Kahuku tops Mililani to three-peat as Open Division state champions


Fri, Nov 24, 2023 @ TC Ching [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
Kahuku (12-2-0) 8 7 0 621
Mililani (11-2-0) 6 0 6 719

MANOA — Redemption complete.

Diezel Kamoku returned a punt for the go-ahead score and hauled in a crucial fourth down pass from Tuli Tagovailoa-Amosa as Kahuku reclaimed the top spot and held off Mililani, 21-19, in the first-ever all-OIA First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division Football State Championship at the Clarence T. C. Ching Athletics Complex Friday.

A crowd of 7,322 saw the Red Raiders (12-2 overall) win their third-straight state title, 11th overall, and avenged their 28-21 OIA Open Division championship loss to the Trojans (11-2 overall).

"This is a crazy journey we've been on. It's crazy thinking about what happened and I'm just happy," Tagovailoa-Amosa said in his first year with the Red Raiders.

Tagovailoa-Amosa threw for 132 yards on 13-of-19 passing without an interception as he passed and rushed for scores.

Kamoku had six catches for 68 yards and two punt returns for 95 yards to account for 163 all purpose yards.

"He put his head down from day one and kept working. Every work out, never stopped, stayed humble. Tonight it just showed, not just what he did but for everyone on our team did," Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. "Diezel takes punt returns and works with the punt return."

"Diezel stepping in was big time. Not only him but everyone on the team. Diezel's a baller and he made great plays but at the end of the day, it was a great team win. Everyone did what they had to do set up the plays we had. It's all in," Tagovailoa-Amosa said of his ex-Kapolei teammate.

The Red Raiders defense forced a punt. Kamoku evaded four tackles on his way to a 86-yard punt return past his own sideline but Zaden Mariteragi's kick was no good to go ahead, 21-19 with 2:59 left in the fourth quarter.

"I was trying to look for my blockers and setting up my blockers. Aiden (Manutai) we're on the same page. He already felt what I was feeling on that and we executed on that and took it to the house," Kamoku explained. "Everybody just ran past me and I was off to the races. After I passed the last blocker. I juked out the punter (Davyn Joseph) and that's a hard thing to do, that guy's an athlete."

"Missed tackles and they scored. Credit Kahuku, Diezel broke all those tackles. They made a play when they needed it. We brain farted on special teams and it hurt us," Mililani coach Rod York said.

Manulele Ah You recovered the ensuing pooch kick at the Mililani 25.

"We wanted to keep it away from (Davyn) Joseph all week long. That's how we planned it. Zaden Mariteragi did an awesome job in executing that and Manulele was ready for it. It wasn't by chance. I tell our team we don't leave anything to chance. What you seen tonight was worked on all week long," Carvalho said.

The Trojans had no timeouts and Vaaimalae Fonoti gained 5 yards on three carries. Kahuku called timeout with 38 seconds left facing a fourth-and-5 and Tagovailoa-Amosa lofted a 18-yard pass to Kamoku down to the 2. The Red Raiders took a knee to run out the remaining time.

"That was coach Sterling's call. That felt great, that's my boy. Not just him, it's family all over. I'm thankful to play in this game today and all glory to God," Tagovailoa-Amosa said of the game-sealing throw.

"It was my call. We call it 'The Shot', we're going to take that shot to end the game. We wasn't going to give Kini (McMillan) anytime. We were going to win or lose on that play. We were going to take the shot and that's what we did," Carvalho said. "They get the ball on the 20, they have to go the length of the field. We didn't want to leave anything to chance. We wanted to win the game. We wanted to be the state champions tonight."

Kini McMillan threw for 264 yards on 16-of-27 passing for a touchdown that went to Davyn Joseph and was intercepted by Ah You. He led the Trojans with 13 attempts for 75 rushing yards. In the OIA title game, he gashed the Red Raiders for 108 yards on 21 attempts.

