By Paul Honda
Kahuku was the top seed, but the Kamehameha Warriors were top flight.
The Warriors ruled the first half with a 20-point lead before fighting off the Red Raiders for a 34-21 win in the final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I State Football Championships last night before 22,661 at Aloha Stadium.
Kamehameha won its first state crown since 2004 by using a dominant defense and a balanced offense. The Warriors also got the edge in the kicking game by blocking a Kahuku punt.
Kahuku’s dynamic kicker, Cameron Mercado, delivered two kickoffs for touchbacks but never materialized as a key weapon late in the game as the Red Raiders lost for the first time after 12 wins.
Second-seeded Kamehameha (12-1), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion, relied on a consistent, smart offensive line and running back Ryan Ho (121 yards on 24 carries). Quarterback T.C. Campbell was sharp for most of the game, throwing for 183 yards (15-for-25) and three touchdowns. He tossed two picks, though one was on a bomb in the final seconds of the first half.
Kahuku’s offense came to life with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and it seemed another amazing comeback was in store. However, Kamehameha’s defense regrouped, and the Red Raiders gave up more points than they had in any of their previous games.
Kamehameha’s O-line defused Kahuku’s explosive tandem of Hauoli Jamora (one sack) and Kona Schwenke (none).
“We had a couple of packages to get seven-man protection,” said Kamehameha’s third-year coach, David Stant. “Those two are players, man, and their linebackers moved around a lot.”
Kamehameha defensive end Beau Yap’s father, Boyd, was part of Kaiser’s state-title team 30 years ago. Yap and teammates Kawika Stant and Landon Aano had five tackles each to lead the way.
The first half was all Warriors. Kahuku needed to play well on special teams, but a blocked punt by Kamehameha snuffed out that possibility. Offensively, the Red Raiders didn’t convert a first down in the first half and managed only 31 yards, while Kamehameha controlled the line of scrimmage with 12 first downs and 201 yards.
Kamehameha scored touchdowns on three of its first five series. Campbell’s 14-yard slant pass to Brent Auyong came just two downs after the two missed on the same play, and one play after Ho eked out a 2-yard gain on fourth and 2.
Kamehameha’s next drive ended with an overthrown pass by Campbell intended for Auyong in the right corner of the end zone, but field position favored the Warriors all half.
A punt block by senior Bryson Burnett gave Kamehameha the ball at Kahuku’s 9-yard line midway through the second quarter. Ho scored three plays later on an option pitch from Campbell, a 9-yard run that made it 14-0 with 6:50 left in the half.
Three plays later, Kamehameha safety Wave Ryder’s 33-yard interception return gave the Warriors the ball again. Campbell then fired a bullet on an out pattern to Charley Bollig IV and Kamehameha led 20-0 with 5:43 remaining in the half.
Kahuku finally moved the chains in the second half, marching 92 yards in 10 plays. Evan Moe’s 27-yard play-action pass to Punga Vea came with 6:25 left in the third quarter.
After Kamehameha’s first three and out of the game, Kahuku needed just three plays to strike paydirt again. Fullback Fonoivasa Mataafa’s 36-yard burst up the middle on third and 1 brought Kahuku’s fans to their feet, and the Red Raiders trailed 20-14 with 3:58 remaining in the third.
Campbell and the Kamehameha offense snuffed out that momentum, though, with a 10-play, 80-yard march that culminated with a 10-yard slant pass to Bollig. The Warriors led 27-14 with 31 ticks left in the third.
After Kahuku went three and out on the next series, Kamehameha went 76 yards in six plays, capping the drive on Ho’s 27-yard burst up the gut. Tarra Gabriel’s PAT kick made it 34-14 with 8:02 left.
Kamehameha cornerback Chaz Bajet picked off a deep Moe pass — Bajet’s seventh pick of the year — to end Kahuku’s ensuing possession. Kahuku managed one final touchdown, a 16-yard toss from Moe to Vea, with 2:41 remaining.
“It’s amazing,” said Bajet, who also won a state title as the starting point guard for the school’s basketball team last winter. “I’ve always dreamed of Kamehameha winning a football state championship.”
Kamehameha cornerback Walter Santiago Jr. played a key role, as well. His father, Kahuku offensive coordinator Walter Santiago Sr., had mixed emotions after the game.
“We threw to his side a couple of times. He was a little more aggressive off the ball and pressed his receiver,” the father said. “I’m just proud of him.”
Kamehameha 34, Kahuku 21
At Aloha Stadium
Kamehameha (12-1) 7 13 7 7 — 34
Kahuku (12-1) 0 0 14 7 — 21
KS—Brent Auyong 14 pass from T.C. Campbell (Tarra Campbell kick)
KS—Ryan Ho 9 run (Gabriel kick)
KS—Charley Bollig 8 pass from Campbell (kick failed)
KAH—Punga Vea 26 pass from Evan Moe (Cameron Mercado kick)
KAH—Fonoivasa Mataafa 36 run (Mercado kick)
KS—Bollig 10 pass from Campbell (Gabriel kick)
KS—Ho 27 run (Gabriel kick)
KAH—Vea 16 pass from Moe (Mercado kick)
RUSHING—Kamehameha: Ho 24-121, Jason Muraoka 3-21, Campbell 6-18, Blaise Cuban 1-10, Kupono Park 1-3, Bryson Baqui 1-3, Michael Kukahiwa-Haruno 3-(-2). Kahuku: Mataafa 5-54, Viliami Pasi 9-29, Tyrone Brown 5-18, Alfoga Wily 3-12, Sage Kaka 1-(-1), Evan Moe 6-(-7).
PASSING—Kamehameha: Campbell 15-26-2-183. Kahuku: Moe 7-17-2-138.
RECEIVING—Kamehameha: Bollig 6-102, Cuban 2-21, Keola Bradley 2-15, Muraoka 1-16, Auyong 1-14, Dyson Hoohuli 1-11, Charlton Tang 1-6, Ho 1-(-2). Kahuku: Vea 5-106, Kaka 1-33, Pasi 1-(-1).