The third-ranked Kahuku Red Raiders are taking Friday night’s opponent very seriously.
Coach Sterling Carvalho‘s boys, who have improved steadily since the beginning of the season and pulled out a 7-3 victory over Mililani for the OIA championship late last month, meet the fifth-ranked Campbell Sabers for the third time this season tonight in the Open Division semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships at Aloha Stadium.
Two comfortable victories over the Sabers (35-7 and 46-0), however, do not mean a thing now. This one is do or die for both teams. The winner will get either top-ranked Saint Louis (10-0) or fourth-ranked Mililani (8-4) in the Open championship game Nov. 29.
“With Campbell right now, it’s scary,” Carvalho said Thursday after a walkthrough that was moved from the home grass to the gym because of poor field conditions. “It’s easy to take a team lightly when you’ve beaten them twice and you’re playing them a third time. They know our ins and outs, they’ve scouted us well, they’ve got good tape on us, (coach) Darren (Johnson) is from this side and knows our kids. We expect Campbell to be hungry. We’re playing on a fast field; the last two times were on our field. They’re a scary team for us right now.”
Carvalho is looking to cut down on mistakes that nearly cost them the title against the Trojans.
“To get by Campbell and, if we beat them, Mililani or Saint Louis, we have to play great football,” he said. “We can’t have too many penalties and turnovers. We had too many fumbles in that OIA championship.”
The Red Raiders (8-3) practiced at Castle’s turf field Wednesday night to help them get used to Aloha Stadium’s surface.
That surface might just be what the Sabers (6-5) need, with the highly athletic and agile Titus Mokiao-Atimalala and other offensive studs running routes and not having to worry about footing.
But the fast track may also help Kahuku, which also has plenty of speedy athletes, including the hard-running and shifty Zealand Matagi at running back.
“Campbell is a tough team,” Red Raiders defensive back Peter-John Mataira said after the walkthrough. “They have athletes. But I think we’re ready for them.”
Added quarterback Jason Mariteragi: “We’re feeling ready, even though we had a long time off. We’re trying to stay disciplined. We’ve been trying out some new packages, trying to catch them (Campbell and possibly Saint Louis and Mililani after that) off guard. Practices have been going good. We believe in ourselves and we’re going to go out and play our game.”