Richard Kennewell doesn’t do a lot of splashy stuff when he’s on the field.
He keeps his nose to the grindstone, running routes, making catches, blocking for his teammates. On Friday afternoon, his value as a defender took center stage in a tight battle won by Clackamas (Ore.) 7-0 over host ‘Iolani.
Kennewell’s sack of Raiders quarterback Jonah Chong helped put out the fire just as the home team was seizing momentum in the second half. The 15-yard loss was crucial, setting the Raiders back to the 30-yard line.
“The tackle went in to take care of our defensive end. Then I just blitzed off the weak side,” he said.
One play later, on fourth down, a bomb from Chong to receiver Rayden Kaneshiro was caught, but ruled out of the back of the end zone.
‘Iolani, which had missed a field goal in its previous series, never penetrated Clackamas territory the rest of the way.
By game’s end, Kennewell — who caught six passes for 44 yards — was on the end of the bench with ice on his lower back while the rest of the Cavaliers celebrated near mid-field. The team brought around 60 or 70 fans with them, but Kennewell was hurting after getting injured late in the game.
It was a matter of role playing for the Cavaliers, who used their depth at just about every position. They rotated quarterbacks, getting solid work from Austin Atkenson and Caleb Jordan. They were a combined 23-for-31, 217 yards with just one pick. Seven Cavaliers caught passes, led by Nemo Dedmon (six receptions, 99 yards).
But it was clutch defense against ‘Iolani’s dangerous offense that saved the day. After winning last year’s state title in Oregon’s highest classification, 6-A, opening the new season nearly 3,000 miles away in a hot climate wasn’t easy for the Cavaliers.
“We’ve seen ‘Iolani games (on tape), how they break tackles and go to the house,” 14th-year head coach Joe Bushman said. “We knew our front seven could do well, but I’m surprised how well we played in the secondary. The ball in the air, ball-hawking, attacking.”
Clackamas benefited from interceptions, all in the second quarter, by Grant Schoen, JeanElie Fleck and Ahmir Calhoun. ‘Iolani mustered 173 yards in total offense.
Dealing with the weather, which wasn’t all bad thanks to trade winds, was a factor. Clackamas’ special teams and skill-position players began loosening up an hour before kickoff. Their linemen didn’t take the field until the full team returned to warm up at 2:30 p.m., 45 minutes before game time.
“This is a different experience for our kids,” Bushman said. “They’re tuckered out. Halftime was like the eighth round of a championship fight. I tried to shorten everything in our pre-game as much as possible, and that was still probably too much.”
The Cavaliers kept things simple, using field position and that air-tight defense to protect the small lead.
“‘Iolani is really fast, really good and aggressive on defense,” Kennewell said.
The Cavaliers celebrated at game’s end as their fans cheered them on. They were, to a man, happy to escape with a victory and a lifetime’s worth of memories.
“It’s been a lot of fun going to the beach and hanging with my friends,” Kennewell said. “In Oregon, we have cold, dark, windy beaches.”