D-I finalists' defenses really stack up


POSTED: Friday, December 04, 2009

It's not just running backs, quarterbacks and receivers facing top-seeded Kahuku and No. 2 Kamehameha who have felt the crunch of the state's Division I football finalists.

Crunching the numbers bears out what onlookers have seen—and heard—all season. That's why tonight's title game in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships promises to be an all-night buffet for patrons of defensive smackdowns.

Kahuku (12-0) has relied on defense and the kicking game to prevail. Kamehameha (11-1) has a dominant defense and ground attack that have been buoyed by the sudden aerial deliverance by quarterback T.C. Campbell. For now, though, even Campbell will be severely tested. Defense, after all, will win championships.

“;I expect a good game,”; Kamehameha coach David Stant said. “;We don't talk about stats. They just do their assignment and, in general, they do their jobs.”;





        Who: Kahuku vs. Kamehameha

Where: Aloha Stadium


When: Tonight, 7:30


TV: Pay per view, Dig. 260


Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM




True, but the stats are incredible to ponder. Almost inhuman.

The numbers for Kahuku?

» Eight teams finished with negative rushing yardage against the Red Raiders, including the first six squads on the schedule.

» Those first six opponents—Kealakehe, Punahou, Kailua, Roosevelt, McKinley and Kaimuki—combined for minus-135 rushing yards on 125 carries.

» Castle (23 attempts, minus-27 yards) and Leilehua (24 carries, minus-30 yards) joined that club later.

» Only two teams managed to rush for more than 30 yards against Kahuku: Mililani and Farrington. Mililani did it on the tremendous play-making skills of quarterback Trent McKinney, who scrambled for 67 yards. Farrington relied on sturdy Harry Tuimaseve to gain 178 rushing yards in a 16-14 loss, then gained 185 yards in a 9-6 overtime loss last week.

What does this mean? Kahuku is willing to shut down any team's ground game, but is also willing to bend if it means putting a lid on the passing game—which was the case with Farrington.

» In 13 games, Kahuku allowed just 320 rushing yards on 315 attempts. That's a minuscule average of 1.02 yards per carry.

» Also, the secondary allowed just nine touchdown passes while picking off 17 aerials.

» Opponents managed just 5.4 yards per attempt; 7 yards per pass is a decent average.

Preposterously delicious for all Kahuku fans, and even connoisseurs of defensive football.

But there's more. In fact, Kamehameha's defensive statistics may be even more remarkable.

» The Warriors permitted just 130 rushing yards in 11 games (not including the stats from a win over Word of Life, which were never reported).

» Average gain per rush against Kamehameha: 0.6 yards per carry. That's right, less than a yard per try. Less than 2 feet on each handoff or toss or pitchout.

» Good rushing teams like Kailua (minus-23 yards) and Waianae (37) couldn't get their ground attack going despite persistence. Kailua ran 27 times. Waianae had 29 carries. Interestingly enough, it was a former pure run-and-shoot team, Punahou, that racked up the highest rushing total against Kamehameha to date: 95 yards (and two touchdowns) on 23 carries. The second-highest total? 'Iolani's 68 yards (on 29 attempts) in its 20-17 upset.

Those two touchdowns by Punahou were rare. In fact, the only other touchdown scored on the ground against Kamehameha all year was by those same Buffanblu, in an early-season game.

» Maybe more outlandish than the rushing defense stats is this: Opposing passers have seven total touchdown passes against Kamehameha, but the Warriors have amassed a whopping 20 interceptions.

» Offenses averaged 5.5 yards per pass attempt against Kamehameha, almost exactly the same average as Kahuku's opponents.

The defensive systems are schematically different. Out of a 4-3 set, Kamehameha brings a linebacker to the line of scrimmage most plays.

“;They have a three-man (front) and ours is more five-man,”; Stant said. “;(Kahuku) plays more coverage and brings the linebackers blitzing. We try to keep everyone in front and stop the run first.”;

So whose defense is better? We'll find out soon enough, but just based on numbers—and Kamehameha did see more pass-first offensive attacks in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu—the Warriors were tougher on quarterbacks. Passers managed an 84.9 efficiency rate against Kamehameha and a 90.7 rate against Kahuku.