No. 5 Kahuku exacts revenge on No. 4 Campbell
The Red Raiders celebrate in the end zone after Peter John Mataira scored on a 26-yard pick-six in the second quarter. Sylvia Lee | SL
EWA BEACH — Two minutes and one second made all the difference for No. 5 Kahuku Friday night. The Red Raiders got three quick scores late in the second quarter — including a pair of interception returns for touchdowns — to rally past No. 4 Campbell, 27-7, in an Oahu Interscholastic Association Open Division semifinal before a crowd of about 500 fans at the Sabers' home field. Kahuku, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, rallied from an early deficit by scoring 27 unanswered points to improve to 7-3 on the season and move on to next Friday's championship final. The victory — which also secured a spot in the First Hawaiian Bank State Championships — came 20 days after a one-point loss against the Sabers in a regular-season meeting in Ewa Beach. "They beat us the first time, we're playing at their home field, they have the momentum, so yeah, we wanted to come in and prove that (we have that) we-may-be-down-but-we're-not-down attitude, so yeah, we wanted to play like the underdog; it gives us more incentive," Kahuku first-year coach Sterling Carvalho said. Just as it did three weeks ago, Campbell held a lead early Friday night. Running back Sky Lactaoen scored on third-and-goal with a 2-yard touchdown run to cap an 11-play, 80-yard drive. The drive was extended after a crucial encroachment penalty against Kahuku on a 4th-and-1 to move the chains. Jadon Arola's PAT made it 7-0 with 1:42 left in the first quarter. Kahuku got a goal-line stand from its defense early in the second quarter and recycled it into a 10-play, 90-yard drive that took 4:26 off the clock and ended with Toalei Lefau's 7-yard TD run behind a double-tight end formation. The Red Raider scoring drive — which was made up of eight rushes and two pass attempts — included three third-down conversions. Zealand Matagi gained six yards on a 3rd-and-1, Duke Heffernan pulled down a 12-yard screen pass from Robbie Sauvao on a 3rd-and-5 and the same pair hooked up for a 43-yard deep pass on a third-and-2. "That was big. On a night like tonight where our defense is playing lights out, we needed our offense to match that intensity," Carvalho said. Heffernan's extra point tied it at 7 with 4:24 left in the second quarter. Kahuku got a favorable bounce on the ensuing kickoff and Campbell was forced to start its possession at its own 5-yard line. Two plays into the drive, Mataira stepped in front of a Kaniala Kalaola pass and navigated his way along the right sideline for a 26-yard pick-6. The PAT was wide left and the Red Raiders took their first lead at 13-7 with 3:14 remaining until halftime. "I just saw number 2 (Christian Quiambao) run in, look at the quarterback and the quarterback threw it right there," said Mataira, a junior defensive back. "I wasn't thinking, just playing." The Red Raiders booted the kickoff out of bounds to give the Sabers the ball at their own 35-yard line. However, on the second play of the drive, Kalaola was picked off by Fotu near the 40-yard line and the sophomore linebacker returned it to the end zone. "Before that, our (defensive coordinator, Sola Soliai), he just told me, ‘Get back in your drop, it's coming.' We already knew that ball was coming," Fotu said. An encroachment penalty against Campbell on the PAT led Kahuku to try for the two-point conversion, which Toalei Lefau ran in to give his team a 21-7 lead with 2:23 left in the second quarter. The Red Raiders closed out the scoring with Zealand Matagi's 24-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. Matagi rushed for a game-high 78 yards on 20 carries. Kahuku ran for 121 of its 239 yards of total offense. "We're glad that we were able to put it away at the end with our offense," Carvalho said. Defensively, the Red Raiders clamped down on the Sabers' passing game, which torched them for 283 yards three weeks ago — including a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes. "Our defensive coordinator, Sola Soliai, did a good job in adjusting, trying to take away their main weapons tonight so we kind of kept Titus (Mokiao-Atimalala) at bay; that was good," Carvalho said. Mokiao-Atimalala had 10 receptions for 150 yards, including the game-winning 29-yard TD pass with 19 seconds left, in the first meeting. He finished with three catches for 58 yards Friday night. "We needed to work on the pass after that first game. We knew they were gonna pass a lot this game, so we worked on that the whole week," Fotu said. Kalaola finished 16-of-31 passing for 164 yards. He started at quarterback in place of Krenston Kaipo, who was out with a shoulder injury he sustained against Waianae last week. Campbell saw its three-game win streak snapped. All four of its losses this season have come against teams ranked in the top five of the ScoringLive/Hawaiian Electric Power Rankings. The Sabers (7-4) will play either Farrington or No. 3 Mililani for third place and the OIA's final state tournament berth in the early game of a doubleheader at Aloha Stadium next Friday. Kahuku will try for its fourth straight league title against the Farrington-Mililani winner in the nightcap.