Kamehameha, Kahuku could be back for more


POSTED: Saturday, December 05, 2009

Kamehameha peaked last night, a talented team with a blemish, but crystallizing at the right time.

Kahuku came in with the undefeated record and the reputation of finding ways to win, no matter what.

But could the Red Raiders do so after a first half without a first down, much less a point against a tremendous Warriors defense—a defense that played better for that first half than any we'd seen before in the 11 years of the state tournament?

Imagine that. Kahuku, zero first downs in a half.

But it was much more than that. Kamehameha led by 20 after dominating the first half in all three phases—the defensive effort was just the most noticeable. It would take much more than a clever reverse call or three field goals by Cameron Mercado for the Red Raiders to pull this one out.

David Stant, the Kahuku grad coaching the Warriors, had his alma mater on the ropes.

After the first half, the question about Kamehameha was, “;How could this team have EVER lost?”; The Warriors, still in their formative stage as a team, fell to 'Iolani during the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season—and 'Iolani won the Division II state championship in last night's prelim, despite more turnovers in the first half than it makes in half a season.

That first half of defense was impressive, of course. But what should also be taken from the 34-21 victory by Kamehameha is that yes, indeed, Kahuku did have a counterpunch, and the Warriors withstood it and came back even stronger to win going away.

The Red Raiders fired back hard at the outset of the second half, willing themselves back into it with good fortune (a tipped pass for the first first down) and bullish will (Fonoivasa Mataafa going all 36 yards on third and short comes to mind).

All of a sudden it was 20-14. All of a sudden it didn't matter how many first downs Kahuku had in the first half.

But then the Warriors answered, finding another gear to match and surpass the Red Raiders.

T.C. Campbell, the polished quarterback who had to battle for his job earlier in the season, spent most of the game spreading the ball around to the superb playmakers Kamehameha seems to always have. Last night the most notable were Ryan Ho (121 rushing yards) and Charley Bollig IV (102 receiving), with two touchdowns each.

But the biggest play was the one he made himself, the Campbell Scramble for 25 yards and a first down, pumping life back into the late third-quarter drive that grabbed the game back from Kahuku.

I asked radio analyst Delbert Tengan how the Kamehameha defense stacks up against those great units he coordinated during Saint Louis' long string of championships. He declined of course, but said this Warriors group is definitely special.

“;They're tough up front and they've got shutdown corners,”; he said. “;They can take a lot of chances because they know their backs are covered.”;

And they're quick at every position, and they don't miss tackles.

Surprisingly, this is the first time Kamehameha and Kahuku met up in a state final or Prep Bowl. When the Warriors were hot in the 1970s, the Red Raiders weren't. When Kahuku began to really gain prominence in the 1990s, Saint Louis was the Prep Bowl foe.

Since both teams are led by coaching staffs worthy of the incredible talent always on their rosters, it might not be long before we see them square off again for the state title.

I can't wait.

Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.