OIA Football
Mules’ defense denies Surfriders


Sat, Aug 10, 2019 @ Leilehua [ 6:30 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
KAIL (4-7-0) 0 0 0 00
LEI (10-3-0) 14 0 0 014

WAHIAWA — In a game that started off like a boat race turned into a defensive struggle as No. 14 Leilehua held off Kailua, 14-0, Saturday night in an Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I football season opener at Hugh Yoshida Stadium.

The Mules (2-0 overall, 1-0 OIA D1) scored on their first two series of the game, then labored the rest of the way against the tenacious Surfriders (0-2, 0-1) defense that bent, but did not break. But Leilehua's defense was just as stout, limiting the Surfriders to 79 yards in total offense. The Mules also recorded nine sacks on Kailua quarterback Cameron Friel and forced two fumbles for turnovers.

"I can't believe how big that kid is and he's got a great arm," Leilehua coach Mark Kurisu said of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Friel. "We just felt if we could put some pressure on him and get him moving around — get him to throw off while he's running — we were hoping we could drop his throwing percentage down. That was the ultimate goal."

Escaping the relentless pressure of linemen Jashawn Wakefield (6-2, 230) and Kiaka Pio (6-1 235) — both juniors — made Friel complete 13 of 31 passes for 81 yards. Wakefield had two sacks and Pio had 1.5. Another lineman, sophomore Gabriel Araki, also had a sack. Linebackers Cy Acohido (forced a fumble), Vitale Afoa and Brandon Acidera each had one sack, as did safety Savion Brown (also forced a fumble) while lineman Kalani Atwood shared a sack with Pio.

"It started with the D-line," Pio said of the defense's success. "I just want to thank the rest of the D-line for doing their job for making it easier for each and every one of us."

Kailua has yet to score this season; it did have an apparent 80-yard TD pass from Friel to Kamryn Kahoonei nullified by a holding penalty on the first play from scrimmage of the game. It was symbolic of the offense's slow start to the season.

"We played lights out football for three quarters of the game," Kailua coach Joe Wong said. "The offense, we just have to (get into) the end zone, man … It's just a breakdown every time. You know offensively, if one guy breaks down, that's the play. We have to tighten up a little bit more on offense and we'll get it together. The best part is our defense."

After the Mules' second TD of the game, Kailua forced Leilehua to punt or turnover the ball on downs. The Surfriders even recovered a fumble to start the second half at the Leilehua 44, but their drive died at the Mules' 27.

"They did something we hadn't prepared for, which is good," Kurisu said of the Surfriders' defensive adjustment. "They call it more of a mush-rush, where the defensive line isn't necessarily penetrating. They're just trying to 2-gap and let their cover guys to cover, so they were able to get coverage on us. That was unique and that was good to see; I think they actually picked that up from Waipahu. Waipahu 2-gaps let their guys cover and if somebody came off the edge, they got pressure."

While Kailua did not register a sack, they did make QB Kalei Akagi uncomfortable. There was a stretch where he had 10 consecutive incomplete passes.

After having its TD nullified, Kailua was forced to punt from its 7. Jayzon Ramos' 41-yard punt return for an apparent TD was called back by a personal foul and set the Mules back to the Kailua 48. But three plays later, Akagi connected with Jonathan Vasquez on a 33-yard TD at 10 minutes, 4 seconds in the first quarter. Konapiliahi Raymond's PAT gave Leilehua a 7-0 lead.

Kailua punted on its next possession and Leilehua took over at its 34. Eight plays later, Akagi snuck in from the 1 to give the Mules a 14-0 lead with 2:39 left in the first.

Leilehua gave Kailua opportunities the rest of the game. Kailua had more first downs than Leilehua (12-9). In fact, half of Kailua's penalties resulted in first downs, but the Surfriders could not cash in because of the Mules' stout defense.

Early in the fourth quarter, Kailua had a high snap from punt formation to give Leilehua the ball at the Surfriders' 20. But the Mules wound up losing the ball on downs at the 17. Kailua had two more possession in the fourth, but lost the ball on a turnover on Brown's sack/forced fumble, and later on downs.

Wong understands that offense takes a little longer to gel, but remains confident.

"I'm proud of my team, how they fought the whole way," Wong said. "They could've tucked tail and ran, but they didn't. They stayed and fought the whole way. We kept them out of the end zone even though the field position was bad (after the high snap play). As long as we play the field position battle, you won't see me go on fourth down any where near the gray zone; I'm punting and playing the percentage."

Leilehua hosts Waipahu, and Kailua does the same against Moanalua next Friday night.

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at [email protected].




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