Fonoti, who was held to 32 yards on 11 carries in the OIA Open title game, broke loose for 28 carries for 116 net rushing yards.

"Shout out to our o-line for opening the run game and the passing game, giving me a lot of time. They played a great game the whole game. I had some mistakes, I have to clean those up," Tagovailoa-Amosa said.

"We lost our two linebackers and right before our game, our backup broke his toe. We lost three linebackers and we had to play a safety that never played backer. That's no excuse, we were there. We only lost by two and were up by four with four minutes left. It was the other breakdowns on special teams that killed us. We didn't play well in the first half, but considering all that, I'm proud of my kids," York said.

Zaden Mariteragi recovered the opening onsides kickoff after it bounced around. Faced with a third-and-16, Tagovailoa-Amosa scrambled left and found Kache Kaio for a 19-yard touchdown. A bad snap on the point after led to Kaimana Carvalho's run to make it, 8-0.

McMillan went 5 for 5 for 56 yards and completed a 35-yard pass to Kanoa Ferreira down to the 2, but Kaimana Carvalho punched it out and Terahiti Wolfe recovered it.

The Trojans got the ball four plays later after Tavanni Tafisi stripped Vaaimalae Fonoti and Elijah Nua recovered the fumble at the Kahuku 34. McMillan went 3-for-3 for 28 yards that set up his 6-yard keeper. Mililani went for two, but Aiden Manutai blocked the pass to trail, 8-6.

Two Trojan defenders were ejected in the first half. Kamaehu Roman was ejected for targeting after knocking out Carvalho at the 3:27 mark in the first quarter. Roman was ejected for targeting last week in their semifinal win over Campbell. Carvalho went through concussion protocol did not return.

"He's one of our guys. At the beginning of the game, we already knew what we had to do, he was a key player that we missed, but still, we did it for him. We did it for the community, we did it for the people before use that created this history," Aiden Manutai said.

"I feel good right now. I just felt bummed about it, but I was happy I came out here and supported my teammates to help get this win," Kaimana Carvalho added.

Aizik Mahuka was ejected for targeting in the second quarter with 4:49 to go while attempting to tackle Fonoti.

Seven of Kahuku's eight plays went to Fonoti to get down to the Mililani 5. Mariteragi missed a 22-yard field goal attempt but the Trojans were called for roughing the kicker. Two plays following the fresh set of downs, Tagovailoa-Amosa's sneak made it 15-6.

Puni recovered Tagovailoa-Amosa's fumble at the Kahuku 35 and Nakoa Kahana-Travis eventually punched in a 1-yard run to finish a eight-play drive that took 3 minutes 24 seconds, but Aiden Manutai blocked the PAT kick to trail, 15-12.

After Kahuku went three-and-out, McMillan completed a 9-yard pass to Joseph get away from the goal line and then connected with him in stride for a 89-yard touchdown and Sarae's kick made it, 19-15 with 9:41 left in the fourth.

Mililani called its second timeout at the 8:58 mark and forced another Red Raider punt and called its final timeout with 6:46 left in the fourth quarter.

McMillan converted a third-and-10 with a 26 yard scamper but would gain 5 yards on the next four plays and took a delay of game penalty before punting it away to Kamoku.

"We had the lead and the ball with four minutes left, driving. We got a holding penalty that put us back and we didn't take care of the ball or the clock, we should've used up more minutes. We had a nice punt, the one we wanted, but we didn't tackle him. It was that kind of game, but not defeated by any means," lamented York.

Malaki Soliai-Tui had six total tackles, one went for a loss for the Red Raiders.

Nua had nine total tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery to lead Mililani's defense.

Mililani racked up 349 yards of total offense to Kahuku's 276.

Kahuku ran 61 plays and possessed the ball for 30 minutes, 3 seconds compared to Mililani's 43 plays and time of possession was 17 minutes, 57 seconds.

Mililani was seeking first Open Division state title and made its first championship game appearance since 2018.

Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].

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