Going into last Friday’s OIA quarterfinals, the Campbell at Leilehua matchup looked like a tossup on paper.
That’s the way the game played out, and the Sabers (7-2) eventually took control with defense and ball control to move on to a rematch with Mililani (9-0) on Thursday at Aloha Stadium.
Campbell came back from a 14-7 halftime lead for a 20-14 win, and sophomore quarterback Ezra Savea threw the ball just three times in the second half.
The turning point came midway through the third quarter, when the Sabers recovered a Mules fumble at their own 35, keeping Leilehua from taking a two-touchdown advantage. Four plays later, hard-nosed Sabers running back Austin May was in the end zone with a 38-yard touchdown run for a 14-all tie.
Earlier in the second half, Campbell’s Zibrex Cabel thwarted a Mules drive with an interception.
Later, after taking a 20-14 lead, the Sabers’ Josiah Mageo and Tristan Ludiazo broke through for a sack apiece to stall yet another Leilehua drive that got as far as the Campbell 15. It was Ludiazo’s second sack of the night.
With 2:25 left in the game, Dylan Villanueva got into the defensive act for Campbell with an interception and 68-yard return on Leilehua’s next possession.
Mageo was at it again with 39 seconds to go, making the tackle on a Mules’ fourth down and 4 from the Leilehua 39 to end it.
And now, the Sabers play the Trojans, who have been unstoppable so far this year and who beat Campbell 57-28 in Ewa Beach on Sept. 19.
“We will be looking to stop that machine from Mililani,” Campbell coach Amosa Amosa said after the game.
The Sabers, who went to the state semifinals last season, climbed two spots to No. 6 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Top 10 this week.
Amosa knows what every other OIA coach knows. Stopping the second-ranked Trojans won’t be easy, if it’s possible. Mililani’s two closest games were a 16-point win over Saint Louis and a 22-point victory over Moanalua.