Sunday, September 11, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
A sloppy, muddy field was the setting in ordinarily dry Ewa Beach for a much-anticipated OIA Open Division football matchup Friday night, and it was the visiting Kahuku Red Raiders who sloshed and slipped their way to a 16-6 victory over Campbell.
The Red Raiders (5-0, 3-0) never trailed, but they didn’t rest easy until the final whistle. It was their highly effective — considering the conditions — offensive line that plowed through defenders to make room for two touchdown drives.
“It’s just one of these games you gotta survive,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said after the team’s 15th straight victory dating back to the beginning of last year. “You gotta survive the footing. You gotta survive the turnover battle. That’s just what it was tonight.”
Although the Red Raiders have a brand-new artificial turf field on their North Shore campus this season, it wasn’t that long ago they often played and practiced in a mud bog at home.
“It brought back memories as to how things were,” Carvalho continued. “We’ve been spoiled (this year). This was the Kahuku field right here.”
And there was no slowing down Kahuku linebacker Leonard Ah You, who reveled in the mud while racking up two sacks among his three tackles for losses, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and three quarterback hurries.
“We weren’t expecting this rain, so we had to deal with the elements and just do our thing,” Ah You said. “We like this kind of game, a close game, but it shouldn’t have been this close.”
And the senior captain was quick to credit the offensive line.
“These boys, they’re dogs,” he added. “They don’t get much credit, so shout out to all the O-line.”
And Ah You knows that the poor field conditions may have worked in Kahuku’s favor.
“It might have been a closer game because their passing game is huge,” he said. “With the ball coming out wet, it was harder for them.”
Sabers quarterback Jaron-Keawe Sagapolutele only threw for 72 yards. On the other side, it was like Kahuku quarterback Waika Crawford was in bright sunshine and a dry field. He somehow went 19-for-27 for 200 yards with no interceptions.
“Under these conditions, we were still able to pass the ball and run the ball,” coach Carvalho said. “I think that’s what threw Campbell off.”
With 6:21 left in the first quarter, Vaaimalae Fonoti finished off a 64-yard march with a 5-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.
Then, with 29 seconds to go before halftime, Zaden Mariteragi increased the lead to 10-0 with a 33-yard field goal.
Aiden Manutai’s interception made it possible for the Red Raiders to go up 16-0 on Clyde Taulapapa’s 8-yard up-the-middle TD run with just 5:48 left in the game.
Then, on their second-to-last possession, the Sabers (3-2, 1-2) finally put together an extended drive, and Sagapolutele scrambled into the end zone from 4 yards out with 2:56 left for the final 16-6 count.
“It was a good game, hard fought,” said Campbell’s Kamaehu Kopa-Kaawalauole, who finished with five tackles, including 1.5 for losses. “We gotta come back Monday and really grind it out and get back to basics and get it right. I still think we can make it far. We have the right team, the right coaching staff. I promise you we’ll get it right.”
Next Saturday, Kahuku challenges the No. 1 ranked team in the nation by MaxPreps — St. John Bosco (2-0) — in Bellflower, California.
For Campbell, it’s a bye week followed by a home game against Moanalua (2-2-1) on Sept. 23.
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