By Paul Honda
Five years is a pretty long time.
In Kamehameha football, it might as well be animal years. You know, one human year is seven years for an animal, like a dog.
At least, that’s how Kamehameha alums see it. No, there’s no written code on how many years are permitted to pass without an Interscholastic League of Honolulu football title … but hang around with enough Warrior fans and you’ll know: five years is too long for their tastes.
Common complaint No. 1: “We don’t have great quarterbacks.”
This is something I’ve heard from many Kamehameha fans. It has some truth to it. Kamehameha usually has capable passers, but as high as expectations are, the school does have a limited enrollment and the academic requirements are consistent, at least these days. Not every great passer who applies to Kapalama campus gets in.
That’s why it’s noteworthy that T.C. Campbell has evolved so much this season. A year ago, he was a passable signal-caller learning on the job. Now? The Warriors are league champs after a 45-21 win over Punahou, clinching the Division I title.
After gunning five touchdowns against a stellar Punahou defense — without an interception — to help clinch the league title, Campbell might be the tipping point that lifts Kamehameha to its first state title since 2004.
It’s not just him, though. Kamehameha has, arguably, the best defense in the state. D-linemen? Linebackers? Secondary? All solid to superior.
Special teams? Solid. Not spectacular, but solid, and they have three placekickers who can do the job(s).
The Warriors have relied on bullish run blocking and tough running backs for years. With Ryan Ho (153 yards, 32 carries), they have a back with a second, third and fourth gear AFTER contact. The offensive line — left tackle Travis Namohala, left guard Kamalani Kaluhiokalani, center Blaze Ryder, right guard Claudio Borge and right tackle Cameron Baron — didn’t allow a sack while paving the way for another win.
All of those factors play into Campbell’s success, and he knows it.
“It’s a team win. It’s not about the stats,” Campbell said. “We’ll do the same things that got us here and see wherever God takes us.”
Punahou’s multi-faceted offense, which added the fly motion to the shotgun and pistol formations, a.k.a. wildcat, didn’t get far. A reverse pitch netted a 44-yard touchdown run by Jeff Pedrina — a play similar to the go-ahead touchdown scored one night later on the same field by Kahuku against Leilehua.
Kamehameha’s stellar defense could breathe a little easier with so much production by the offense.
“What really helped us is our offense stepped up big,” defensive tackle Landon Aano said.
To be certain, Kamehameha played solid defense once again. Punahou managed 106 passing yards (4-for-13) and 95 rushing yards. Chaz Bajet, Micah Pescaia and Wave Ryder had interceptions. Ryder was a receiver last year, but switched to the secondary, where his 6-foot-3 frame gives him a nice view of all developments.
“We only had a little time to prepare (for Punahou),” Ryder said. “We knew they’d try to outscheme us. We watched plenty of film.”
Coach David Stant preaches work ethic, and his team has responded in full so far. This was a team that went through four-a-days in summer. Even photo day began at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. The team was out on the field early, just another day with the football family.
Like Stant, the team has a personality befitting a champion. Slow to anger, attention to details and cohesive. Actions speaking instead of mere words — a quiet discipline that is less common these days. While other teams, including some very good ones, have endured unnecessary lapses of discipline (non-contact drills turning into full-contact injuries) and suspensions, academic or otherwise, the Warriors have played like champions.
They are now two wins away from a state crown.
Pac-Five 33, Word of Life 14
P.J. Minaya hooked up with London Amorin for three consecutive touchdowns — 40, 41 and 38 yards — in three consecutive offensive plays to end a stalemate in the second half.
Amorin amassed 200 yards on nine receptions. Minaya finished with 337 passing yards and five touchdown passes, including two to Darin Kamealoha.
With the score tied at 14-all in the third quarter, the tide began to turn when Pac-Five linebacker Payton Lott popped the ball loose from WOLA running back Richard Landford. Reyn Sugai recovered for the Wolfpack at the Pac-Five 8-yard line. Moments later, a muffed punt return by WOLA was recovered by the ‘Pack, and Minaya immediately launched a 40-yard bomb to Amorin for the go-ahead score.
After a fumble by WOLA’s Awa Poggi, who rushed for 171 yards on 37 carries, Minaya went right back to the air and found Amorin for a 41-yard scoring play. Pac-Five led 26-14 with 55 seconds left in the third.
An interception by safety Chad Sumulong led to another Minaya-to-Amorin touchdown, and the ‘Pack had a 33-14 lead with 11:39 left to play.
Word of Life finished with 292 rushing yards on 68 attempts.
The 33-14 final score was the same when the teams met four weeks ago.
1925: Saint Louis
1927: Saint Louis
1930: Saint Louis
1941: Saint Louis
1942: Saint Louis
1948: Saint Louis and Punahou
1949: Saint Louis
1955: Roosevelt and Punahou
1960: Punahou and Farrington
1966: Saint Louis
1967: Saint Louis
1969: Saint Louis
1970: Saint Louis and Punahou
1973: Saint Louis
1981: Saint Louis
1983: Saint Louis
1984: Saint Louis
1986: Saint Louis
1987: Saint Louis
1988: Saint Louis
1989: Saint Louis
1990: Saint Louis
1991: Saint Louis
1992: Saint Louis
1993: Saint Louis
1994: Saint Louis
1995: Saint Louis
1996: Saint Louis
1997: Saint Louis
1998: Saint Louis
1999: Saint Louis
2000: Saint Louis
2001: Saint Louis
2002: Saint Louis
2003: Saint Louis
2006: Saint Louis
2007: Saint Louis