Bruised, beaten but not defeated: Kahuku's leaders guide Red Raiders to state title game

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kahuku was in trouble this past Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

The Waianae Seariders defense played an almost-perfect game against the Red Raiders before losing 10-7, due to a last minute comeback. Even with the loss, it was still an impressive outing for Waianae, who lost to Kahuku 37-0 earlier this season.

But for the majority of the game, the Seariders had Kahuku at their mercy.

Down 7-3 in the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders needed a jolt as Waianae looked to run the clock out with three minutes remaining in the game.

Fortunately, they didn't have to look far to find someone to rally around.

On defense, the Red Raiders leaned on Nalu Emerson to make plays. With five tackles and two interceptions, Emerson just wanted to be step up for his team to give his offense a chance to get back on the field.

"Everyday we work on ball drills and strip drills," Emerson said postgame. "We need to get turnovers for our offense to give them opportunities to score. As a team, we're together; we're mentally tough. We're strong as one. It's not an offense-defense kind of thing."

As good as Emerson's ball-tracking skills are in Kahuku's secondary, he'll be the first to tell you that he doesn't make plays on his own, despite what the box score may say.

"It's nice, but it's all on my D-linemen and linebackers, my rumble squad," he said. "They give me my picks, they do their job and I do mine."

When Emerson and the rest of the "rumble squad" forced the Seariders to punt with two minutes remaining the game, the defense passed the torch to the offense and put the game in the hands of quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava.

Maiava, one of the state's most intriguing dual-threat prospects, was finding it difficult to get going against a Waianae defensive front that wouldn't let him breathe. On every scramble, a Searider defender was there looking to wrap up Maiava's legs before he could get to the sideline.

And in the second half, Maiava went down.

Carried off the field by his teammates, Maiava was knocked out of the game in the third quarter after injuring his ankle. Laying down on his back with ice wrapped around his now-bare foot, Maiava was staring into the night sky as his teammates came over to console him.

But when opportunity knocked for the Red Raiders to win the game, nobody was out on the field faster than Maiava. 100 percent or not, he wasn't going to let his team down.

"This team has a lot of heart, confidence in each other. They have a trust," Maiava said postgame. "(It's) the bond that we have. We just grew up playing together since baby days. We play for one another, nobody else."

Maiava threw for 161 yards on 10-of-31 attempts. He threw an interception in the game as well, but scored the game-winning touchdown to give Kahuku the comeback victory.

"He was kind of struggling all night," Emerson said. "We just made sure that (Sol-jay knew) it doesn't matter what happened in the past, we just need you right now. We need you to dig deep, and that's exactly what he did and we came together as a team and won."

Maiava and Emerson will have to be at their best as they lead Kahuku to another state title game against the St. Louis Crusaders this Friday at Aloha Stadium. To play for a state title means a lot to Emerson, but playing against St. Louis makes it even more special.

"I want it more than anything right now, you know it," Emerson said.

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.