Leilehua Defense Dominates Banged-Up Moanalua, Offense Rushes for 234 Yards in OIA Interdivisional Battle

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED AUG 19, 2023

MOANALUA — The Leilehua Mules (2-0, 1-0 OIA D1) forced five turnovers and ran for 234 yards on the road Friday night, taking down the Moanalua Nā Menehune (0-2, 0-1 OIA Open), 21-7, in a defense-heavy, physical and chippy Week 2 interdivisional matchup.  

Host Moanalua got the scoring started quickly, bringing the opening kickoff back within the Leilehua 20-yard line and capitalizing a few plays later. Moanalua sophomore quarterback Tayden-Evan Kaawa floated a 5-yard touchdown pass to the back-right corner of the end zone to a wide-open Jayce Bareng for game’s first points.

Nā Menehune forced a Mules punt on the following possession but lost Kaawa on the ensuing possession to a head injury after a scary targeting penalty, leading to a Leilehua ejection. Sophomore backup quarterback Naazsir Addo McCoy entered the game for Moanalua, but an aggressive Mules front forced Moanalua to punt. 

The opening quarter wouldn’t see any more scores, though Nā Menehune had a promising drive going as the quarter ended. A McCoy interception on the first play of the second quarter gave the ball to the Mules, ending the threat from Moanalua. 

Leilehua quickly capitalized, as junior running back Camren Flemister turned on the afterburners after squeezing through a gap in the Moanalua defense, breaking free for a 67-yard touchdown run to help the Mules tie the game, 7-7.

Momentum quickly shifted in favor of the visiting Leilehua team. A backwards pass ruled as a fumble by Moanalua on the next possession was recovered by Leilehua deep in Nā Menehune territory.

The resulting play gave Leilehua their first play from scrimmage in opponent’s territory on the day and senior running back Cole Northington found a running lane of his own to speed away through for a 38-yard TD run, giving the Mules the 14-7 lead with just under eight minutes left in the opening half. 

Moanalua would look to answer back with a score of their own, methodically driving the field and pushing it all the way to the Leilehua 1-yard line, but a diving interception by linebacker Kevin Burke kept the lead intact for the visiting Mules heading into halftime. 

Leilehua received the opening kickoff of the 2nd half, driving the field deep into Moanalua territory. Nā Menehune defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs, and keeping it a one-score game for the Moanalua offense. 

Leilehua got another opportunity late in the third from the team’s hard-hitting defense, forcing McCoy to fumble deep in Moanalua territory and setting up the Mules up with nice field position as the teams entered the final 12 minutes of play.

The visitors squandered that offensive chance as well, losing a fumble out of bounds into the end zone to come away with no points and give Nā Menehune the chance to knot the score, still trailing by seven. 

The Leilehua defense answered the bell once again though, forcing a punt to give the ball back to the Mules with 8:31 remaining and a one-score lead. It looked like Leilehua would give the knockout blow after connecting for three chunk yardage plays in a row, but Mules’ quarterback Hanohano Plunkett was picked off on a shot at the end zone and Moanalua kept it a one-score game with over seven minutes to tie it.

A fumble by Nā Menehune on the next possession all but ended things for the home team, as Flemister punched in his second TD of the night with 4:27 remaining in the game on the ensuing possession to go up, 21-7.

One last turnover forced by the Leilehua allowed the Mules to run out the clock, picking up their second win in as many weeks and dropping host Moanalua to 0-2 overall. 

McCoy finished the night 15-for-26 passing for 120 yards and three interceptions, as the Moanalua backup QB was sacked five times by the Mules’ aggressive defensive line. Bareng ended the night with six catches for 36 yards and the lone Nā Menehune score, while senior wideout Kila Keone quietly had a solid night, tallying five receptions for 64 yards for the home team. Moanalua will take on ILH powerhouse Punahou next Saturday, August 26 for a non-OIA matchup.

Plunkett was efficient all night for the Mules, taking what the defense gave him to the tune of 135 yards passing on just under 61% completion rate and one interception. Both Flemister and Northington finished with over 100 yards rushing each (110 yards and 138 yards, respectively) while accounting for all three Leilehua touchdowns. The Mules will host Jaron-Keawe Sagapolutele and the Campbell Sabers next Saturday for an OIA league game.