[ DIVISION I FOOTBALL ]
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kamehameha players celebrated after defeating Leilehua in last night's Division I championship game at Aloha Stadium.
Warriors’ D created
On what was shaping up to be a night of missed opportunities on offense, the Kamehameha defense made sure the Warriors would not squander their first shot at a state championship.
The Warriors came up with six turnovers to spur Kamehameha to a 28-7 win over Leilehua in last night's state Division I championship game at Aloha Stadium.
"They played unbelievable," Kamehameha defensive coordinator Agenhart Ellis said. "They hit us at times early in the first half, but our kids never gave up. They played with pride and passion the entire season. I love these kids."
The last three takeaways -- two interceptions and a fumble recovery -- led to Kamehameha touchdowns as the Warriors rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to claim the crown.
Cornerback Michael Holt pulled in two of Kamehameha's four interceptions. The second led to the Warriors' decisive 98-yard drive late in the third quarter.
"Michael Holt came up big-time for us," Ellis said.
Kamehameha receiver Waika Spencer didn't play in the game due to a knee injury suffered in last week's semifinal win over Lahainaluna, but the senior had an impact on Holt's big night.
Holt, a 5-foot-10 senior, spent much of the night lined up against lanky receivers in Leilehua's Chustin Senas (6-1) and Anthony Palomares (6-2).
He said practicing against the 6-3 Spencer throughout the season was ample preparation for the challenge he faced last night.
"We have one of the tallest receivers in the league, so I was prepared," Holt said.
The Kamehameha offense sputtered early as the Warriors' first five possessions ended with two punts, two interceptions and a fumble inside the Leilehua 1.
Leilehua connected on big plays early in the game and threw for 160 yards in the first half. But Kamehameha limited the Mules to just 71 after halftime. The Warriors gave up a score following one of the interceptions, but came up with three takeaways of their own.
"(Leilehua's receivers) were our No. 1 concern. Their receivers are very athletic, good size and they go after the ball," Ellis said. "We wanted to play them tough, we wanted to press them at the line and make them beat us on the deep ball."
In addition to Holt's interceptions, Travis Uale and Drew Ueno came up with one each, while Mika Kane and Andrew Taeoalii pounced on Leilehua fumbles.
"I'd been resting in the third quarter, but Coach told me I'm a senior, go back in and make a play and I did," said Taeoalii, whose fourth-quarter strip and fumble recovery set up an insurance score for the Warriors.
Kamehameha also sacked Leilehua quarterback Bryant Moniz four times for losses totaling 29 yards.
"We prepared all week to find out their tendencies and we came out to play," Holt said.
"This means a lot. We've been waiting for this and finally it came to us."