No. 5 Kahuku hosts No. 4 Campbell in Open tilt
Among the few league games set to take place this weekend is a meeting of Open Division teams in No. 5 Kahuku and No. 4 Campbell. ScoringLive photo illustration
Among the few league games set to take place this weekend is a meeting of Open Division teams separated by one spot in the ScoringLive/Hawaiian Electric Power Rankings in No. 4 Campbell taking on No. 5 Kahuku.
The Sabers (1-2 overall, 1-1 league) and Red Raiders (2-1, 1-1) will play at Kahuku's Carleton E. Weimer Field Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for approximately 6:30 p.m.
Campbell is coming off of a 21-point loss to Saint Louis last Friday. Its only other loss was at the hands of Mililani to open the season.
"We've done some good, we've got some things we gotta to work on, but we're on a positive note and now we gotta get better at those good things that we showed and we gotta fix up some of the negative things," Sabers coach Darren Johnson said.
Johnson said the losses to the Trojans and Crusaders cleared some things up for both the coaches and players.
"We made some mistakes, some personnel and assignment football, so we want to correct it and play four quarters," Johnson said. "Good things happen when you work hard for four quarters."
The Sabers were gashed for 267 rushing yards by Mililani. Johnson knows his team's rush defense will be put to the test once again by the Red Raiders, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry in a 32-0 win over No. 8 Waianae last Saturday.
Kahuku racked up 206 rushing yards against the Seariders, led by Zealand Matagi's 132 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.
"I think Kahuku is gonna try and run it and we gotta put a stop to it," Johnson said. "We were vulnerable against Mililani, so we gotta show them that we can stop the run."
After some early-season experimentation with a spread offense, the Red Raiders have returned to what they are best known for: smash-mouth football.
"That is basically Kahuku's identity," second-year coach Sterling Carvalho said.
"We were just trying to give (quarterback) Tiger (Adolpho) some experience, trying to at least open up the offense so we're not as one-dimensional, but at the same time, Zealand, Lalio (Kaluna) and Jack (Tito) are doing a great job as our running backs, so we're just riding their momentum into games," Carvalho said.
Saturday's shut out of Waianae played out in stark contrast to a 32-0 loss at Mililani eight days prior, when Kahuku was held to just 15 net rushing yards and 83 yards of total offense by the Trojans.
"It was a much-needed win. Hopefully now we can carry the momentum going into this game," Carvalho said. "Campbell is a good team. Skill-position wise, they have probably the best skills in the state next to Saint Louis, so we just need to keep our perspective, keep our momentum, take it one game at a time and one play at a time."
Carvalho certainly knows the Sabers well after the teams met twice in a span of three weeks late in the 2018 season. Campbell eked out a 28-27 win in the regular season before Kahuku flipped the script with a 27-7 win in the semifinals of the OIA playoffs.
He is especially cautious of Campbell's talented corps of two-way skill-position players, including brothers Titus and Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala.
"We've seen them in seven's (summer pass league) and we've seen them for a couple years now and they are great athletes and they are tough. Take a look at Titus," Carvalho said, referring to a hard hit he received against Saint Louis but came back from Friday night. "It looked like he had a serious injury, but hats off to him. He showed how tough he is, not just skilled, but tough because he came back and finished the game against Saint Louis."
Johnson, a former Kahuku quarterback himself, is also well-studied on all things Kahuku.
"Because I know the kids, I know they're good athletes and they play good football," Johnson said of the Red Raiders. "It's gonna be a tough game. They definitely show potential and they're definitely not that same football team that lost 32-0 (to Mililani)."
One player who was not part of last year's two meetings is Campbell senior running back Jonan "Bubbah" Aina-Chaves, who transferred from now-defunct Saint Francis over the summer. He rushed for 1,300 yards for the Saints last season.
"I think he's the X-factor," Carvalho said. "I mean, we know they can pass the ball and move it through the air, but now when you've got Bubbah, I mean, he runs tough, he blocks, he does everything you would want in a running back. That's the person we kind of have to contain."
The Kahuku defense has been up to snuff so far. It has held opponents to 173.3 yards and 15 points per game. Even in its 32-point loss to the Trojans, it allowed just 135 yards of total offense.
"Our defense is veteran. They're season, they're experienced, however, on offense we're young with a lot of new starters on the offensive line and in our skill positions, so it's a process," Carvalho said. "It's a journey and eventually, by the end of the season, we want to be peaking in October and November."
Campbell senior wide receiver/defensive back Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa, a two-time All-Hawaii first team selection, will miss his fourth game of the season while he continues to work his way back from a foot injury. Johnson said Adkins-Kupukaa could return in time for the Sabers' next league contest against Kapolei on Sept. 13.
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