Sophomore Is Key Attack Weapon In Kahuku Power Run Game

Red Raiders tight end Tuli Wily-Matagi No. 39. Photo by Tylo Thompson.

On game night, when the Kahuku offense is churning out the yardage in a way that would make the late Ohio State coach Woody Hayes inordinately proud, the image of No. 39 stands out amidst the mass of big bodies. It’s sophomore tight end Tuli Wily-Matagi, a key cog in the power run game.

In the age of the spread offense, Kahuku’s offensive meal ticket remains its ability to control the ball and the clock with a rushing attack. That’s OK with Wily-Matagi, a converted quarterback. While he will likely return behind center someday — he still has two years of eligibility left, after all — he doesn’t mind his tight end spot. At 6-2, 210 pounds, he is agile, athletic and physical at the point of attack.

“I try to do my best wherever they put me — I’ll play wherever they need me,” said Wily-Matagi. “I take pride (in blocking). We take a lot of time in practice, pushing the sled (working on the fundamentals of blocking). I like that football is a team sport and that we have to work together to accomplish our goals. I love the game.”

The coaching staff knew all about Wily-Matagi by the time he reached high school. He had been a student at Kahuku Intermediate when he suddenly disappeared to Los Angeles prior to his freshman year.

“I was with them (Kahuku) during off-season training; then I went up to Cali(fornia),” he said. “They knew I went up there, but they didn’t know I was going to stay up there.” He spent his freshman year at Cathedral High School in L.A., and living with his coach, Chris Flores. “It was an opportunity that not many of us get,” he said of his time there. Cathedral limped to a 3-9 season, however, and Wily-Matagi tore his MCl, missing his last four games. He also missed home.

“I missed my family — they couldn’t go to all of my games,” said Wily-Matagi, the son of Sally Wily and Lloyd Matagi. “It’s been good being back. Our team at Cathedral wasn’t very close. This team is a lot closer, and I like that winning feeling. My uncles always talked about their football careers here. They have a name (in football).”

Wily-Matagi has three cousins on the current Kahuku team: senior running back Aofaga Wily, and line-backers Misifoa Matagi, a sophomore, and Micah Magalei, a junior.

In Aofaga, Wily-Matagi also has found much support as one of the youngest starters on the Kahuku team. “He always pats me on the shoulder if I’m down on myself and tries to make sure I’m up and always positive.”

Aofaga Wily ran for 889 yards during Kahuku’s regular season in addition to 14 rushing touchdowns. The Red Raiders are currently averaging 195 yards on the ground per game and also feature fellow backs Polikapu Liua, Soli Afalava and Quayd Ah You. All three are averaging better than five yards per carry.

Kahuku had a first round bye for the OIA playoffs and will meet the winner of the Kailua-Waianae game this weekend in a quarterfinal matchup. Wily-Matagi says the Red Raiders are on track to peak at the right time. “There are still some little things we need to work on — like our tempo and being able to finish,” he said.