[ DIVISION II FOOTBALL ]
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Campbell's Isiah Smith fought his way for a TD against Iolani in the second quarter last night.
Sabers win championship
on their own
Serving a one-game suspension for being ejected in last week's semifinal game against Kauai, Campbell head coach Tumoana Kenessey was relegated to being just a spectator for last night's Division II championship game at Aloha Stadium.
Maybe he should stay in the stands more often.
The Sabers' unique rushing attack had the Iolani defense confused all night, but it was a dominating defense, led by Thomas Lopes' four sacks, that slowed the Raiders' high-octane passing game.
"My front six just brought it tonight," Kenessey said. "They had a hell of a game."
Sitting all the way at the top of the bleachers, Kenessey had a perspective of the game that he was not used to. But while admitting that he saw things from above that he wouldn't normally see on the field, he's in no hurry to return there as a fan anytime soon.
"You're able to see things differently, but it's nothing like being on the sidelines in the middle of it all," Kenessey said. "It was tough to be up there, but I made sure we were well-prepared, and I've got a great coaching staff who called a good game."
One aspect of the game he liked was the play of Lopes, whose sacks all came at critical times. Lopes, who only became a starter in the OIA championship game against Waipahu after Jacob Achiu was lost for the season due to injury, recorded three of his sacks in the first half, helping the Sabers take a 21-0 halftime lead.
"We knew we had to put pressure on them up front, and I knew I had to step up," Lopes said. "We knew we had to do this for (Kenessey)."
Knowing he wouldn't be allowed on the field, Kenessey wrote his team a letter prior to the game, telling his kids to play with heart and not to let officials or any other outside distractions keep them from the task at hand.
"We were angry about (Kenessey's suspension)," Lopes said. "I think it helped fire us up to stop them."
The defense did exactly that, holding the Raiders to 2 rushing yards. And with an offense that ran for 352 yards and controlled the ball for 33 out of a possible 48 minutes, the defense was well-rested to thwart any late-game heroics Iolani might have had up its sleeve.
"They kept us fresh, and after we gave up that touchdown at the beginning of the second half, we were a little down," Lopes said. "But they came back and scored and picked us up and we never looked back."
"They executed what they do well," Iolani head coach Wendell Look said. "They won the line of scrimmage and the better team won."
As much of a struggle as it was for Kenessey to watch from the stands, he was all smiles after the game as he walked on the turf of Aloha Stadium clutching the championship trophy in his arms.
"It was a game of different heroes," he said. "It was our goal to be here from the beginning, and the journey was great."
Even the one from the stands to the field.