Ground-and-pound: Run game is key to Kahuku's success

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's no secret that the Kahuku Red Raiders have been considered the team to beat in the OIA DI Blue Division for some time.

Heading into this past Saturday's game against the Red Raiders, Kapolei head coach Darren Hernandez talked about how hard it is to play Kahuku, especially on Kahuku's home turf.

"It's the toughest opponent, and a worthy opponent," Hernandez said before the Hurricanes 35-7 loss. "And it's the toughest place to play."

More so than playing against a team with its entire city in attendance, it's the tenacity Kahuku brings to the football field every snap that makes playing the Red Raiders so difficult.

There is no fatigue, there are no off plays. It's a mentality that first-year head coach Makoa Freitas preaches during practice and before games.

And all it starts and ends with the run game.

Against the Hurricanes, Kahuku ran the ball 26 times, rushing for 133 yards and a 7.1 yards per carry average.

Going up against Kapolei's defense, Freitas said that it would be a challenge to assert themselves against an underrated defensive-front seven. But his team came out on top, led by an impressive rushing attack of Toalei Lefau and Enoch Nawahine.

"They played really well," Freitas said of Lefau and Nawahine after Saturday's game. "A lot of heart, a lot of effort … it's not an easy defense to run on and we had to fight for every yard."

As the go-to fullback in goal-line situations, Lefau scored three touchdowns against Kapolei.

Lefau only carried the ball eight times against the Hurricanes, but every carry was a war at the line of scrimmage.

When asked what the motivation was behind the team's style of running through their defenders instead of around them, Lefau shrugged and said, "Our mindset is we wanna bang, yeah?"

"We knew they had a tough front-seven, and (we knew) they were coming to bang," he added.

"It feels good. Give credit to my (offensive) line, they were blocking good."

The Red Raiders imposed their will in the trenches, willing their way to victory. Not to be outdone by Lefau, Nawahine had a game-high 86 yards on 12 carries and a score as well.

As for what's next for Kahuku? It's back to the practice field before a semifinal matchup against Campbell. Moving forward, Lefau said that he and his teammates are hoping to use the momentum from their win over Kapolei and build off of it.

"Coach was just telling us that it was a good team performance. Our offense stepped up," he said. "We just gotta come back and prepare for whoever we got next."

Kahuku will play Campbell this Friday evening at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.

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