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D-I confrontation


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POSTED: Sunday, November 29, 2009

The team in red is battered, bruised and aching.

Turning out for yesterday morning's team meeting was a bit painful for some of the Kahuku Red Raiders, but after a 9-6 overtime win over Farrington on Friday, it was a good ache.

Top-seeded Kahuku advanced to the Division I final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships and will meet No. 2 seed Kamehameha on Friday at Aloha Stadium. Kahuku (12-0) has won four titles in this decade, but none since 2006.

The team in blue, Kamehameha, was a 40-0 victor over Leilehua in the other semifinal. The Warriors emerged relatively unscathed and should be at full force in the final. Kamehameha, which had rested for three weeks coming into the game, is clearly the fresher team. Kahuku's defense got 13 tackles from linebacker Ben Mamea, but he is now one of the walking wounded.

After a morning of meetings and video study, Kahuku coach Reggie Torres could almost feel the pain of his players.

“;We took some lickings,”; he said, noting injuries to defensive end Kona Schwenke (shoulder), strong safety Trayson Medeiros (shoulder) and nose guard Veteson Sauni (knee). “;This is the last week. The kids know it. It's about pain tolerance and healing.”;

Kamehameha, which last won the state title in 2004, may be the best conditioned team in the state. The Warriors endured four-a-day workouts in August.

“;We'll just do what we do,”; defensive end Beau Yap said.

The Red Raiders needed big plays on special teams to get past Farrington, which saw a lead over Kahuku fizzle after halftime for the second time this season. Kahuku always seems to find a way to rally, whether it's a gadget play or, with this season's squad, the kicking game. Cameron Mercado made three of his four field-goal tries on Friday. A matchup with Kamehameha could be a deadlock across the board for Kahuku, which will have an edge in special teams because of Mercado.

“;Special teams could make us or break us,”; Torres said.

“;We still made some mistakes. Twenty-five seconds left and (Farrington) returned the punt almost to field-goal range,”; he said. “;We did good, but we still had a few breakdowns.”;

The Warriors, powered by a defensive front that had most of a season-high seven sacks, showed what it is capable of against a pass-first team.

“;They're big, athletic and disciplined,”; Torres said of the Warriors. “;Technically, they're pretty sound.”;

Kahuku's ground attack will be like nothing the Warriors saw in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. If Kamehameha locks down on Kahuku's ground attack and neutralizes quarterback Evan Moe—he was 12-for-27 for just 104 yards against Leilehua—it still comes down to special teams.

That is, unless Kamehameha's offense continues to flourish behind a line that has been stunningly effective. T.C. Campbell was not sacked in 23 pass attempts against Leilehua, and Ryan Ho rushed for 107 yards and a score to bring his season total to 1,409 yards and 17 touchdowns.