Kahuku picks it, wins it over Campbell in OIA Open semifinal
STEVEN ERLER / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
Kahuku defensive back Peter John Mataira (6) returns an interception for 31-yards for a touchdown.
Defense has won Kahuku many a playoff game in its storied history. The fifth-ranked Red Raiders stepped up on Friday night with pick-6 returns by Peter John Mataira and Ilaisa Fotu en route to a 27-7 win over Campbell on a rare rainy night in Ewa Beach. The win secured a state-tournament berth for Kahuku, which had lost at Campbell three weeks earlier. The Red Raiders had special motivation following the passing of longtime assistant coach Tommy Heffernan and Laie coaching icon Pele Leiataua during the season. “Coach Tommy and Coach Pele were mentors, grandpas, fathers, idols,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “To lose those coaches, they showed how much they wanted to honor their legacy. Our breaks, we break with, ‘Uncle Tommy.’ We know he’s still with us. His spirit is with us.” Kahuku limited Campbell’s normally explosive offense to 251 yards of total offense. “Our team is finally coming around, they’ve had some resiliency. Coach Sola (Soliai) did a great job tonight,” Carvalho said of his defensive coordinator. “Disguising to make the offense think we’re doing something when we’re doing something else. The adjustments that our defensive staff made were awesome. Our athletes are coming around and making plays. That’s the heartbeat of our team right now, our offense.” The game was tied at 7 when Kahuku’s defense struck for two touchdowns in a span of 51 seconds. Mataira, a junior, stood in deep coverage between the hashmarks and picked off Campbell quarterback Kaniela Kalaola and returned the ball 31 yards to the right pylon. Two snaps later, Fotu stood in traffic near the sideline and simply had to catch the spiral from Kalaola as the Red Raiders flooded the pass routes. Fotu headed down the sideline 41 yards in a blaze. After Toalei Lefau leaped over a pile at the goal line for two points, Kahuku led 21-7 with 2:23 left in the first half. Kahuku used its ground-and-pound attack, mostly out of offset-I pistol formation, to chew up the clock in the second half. Robbie Sauvao threw two picks in the rain, but both were deep in Campbell territory. One acted more like a coffin-corner pass, pinning the Sabers at their 9-yard line. Big Red put the game out of reach with a 26-yard touchdown run down the left sideline with 10:02 remaining. With rain falling, Kalaola couldn’t seem to get his precision back. After opening the game completing eight of 12 passes, he was 7-for-19 the rest of the night. Campbell managed just one completion, a 4-yard toss, after halftime. Kalaola normally platoons at QB with Krenston Kaipo. It was Kaipo who delivered Campbell in a 28-27 win over Kahuku three weeks ago, but he sat out on Friday night with a shoulder injury. — GAME SUMMARY No. 5 Kahuku 27, No. 4 Campbell 7 At Campbell >> Kahuku (7-3, 3-2) 13 8 0 6 — 27 >> Campbell (7-4, 4-1) 7 0 0 0 — 7 Campbell — Sky Lactaoen 1 run (Jadon Arola kick) Kahuku — Toalei Lefau 6 run (Duke Heffernan kick) Kahuku — Peter John Mataira 31 interception return (kick failed) Kahuku — Ilaisa Fotu 41 interception return (Lefau run) Kahuku — Zealand Matagi 26 run (kick failed) RUSHING — Kahuku: Matagi 20-81, Lefau 7-23, Kahiona Chang 2-8, Robbie Sauvao 6-3, Braxton Cravens 1-(minus-2). Campbell: Lactaoen 12-51, Kaniela Kalaola 9-37, Peter Manuma 1-4, Team 1-(minus-4). PASSING — Kahuku: Sauvao 5-11-2-119, Thorton Alapa 0-1-0-0. Campbell: Kalaola 15-31-2-163. RECEIVING — Kahuku: Heffernan 3-72, Kainoa Crimson 2-47. Campbell: Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa 6-48, Titus Mokiao-Atimalala 4-69, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala 3-11, Jalen Henderson 1-30, Lactaoen 1-5.