Campbell is known as a rugged football team, but the Sabers got beat in the sturdiness department by ‘Iolani on Friday night.
As a result, Campbell (7-5) is done for the season, having been vanquished by the Raiders 35-12 in the state Division I semifinals in Mililani.
Sure, the Raiders (5-7) had plenty of their usual finesse, but in the trenches and in the tackling and blocking parts of the game, they stood toe to toe with the bigger opponents from Ewa Beach.
‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said he wanted to stop Campbell’s running game and that’s certainly what the Raiders did. Sabers running back Tasi Faumui was contained for just 54 yards and quarterback Kawika Ulufale got loose for 46 with most of those yards coming late in the game when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
‘Iolani’s overall defense went on a huge roll with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Four of those takeaways led to scores.
Makana LaBoy had two of team’s interceptions and Kaua Nishigaya and Kyler Mento had one each. Jonah Buchanan and Isaac Anderson had the fumble recoveries, and Cameron Chang added a tackle for loss.
In the passing game, Raiders quarterback Tai-John Mizutani was super effective and his line gave him plenty of time. He finished 23-for-35 with three touchdown throws. In addition, running back KJ Pascua bashed his way for 80 yards on 20 carries and two TDs.
So now for ‘Iolani, it’s on to the D-I state championship game against Mililani (8-3) at Aloha Stadium, where Coach Look will be matched up against his former player, Rod York, the head coach of the Trojans.
Both offenses can move the chains, and Mililani offense is a little more dangerous in the deep game. It might come down to how well the Trojans can interfere with Mizutani and his short-passing game.
All in all, it appears to be a great Division I (middle tier) matchup now that the big dogs like Kahuku and Saint Louis, etc., are playing in the Open division.
It’s worth taking a look at how all four D-I semifinal teams fared this season against teams that eventually made the Open tournament:
>> Mililani (1-2): beat Farrington, lost to Kapolei, lost to Waianae
>> Campbell (1-2): lost to Farrington twice, beat Waianae
>> ‘Iolani (0-4): lost to Saint Louis twice and lost to Punahou twice
>> Leilehua (0-5): lost to Kahuku twice and also lost to Punahou, Farrington and Kapolei
You can see how these teams weren’t quite ready for the top tier but are very much a contender in the middle tier.
Add in Moanalua, which was 0-3 against eventual Open teams with losses to Waianae, Kapolei and Kahuku, and it really becomes clear how the pieces seem to be a great fit for D-I. Last week, Na Menehune lost in the D-I quarters by just three points, 17-14, to ‘Iolani. A regular-season game in which Moanalua beat Campbell 12-6 in double overtime is another example of the competitive balance of these D-I tourney teams.
It’s also interesting to note that the other three losses this season by the Mules (5-8) were all to Mililani, all by similar scores (52-35, 63-42, 51-35) in games that Leilehua obviously didn’t just give up on.
And let’s not forget about the Neighbor Island champions, Hilo and Baldwin. The Vikings lost by just one to Leilehua, 26-25, in the quarters, while the Bears ran into the Trojans’ high-powered offense in a relatively competitive 49-28 loss.