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FOCUS ON FOOTBALL: Tenacious Roosevelt Trips Pesky Radford 31-24 In A Rambunctious Friday Showdown


Roosevelt has some big and imposing players, a potent offense and a hard-hitting defense.

What the Rough Riders lacked on Friday was sustained focus, according to coach Kui Kahooilihala.

It almost cost them dearly at home in Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.

After taking a 23-point lead, Roosevelt looked tired and unorganized after halftime while Radford started to look unstoppable with a mighty running game and a hard-to-get, evasive, hard-nosed and accurate quarterback.

When that gritty QB — the 6-foot, 190-pound Kalob Victorino-Avilla punched home a 3-yard touchdown with 2:54 to go, all of a sudden it was the Rams on top by one.


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But Roosevelt dug deep and found a way to save the victory and not fall too far behind in what looks like an unbelievably competitive OIA Division I.

It only took 32 seconds to drive in for the winning TD — Silas Kekahuna’s 15-yard sweep with 2:22 to go. The Rough Riders then tacked on the 2-point conversion for the 31-24 final score.

But man, those Rams were coming on very, very strong.

The game may have been a foreshadowing for a scrappy race the rest of the way. Neither Roosevelt (2-1, 1-1 OIA D-I) nor Radford (1-3, 0-2) are near the top of the standings now, but watch out and don’t take them lightly. They could be just getting started.

Some of Roosevelt’s standouts in the 31-24 win over Radford were Silas Kekahuna, Kolo Kahooilihala and Kamuela Kaaihue.

At least that’s the way they played Friday — like the whole season was on the line.

And it’s not too late. Right now, both squads have five regular season games left, plenty of time to take aim at front-runners Waipahu (3-1, 2-0) and Aiea (3-1, 1-0) and the the rest.

It’s possible that the regular season ends with a bunch of teams just above and below .500. That happened last year, when four teams tied for third, fourth, fifth and sixth place with 2-3 league records.

“We kept on fighting to the very end and I think that’s the one thing we pride ourselves on,” Rams coach Fred Salanoa said after Friday’s gutsy comeback attempt. “We gave ourselves a chance. These kids are amazing, resilient and do great things.”

Salanoa was impressed with the Roosevelt boys, too.

“They’re a good team with a lot of athletes and they were able to do some good things,” he added. “We just came up short at the very end.”

Some of Radford’s top performers in Friday’s 31-24 loss were Michael Hayslett, Olijah Gomez and Kalob Victorino-Avilla.

For Radford’s Victorino-Avilla, who finished with 309 yards passing and two TDs to go along with his rushing TD, it’s a positive outlook from here on out.

“After not doing so well in the beginning, we looked good” he said. “The future is bright. We just need to play our game and execute from the beginning.”

Even though the Rams didn’t win, that comeback bid was made possible by another tough customer, running back Michael Hayslett, who combines shiftiness with smash-mouth power and ended the game with 110 rushing yards and a TD and 110 receiving yards.

And Roosevelt’s Kooilihala may have said it best about the Rams, something other coaches in the league should take note of:

“They played great football tonight. They’re a good team. They’re a great team.”

Roosevelt’s boys were prepared to come to Kooilihala’s Sunday practice, ostensibly to learn how to be more resilient and focused when they have a lead.

“We let up a little in the second half,” said defensive lineman Kolo Kahooilihala, the Rough Riders coach’s nephew. “I think we can go far (this season). Honestly, if we keep working how we’ve been doing every day, we can get far.”

Kayman Lewis, Roosevelt’s starting QB, threw for 340 yards and three TDs, and two receivers went over the 100-yard mark — Jayden Montgomery Gaopoa (five catches for 174 yards and a TD) and Kamuela Kaaihue (six catches for 111 yards and a TD).

After a 2-3 disappointing league finish a year ago, the Rough Riders are out to make up for it this season.

“We just gotta stay calm and do our best,” Kekahuna said. “Last year wasn’t the best.  We gotta really turn it up. We all have that bond now and I feel like we can do way better.”

For coach Kahooilihala, it’s not a complicated thing moving forward.

“Apparently some of our guys took it for granted in the second half,” he said. “We cannot afford to play like that. The boys pulled through and I’m proud of them for that. They’re good kids. Sometimes they lack focus. We had some mental breakdowns and mis-tackles on defense, That’s basic. They gotta wrap up. They gotta tackle.”

Roosevelt, if it plays with focus from now on, is a team to be wary of as the season progresses.

And the same goes for Radford.

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