KahukuNation Championship Week Specials
How rare is it to have a perfect season in a sport where you have to go through a regular season and a playoff system? Of the 100+ teams who’ve played in D1 NCAA Basketball since 1938, only 8 teams have done it and since the Super Bowl Era in the NFL only 1. The feat has only been done 3 times in the Red Division since the HHSAA created the state tournament. Kahuku has 2 of those seasons.
After ending the reign of the St. Crusaders in 2000, majority of the state believed that Kahuku’s win that night was a fluke. If you ever want any advice before playing Kahuku, start with this. Never give the Red Raiders extra motivation. Coach Livai had shirts made saying “Leave No Doubt” and that exactly what the 2001 team did. On offense Kahuku had a legendary backfield with Inoke Funaki, Ervin Atuaia, and Mulivai Pula who ran the option to perfection behind a line where several players made it big in D1 schools. Add in shifty Loga Fonoimoana and Moana Hafoka along with sure handed James Kammerer to catch passes and you have the perfect storm on offense. The front 7 for the defense (5 star recruit JT Mapu, Darrell Tachibana, Josh Hodge, Tuika Tufaga, Ola Kubota, Sione Olevao, Tala Esera) locked down opponents forcing them to throw into a young but hard hitting secondary lead by Sola Soliai (George Perry, Viliami Nauahi, Kyle Juliano). The season ended when Kahuku took out St. Louis in what would end Cal Lee’s Hall of Fame career at St. Louis. Long runs by Inoke Funaki and Mulivai Pula in the 3rd gave the Red Raiders enough insurance to seal the deal.
The other perfect season is sort of the same story with a Hollywood ending. In 2002, the football team struggled, for Kahuku’s standards, and failed to make it out of the OIA Playoffs. The 2003 team responded with a team that was complete in nearly every aspect of the game. Jeremy Perry was named the Offensive Player of the Year and Walker Vave was named Defensive Player of the Year. They lead stout squads, the offense could run and pass on nearly anyone while one of the most talented secondaries in history locked out any opposing passing threat to make teams 1 dimensional. Oh yeah, to make things harder add in an all-state DE and a future All-American DT to a big and hard hitting front 7. The defense was solid in nearly every position.
As for that Hollywood ending, this team showed its’ heart in both the OIA and State Championship games. At the end of the OIA Championship Game, Waika Carvalho hit Tevita Finau in the end zone to give us a 6-0 win. That’s nothing compared to the State Championship Game though. Down 23-7 to St. Louis in the 3rd Quarter, Kahuku would mount a comeback of the ages. After 2 quick Kahuku TD’s and a St. Louis field goal put the score 26-21, Kahuku’s ensuing drive stalled leaving the Crusaders with the ball and the lead late in the 4th. The defense got a 3 and out which lead to the play that will forever be known as ‘The Return’. With less than a minute left, Tori Taulogo found his wall of blockers on the right sideline and returned the ball all the way to the 3 yardline where Kahuku would then punch it in and take a 27-26 lead with only 19 seconds left on the clock. The drama wasn’t over as CJ Santiago, who made 4 previous FG’s in this game, had 2 shots to win the game but couldn’t get it done. The win gave Coach Livai his 3rd State Title and Kahuku finished with a 14-0 record.
These are the memories of the members from those perfect squads.
Special Thanks to
James Kammerer #84 WR (2001)
One chicken skin moment was when we did our haka right before the game and went all the way up to St. Louis and showed “We are not scared of you and we are going to beat you tonight.” We all believed, we worked for it, and we went and got it.
The second fond memory was returning to Kahuku HS and having all the community there to celebrate and enjoy our accomplishments. At that moment there were no towns, clicks, or individuals; it was one community unified in celebrating a team giving it their all and coming home with the STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. I can’t wait for future occasions where we can all come together, celebrate, love, and appreciate; thanks Kahuku for allowing us to do that. Good luck players and coaches, represent, and remember unity overcomes adversity…
Josh Hodge #46 LB (2001)
My most memorable moment of the state championship week was the moment right before the game. When we were fully suited up looking around the locker room and realizing it all comes down to one night. Looking into your teammates eyes and knowing you have a brother ready to go to war with you. Its the bond that you all share, Knowing that you and every man on that field is going to put it all on the line. And then i was hit with a sadness knowing this was the last time we would all go to war together. Then you are reassured that i would rather die on this field then let my brother next to me down. And by the look in every ones eyes that night you knew we all felt the same way. The feeling is indescribable.
Moana Hafoka #83 SB (2001)
The one thing I distinctively remember is the feelings I felt after the players meeting. I remember some of the senior boys getting up giving motivation to the rest of the players, but more importantly it built unity in the boys that plausibly seeped to the rest of the class. Honestly after the meeting I felt that we had won 80% of the game, and the rest would result from us merely taking the field.
Big ups to that ’01 team that played lights out from Skyline to St Louis!!
Shosei Yamauchi #99 DE (2003)
Many memories come to mind when I think back on the week leading up to our State Championship game: from the flooded field forcing us to practice in the school gym to Tori Taulogo’s infamous return. In retrospect, the common thread tied to each memory was the fact that we knew we had the love and support of our community, our families and our fellow teammates.
The night of the game, an injury during the match before ours caused a delay, leaving us more time to mentally prepare. The coaches left the locker room and we sat in silence for a short period before Ola Thompson rose from his seat. He began to express how much he enjoyed playing and practicing with all of us and how grateful he was to be a part of our team.
As if on cue, each player rose one by one and conveyed their love and gratitude for their teammates and the season we had. In the end our quarterback, Waika Carvalho, stood and explained how thankful he was that he chose to return to Kahuku (from Kailua,) to play football alongside his childhood friends. We had been working together as a team all season but we’d never felt as unified as we did in that moment.
You’ll remember this experience for the rest of your lives so make it worth looking back on. Some are born Red Raiders and some have the Red Raider legacy thrust upon them. Either way, when you walk onto the field, you’re not just playing for yourselves. Play for your community, because they support you. Play for your families, because they love you. Play for your brothers on the field beside you, because they share your dreams. Above all else, PLAY HARD OR GO HOME.
GO BIG RED!!
Spencer Hafoka #11 WR (2003)
From my memory I can recall many “best” events or “best” people on the week of our Championship game. However, there was one event in particular that caught my attention and remained with me throughout my college career. The picture attached is a picture that portraits what Kahuku Football is all about. Mauhe Moala(my cousin) and Afa Garrigan console the kicker after missing the game winning kick. The St.Louis kicker that was consistent throughout the game, connecting 4 of 5 field goals, came here to BYU. He told me how amazing it was for him to see his opponents embrace him and comfort him after missing the game winning kick. He said he had a lot of respect for Kahuku, its players and community. That’s exactly who we are. Classy people doing whats right. Seeing my teammates embrace an opportunity like such is an event worth calling “best”.
Cy Naki #28 FB (2003)
The most memorable moment of our state championship game would have to be running out of the tunnel and seeing all the support form our community and just playing and bringing the title home for our community…The Red Sea will be watching you and for you’d back 100%…RED RAIDERS FOR LIFE!!!
Manu Kotobalavu #92 DE (2003)
The whole practice week was raining like the heo, field/track was flooded so we practiced in Gym! Never run and do gashers all week…haeow!!!!