always tells me, ‘I got you, coach.' Sometimes I snap on him and he says, ‘I got you, coach,' and he makes the adjustment," Carvalho detailed. "He puts in the time, he puts in the work so that he doesn't upset me again, so he's an ideal player to coach because of his attitude. His dad is just like that, they always say that, ‘I got you, coach.' " 

Carvalho added that it was Jason Mariteragi who was instrumental in providing strong leadership for his teammates over the course of the ordeal that is the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"He kept the players together in the offseason and kept them focused during this pandemic. He led a lot of the workouts — because without a quarterback, receivers and running backs don't wanna come out because nobody's throwing the ball, but he was always there — and when people were deciding if they were gonna go (transfer to mainland schools), he never once faltered. Never. He always was a Red Raider. He stayed and held out his junior season, that 2020 season, and then this season even though we had an inkling of not knowing if a season was gonna happen or not, but he stayed steadfast in his decision," Carvalho said. 

"This is where he wanted to be and that's huge, because if you're in a place you want to be, you're gonna put your very best into it and that's what we got from Jason, because he wasn't just physically here, he was mentally here," he said. 

With Mariteragi at the controls, Kahuku averaged nearly 45 points and 335 yards of total offense per game, including 214 through the air each time out — a dimension that few, if any, prior Red Raider teams possessed. The aerial attack that the 2021 rendition of Big Red featured are arguably the X-factor that brought home the program's ninth state championship and first since 2015. 

"This team was special just because of how much everybody believed in each other and trusted each other from day one to the end and to me, that was one of the biggest reasons why we was so successful," Carvalho expressed. "It was the buy-in and the fact that at the beginning of the year they made that pact that, ‘We're all gonna stay here and because we're all gonna stay here, we're gonna finish as state champs.' It was that mentality and you could just feel it; it was something that didn't have to be said, you couldn't see it. It was just felt with this team."


Kahoa Abreu, Kamehameha-Maui — Caught six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in a win over Kaiser

Hopo Aholelei, Kaiser — Made eight tackles, including six for losses, and for 51 yards on 10 carries in a loss to Kamehameha-Maui

Leonard Ah You, Kahuku — Made three tackles, including two sacks, and blocked a punt in a win over Saint Louis

Pookela Aiu, Kamehameha-Maui — Caught eight passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in a win over Kaiser

Kainoa Carvalho, Kahuku — Caught six passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns and was 7 of 7 on extra point attempts in a win over Saint Louis

Kamalei Cua, Kamehameha-Maui — Had eight tackles and one pass break-up in a win over Kaiser

Kuahiwi Cummings, Kaiser — Made seven tackles in a loss to Kamehameha-Maui

Haaheo Dela Cruz, Iolani — Recorded two sacks and recovered a fumble in a win over Lahainaluna

Kamuela Gaughen, Hawaii Prep — Made six tackles and forced a fumble in a loss to Kapaa

Kana Loa Kaluna, Kahuku — Ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in a win over Saint Louis

Makana Kamaka-Brayce, Kamehameha-Maui — Threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing without an interception and ran for another score in a win over Kaiser 

Conner Kitamura, Kapaa — Recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown in a win over Hawaii Prep

Tain Lawson, Hawaii Prep — Made 11 tackles, including one for a loss, in a loss to Kapaa

Liona Lefau, Kahuku — Made five tackles, including one sack, intercepted a pass and caught a touchdown pass in a win over Saint Louis

Malosi Lefau, Kahuku — Scored on a 29-yard interception return for touchdown in a win over Saint Louis

Bruno Likio, Kapaa — Made three tackles, including two sacks, and had one pass break-up in a win over Hawaii Prep

Kela Livingston, Hawaii Prep — Had four tackles, including one for a loss, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble in a loss to Kapaa

Kamakana Mahiko, Kaiser — Caught nine passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Kamehameha-Maui

Solomone Malafu, Kapaa — Ran in a touchdown, made five tackles, including two for losses, intercepted a pass and broke-up another in a win over Hawaii Prep

Kualau Manuel, Iolani — Passed for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-16 passing without an interception and ran for another score in a win over Lahainaluna

Lance Morikawa, Lahainaluna — Made seven tackles, including one for a loss, in a loss to Iolani

Bronson Morioka, Iolani — Had eight tackles and forced a fumble in a win over Lahainaluna

McKay Pali, Kamehameha-Maui — Ran for 121 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in a win over Kaiser

Connor Payomo, Kapaa — Had six tackles, including one for a loss, in a win over Hawaii Prep

Braeden Samura, Hawaii Prep — Made seven tackles, including two for losses with one sack, and recovered a fumble in a loss to Kapaa

Kale Spencer, Kamehameha-Maui — Made eight tackles, including four for losses, forced a fumble and scored on a 52-yard interception return in a win over Kaiser

Hoohenomauloa Stone-Han, Kamehameha-Maui — Caught four passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Kaiser

Poki Tafea, Kapaa — Ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in a win over Hawaii Prep

Moku Tolenoa, Kapaa — Had three tackles, including two sacks, in a win over Hawaii Prep

Adam Tong, Kaiser — Had six tackles, including one for a loss, in a loss to Kamehameha-Maui


Hailey Overmyer, Kapaa — Scored 13 points in a win over Waimea

Jirah Villanueva, Radford — Scored 17 points, including four 3-pointers, in a win over Leilehua


Tauiai Fuamatu-Maafala, Mililani — Scored three goals in a win over Nanakuli

Deizha Jacinto, Waipahu — Scored three goals in a win over Radford

Ryan Kaneko, Kalani — Scored both goals in a tie versus Kahuku

Lina Miranda, Castle — Scored three goals in a win over Farrington

Julia Oka, Pearl City — Scored four goals in a win over Waialua

Kamalani Yamashita, Mililani — Scored three goals in a win over Nanakuli

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected]