Kahuku holds off upset minded Campbell to advance
HALAWA — Campbell gave Kahuku everything it could handle as the Red Raiders squeaked by the Sabers, 21-19 in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I-Open semifinals at Hawaiian Financial FCU Field at Aloha Stadium Friday. "It was very tight. We're glad we pulled through. A win is a win especially in states," Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. Kahuku (9-3 overall) dominated the past two matchups by a combined score of 81 to 7, but it was too close for comfort for the Red Raiders, who advance to the title game for the first time since 2017 to face top-ranked Saint Louis for the second time in three years. "We had two wins over them and we kind of underestimated them. But we all fought together and kept our composure," Kahuku quarterback Tiger Adolpho said. Campbell ends their season with a 6-6 overall record. "Our players finished the game and stuck together, but this was a different Campbell team. This is the one with their full arsenal and it was on full display tonight," Carvalho said. The Sabers forced the Red Raiders to punt and Campbell took over on the Kahuku 42 with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. Campbell faced with a fourth-and-7 moved the chains on a 15-yard pass from Blaine Hipa to Titus Mokiao-Atimalala. After a spike to stop the clock, Hipa hooked up with Titus again for a 24-yard touchdown, but the two-point pass intended for Titus failed as the Sabers trailed, 21-19 with 16 seconds left. Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala recovered the onsides kick at the Kahuku 34. Hipa threw an incomplete pass intended for Zavier Ceruti and Zion Ah You dropped Hipa for a 13-yard loss to end the game. "He's really good under pressure and he can throw tight spirals when you're in your face. The d-line had to do their job and keep him in the pocket. Once he escapes, it's hard to chase him down," Ah You said of Hipa, who was 29 of 45 for 274 passing yards. Kahuku drove all the way down to the Campbell 26 and was successful challenged that the Sabers had too many players on the field awarding five yards to make it fourth-and-2. Following Zealand Matagi's fourth-down conversion, three plays later, Zion Ah You punched in a 2-yard score for a 7-0 lead. Chase Taylor made a 23-yard field goal for Campbell's first points and Hipa had an efficient second quarter, going 13 for 17 and orchestrated a 15 play, 82-yard drive for a 5-yard go-ahead touchdown to Ceruti, who led all receivers with seven catches for 77 yards at intermission. "They came out swinging. They were a way better team the last two times we played them. They were good on third downs and they were killing us," said Ah You, who had three tackle for losses. Sabers led 10-7 at halftime. "It was about making sure we do our job. Everybody has an assignment and make sure we do our assignment and go from there. Just don't do anyone else's assignment, but yours," Carvalho said of the halftime message. The Red Raiders were 3 of 4 on fourth down conversions and Tiger Adopho came off the bench to go 5 of 5 and 101 passing yards. Tomasi Pasi hauled in an 18-yard completion from Adolpho to convert a fourth-and-11 and Matagi, who had 30 carries for 133 yards, finished the drive with a 10-yard rushing score to reclaim the lead for the Red Raiders, 14-10. "I didn't think of them as fourth downs. I thought of it as a position where we can make a play and give our team momentum," Adolpho said. Campbell went three and out and after a punt of 15 yards, Kahuku took over on the Sabers' 26. Aldopho was clutch again converting a fourth-and-7 with a 17-yard pass to Cypress Abraham. Matagi loss two yards on the next play, but took the direct snap up the middle for a 8-yard touchdown for a 21-10 lead. "Our read was two seams and an out. They (Campbell) all played off and one of their cornerbacks forgot about the receiver and I found the open man," Adolpho said. "Tiger came up with those big completions and hats off to the o-line giving him protection and receivers running the right routes. We run a lot but we practice passing everyday and we're fortunate the practice paid off on those key downs," Carvalho said. The Sabers opened the fourth quarter with a 24-yard field goal from Taylor to trail by eight with 9:27. Campbell bottled up Matagi on the next offensive drive and Blesyng Alualu-Tuiolemotu came in untouched to block the punt. A pass interference penalty put the ball on the nine and Hipa rushed for a 7-yard gain. A double reverse ended up on the ground, but Hipa picked up the fumble, threw it to Peter Manuma who lateraled it to Titus Mokiao-Atimalala to the Kahuku 1. Hipa was stopped short at the 1 turning it over on downs. "We had to come together as a unit and we're pretty good in those situations. We do our assignments and things rolled our way," Ah You said of the stop. Adolpho rushed it twice to give the Kahuku offense breathing room away from the goal line and Matagi was stuffed for no gain forcing another punt that gave the ball back to Campbell, who came up two points short of tying the game.