• Nick Abramo @ Hawaii Prep World

Kahuku, in bulldoze mode, flattens Campbell


Sefa Ameperosa took advantage of this large hole made by the Kahuku offensive line in the Red Raiders’ 50-0 win over Campbell on Friday night. Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Running room on one side. The door slammed shut on the other.

Pretty simple. Kahuku’s line had its way with Campbell’s on both sides of the ball and it resulted in a 50-0 trouncing at Carleton Weimer Field on the North Shore on Friday night.

“What a way to start the season” could be a phrase for both the Red Raiders and the Sabers. It just depends on your inflection. Upbeat for Kahuku. Head down and slow, with your hand covering your mouth for Campbell.

You could look at the statistics to tell the story, and we will, but that doesn’t completely illustrate the high-flying, yet disciplined, fashion in which the Red Raiders took complete control.

So, let’s take a look at the stats. Kahuku flattened Campbell for minus-45 yards rushing. That included five quarterback sacks, with two by Bradlee Anae, and five other tackles for loss.

Add in three interceptions, including two by Stokes Botelho, and it becomes clear Campbell had nowhere to go. To further illuminate that point, star running back Terell Johnson of the Sabers (920 yards, 11 TDs a year ago), was stuffed for minus-14 yards on 11 carries. Johnson lost even more yardage on two kickoff returns, when the terrorizing Kahuku special-teamers came in hard and in a hurry to give him absolutely no breathing room. One special teams tackle, in particular, by Ted Kenese, was a real boomer.

But, more than the stats, it was the demeanor, the presence, the discipline, the attitude, the great positioning and the focus (and don’t forget the size) on not giving up an inch that was evident to anyone watching the game closely.

Kahuku’s defense last year was considered by many as the best in the state. It’s too early to say this year’s Red Raiders defense is better, but … like Anae said a few weeks ago, they “can get there.”

Defensive back Keala Santiago, a big part of the Red Raiders defense, looked a bit ahead to the team proving itself against the best the state has to offer. He recalls Kahuku’s loss to Mililani in a scrimmage last week, and, coming off of this big win over the Sabers, said, “We can do better (if we face Mililani again).”

Aside from Anae’s two sacks and Botelho’s two interceptions, Kahuku got a punt block from Kekaula Kaniho, a fumble recovery from Draeton Thompson, a sack and a tackle for loss from Hirkley Latu, sacks from Manaia Atuaia and Aliki Vimahi, tackles for loss from Santiago, Ezra Tupuola and Samson Reed, and an interception return for a touchdown from Tema Lindsey.

Botelho scored on one interception return early in the game to set the tone for the rest of the way. He also appeared to score on another pick, but it was called back due to a penalty.

“That first interception was good for me, the first of the year, a good way to start,” Botelho said. “I think it made our defense excited and happy and got them ready to do it again. We stopped them on the next series. That was my first touchdown in high school football, and I could have had two.”

OK, now it’s time to switch to the Kahuku offense. Sefa Ameperosa rushed for 80 yards and Kesi Ah-Hoy rolled for 73 and two touchdowns. Harmon Brown also scored twice on the ground. They blasted through cavernous holes made by center Jed Heffernan, Tamatoa Neher and the rest of the offensive line.

The running room that the backs had can’t be overemphasized.

Quarterback was the only question mark for Kahuku. Kamehameha transfer Jordan Mariteragi looked poised, but finished just 1-for-3 for 20 yards with two interceptions. He didn’t get a chance to pass a lot and was the victim of two outstanding pickoffs by Campbell’s LBJ Tanoa and Aaron Bunting.

Bunting also blocked an extra point in the game for the Sabers.

Campbell coach Amosa Amosa got to the main thrust of the loss quickly afterward.

“We need a lot of hard work on the line on both offense and defense,” he said.

The Sabers finished fourth in the Oahu Interscholastic Association a year ago and are ranked No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason poll.

Certainly, they’ll climb out of this hole, and if they turn it around quickly and resoundingly, it will be an indication of just how good Kahuku — No. 4 in the preseason poll — is. Or, on the other side of the coin, if Campbell falters after this, the Red Raiders’ win won’t look so shiny.

Kekoa Sasaoka, a Farrington transfer, kicked a 40-yard field goal for the Red Raiders. He had one extra point blocked, and on an aborted attempt, the holder never got the snap down in time.

Sasaoka’s booming kicks also had an effect on the outcome. Out of nine kickoffs, he booted seven into the end zone for touchbacks. That poor field position put an extra hurt on Campbell.

The Sabers’ best chance to score failed late in the game after a Nicholas Calairo fumble recovery on a botched Red Raiders punt return situation. They got as far as the Kahuku 1, thanks to a pass from Siaosi Soto to Braden Kauhane, but a penalty pushed them back and they couldn’t punch it in with the running-clock time running out.

Tyson Tafai also had a fumble recovery for the Sabers.

“We prepared all week on perfecting our running game,” Kahuku’s Ameperosa said, “working on blocking and fundamentals.”

You can bet the Red Raiders worked on special teams, too. And, not the least, defense, which is new head coach Vavae Tata‘s forte. He’s proud of working on stopping people. It’s just what he does.

And there’s more work to be done, of course. There’s a ton of high-flying, more intricate offenses out there. And when the Red Raiders get a chance at them, it will be the defense that makes or breaks them.

Kahuku (1-0) visits Kapolei next week. The Hurricanes played the Red Raiders close in the OIA playoffs a year ago, losing 9-0.

Campbell (0-1) takes on a challenge from Castle at Aloha Stadium next week.

Kahuku, in bulldoze mode, flattens Campbell

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