On paper, Waianae had the girth, the skill, the will.
In fact, before the Seariders pulled out a 29-21 overtime thriller over Campbell on Saturday night, it could’ve been argued that Waianae was too seasoned, and the Sabers are a team of the future. A roster full of immense talent among their juniors and sophomores.
That won’t do much to console Campbell, which missed a chance to play in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships. In 2016, a fourth-place finish in the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs was a bridge to the Division I state tourney. In ’17, fourth means the season is over for the team from Ewa Beach.
It was a game of huge momentum swings. Krenston Kaipo finished with 226 yards and three TDs through the air. He was also picked off four times, including the final one on fourth down in overtime. But the key is, the Sabers never gave up, not when they trailed 13-0 at the half. Not when they were down 21-14 with 2:23 remaining in regulation. And certainly not after falling behind in OT.
“Way to finish. Way to fight back,” Campbell coach Darren Johnson said. “Way to finish through some adversity. Hat’s off to Waianae. Both teams came out playing good football. Both teams were coached well. Somebody’s got to lose. Tonight, we were on the bad end of the deal, and that’s all right. Waianae’s going to do good at the state tournament.”
With two running backs out with injuries, the Sabers couldn’t muster much of a ground attack: 13 carries, minus-1 yard. But they made up for it with Kaipo’s gritty play in the pocket. Jalen Henderson (four receptions, 84 yards, TD), S/WR/RET Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa (four, 64, one) and Vernon Etrata-Daite (five, 45) came through, as did LB/RB Tyrese Tafai, who made perhaps the catch of the year with a 14-yard, diving grab in the corner of the end zone for a game-tying TD with 1:07 left in regulation.
“We put guys in there to make plays and he made the play we expected him to make,” Johnson said of Tafai, a sophomore. “It’s not a surprise.”
Campbell (7-5) could be especially potent next season. Most of its arsenal are underclassmen.
“I’m happy we got this far, but we play every game to win,” Johnson said. “I’m disappointed, but some of these seniors, we’ve just got to get them off to college. We want to keep them doing the right things. I think the highlight for us is that our kids stayed academically eligible the whole year and that was a big plus for us.”
What Johnson means is that when fourth quarter of last spring came along, all his players remained eligible, so they didn’t miss any games in preseason. That’s a rare feat anywhere.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, but again, we’ve got to do the right things in the classroom and in the community. We’ve got to be good people. We’re starting to show that and our kids are starting to understand that.”
Christian Shimabuku contributed to this report.