This was the upset special of the season, and it happened in a throwback sort of way.
Campbell, clinging to stay above .500, laid the hammer down on No. 4 Waianae, 14-12, in what is likely to be remembered as a pivotal turn of events.
You see, the Seariders (6-2, 5-2) were cruising along in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Blue, needing only a win over the Sabers to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. Instead, the Sabers can get that first-round bye by beating winless Radford at home next week.
Yes, a major upset. Campbell (4-3, 4-2) was clearly up for the challenge and delivered a shocking blow to the Seariders, who were widely considered the second-best team in the OIA, behind No. 1 and undefeated Kahuku.
Now is a good time to talk about the radar, and by radar, we mean that Campbell — which had made such big strides in the last half-decade — had kind of fallen off with a down year last season. This puts the Sabers right back on that radar.
And the larger meaning here is: If Campbell gets that bye and makes a push in the playoffs, it’s quite possible that it could get into the first-ever Open division state tournament. As far as the OIA goes, that means all you have to do is win a quarterfinal game to get in. A first-round bye puts you in the league quarterfinals, which means one win gets you into the Open.
It would be a surprise if Campbell got there, but not a gigantic surprise. There is a lot of pride on the Ewa plains and sometimes that — shall we say — “heart” of a blue-collar town is not taken seriously enough by those teams going against the orange and black.
Not that Waianae took Campbell for granted. The Seariders knew they were in for a battle, and that’s exactly what they got.
A 2-point loss while still playing top-notch smashmouth football? Not too much to be ashamed about in the Seardiders’ case. But then there’s the matter of six — count them, 6 — personal-foul penalties. That’s a lot. That can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Throw in three lost fumbles and you can kind of see how Waianae self-destructed.
But … and this is a big one … by no means does that take away from Campbell’s gritty and highly successful night.
It was obvious that the Sabers WANTED this game, big-time. It’s the kind of game that makes sports special. If the favored team wins all the time, what’s the point?
And this season has been like that, come to think of it. Name one other big upset. Things have gone according to plan for the most part in Hawaii high school football.
Oh wait, driving to the game, there was a radio broadcast of the St. Francis upset of Damien. But major upset? No. Plus, you heard it here first: Give it five to 10 years and the Saints will be a Division I or Open contender.
You can laugh at that if you want, and people have. But the school is concentrating on boosting its sports programs. Not just talk. A concerted effort. It will pay dividends and it already has. So this is the warning: “Watch out for St. Francis.”
Still, it was an amazing ending for the Saints, and color analyst David Hallums actually called the key play before it happened — a long pass to the 5-yard line from Bubba Akana to Scott Moore. On the next play, St. Francis scored for the winning touchdown in the 15-12 victory.
But back to Campbell.
“This was an important victory for us,” Sabers coach Amosa Amosa said.
One thing people might forget: even in that “down” year last season, Campbell came on really strong at the end of the season. It’s that pride, right?
Now let’s take a look at rushing, passing and total yardage by the two teams Friday night:
>> Waianae — 147 rushing yards
>> Campbell — 28 rushing yards
>> Waianae — 60 passing yards
>> Campbell — 171 passing yards
>> Waianae — 207 total yards
>> Campbell — 199 total yards.
Pretty even, right?
It was smashmouth central, btw. The replay of the game is on TV right now — at 12:35 a.m. … technically morning already. … And, this second serving of the game looks like a bunch of guys just trying to hit each other.
Kind of the definition of football, until you start talking about the wizardry aspects of people such as Joe Montana, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. That’s smarts and arm strength. At some point in the history of football, those aspects were added. It started as running and hitting and pushing and gaining yards by being physically superior and stronger.
But back to hitting each other on Friday night.
Wait … it should be noted that Waianae linebacker Jaylen Gonzales, on the replay, just chased down Campbell quarterback Kawika Ulufale for a loss. Great play. Gonzales, after the game, said things like, “Losses happen.”
That was pretty cool. He didn’t like losing, but he was not a sore sport at all. He said, “Both teams played great.”
It should be noted that Nick Abramo, the author of this story, voted for Gonzales for Honolulu Star-Advertiser second team as a linebacker last season. Not sure if anyone else voted for him for first, second or third team. Don’t think so.
He is always in the middle of whatever is happening on defense for Waianae, whether it’s the pile or a solo tackle or an open-field thud.
Now, back to the smashmouth aspect. These teams were pounding on each other. Waianae came out in the second half and decided that if it can’t run on Campbell that it didn’t deserve to win. And that’s what happened. The Seariders ran the ball 26 straight times in the second half. The last two (of 28) plays were incomplete passes.
Two plays illustrate the real football going on out there when the game was on the line:
1) The situation — Campbell ball on the Waianae 9 late in the game. A TD would seal the win. The first-down give is to Sabers running back Tasi Faumui, who is met at the line of scrimmage by Waianae’s Ailua Feletoa in a collision for the ages. Side highlight — on the next two downs, Gonzales (on that replay highlight mentioned before) and Kanai Mauga both get to Ulufale for 3-yard losses and the Sabers are forced to punt. It led to Waianae’s last-gasp possession that ran out of steam near midfield.
2) The situation — it’s second and 7 to go for Waianae on its last possession from its own 44. Campbell’s Kishaun Ki tackles Waianae running back Javen Towne. It’s a 2-yard gain, but for good measure, Ki doesn’t stop on his pushing back and the whistle doesn’t blow when it should have. So, even though it’s a 2-yard gain, Towne ends up on the ground 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Has it been mentioned that this was a real football game? Three yards and a cloud of new Campbell grass. Passing was secondary.
Oh yeah, it should also be mentioned that this was the second straight home game for Campbell, which hadn’t played on its home field for a year and a half while upgrades were made.
Two wins. The first? A 12-6 double-overtime win over Moanalua one week earlier.
And there’s got to be props for Ulufale, who went 14-for-19 for 171 yards and a touchdown against that imposing Waianae defense. He also added a 1-yard TD on a quarterback sneak.
And something should be said about the resiliency of Markus Ramos, a top-notch pitcher for the Campbell baseball team, who is a tall target. He caught an early 32-yard TD pass, and then caught an 18-yard pass near the end of the game to bring the ball to the Waianae 20. Although the Sabers were eventually stopped, it made Waianae’s task of pulling out the win with a late touchdown or field goal a lot tougher.
If people are counting Kahuku (5-1, 5-0) as a given in the Open division, and that sounds like a knowledgable to thing to do, it also means that the next three spots from the OIA into the Open are up for grabs.
Who wants it? Waianae? Farrington? Campbell? Mililani? Leilehua? Moanalua? Kailua? Aiea?
Well, guess what? Even if those or other contending teams lose in the quarterfinals, they are automatically in the Division I states.