EWA BEACH — No. 9 Campbell overcame a slow start but managed to pull away from visiting Castle, 24-9 to open up the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I playoffs on Friday night.
The Sabers (6-3 overall, 5-2 league) advance to play the Red's second seed Leilehua (6-2 overall, 5-2 league) at Hugh Yoshida Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 14.
"They're on a five-game winning streak. You can see they're peaking at the right time. We have to play good football against them and eliminate penalties," said first-year Campbell coach Darren Johnson, on next week's matchup.
The Knights dropped their fourth-consecutive game to end their season at 3-6 overall, 3-4 league.
Tyrese Tafai rushed for 109 yards on 15 attempts and a touchdown and also added a tackle for loss on defense.
Krenston Kaipo passed for 246 yards, two scores and an interception on 15-of-25 passing.
"He got better as the game progressed. We had to play through the mistake. He got better and guys ran good routes and caught the football," Johnson said on Kaipo.
Castle had an opportunity to get on the board first but to the dismay of Knights' fans, Ezekiel Rombawa's would-be 99-yard fumble recovery was called back due to a penalty and the Knights immediately turned it over on the ensuing possession after Dylon Duque picked off Uyemura-Lee, who finished the night with 108 yards on 10-of-25 passing.
The Sabers held the Knights to 120 yards of total offense and sacked Uyemura-Lee four times, two by Isaac Sevao.
"Our defense played solid and didn't really give up any scores. The only points they got were that pick and that field goal. We have to play better mistake-free football," said Johnson.
"Our kids played tough. Campbell has a good offense and defense. Offensively, we have to go back to the books and see how we can make adjustments," said first-year Castle coach John Hao.
Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa's 52-yard punt return helped set up Tafai's 4-yard rushing touchdown two plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Cheyden Costa added a 41-yard field goal and Elijah Poo-Kekiwi intercepted Kaipo's pass and returned it 52 yards for the score, but the kick failed, to make it, 9-7 in favor of the Knights. Poo-Kekiwi recorded a game-high 12 tackles, one for a loss and a sack.
"Every game our defense holds us in the game. After a while our defense becomes tired and our offense wasn't scoring," said Hao.
"Our worst enemy is us scoring for the other team. Most of our picks go the other way. We have to work with our quarterback and make sure he makes solid throws and better reads," said Johnson.
Ariel Villanueva booted a 22-yard field goal and on the ensuing kickoff, Dylan Ursua recovered the fumble to put the Sabers near the Castle 24. Kaipo's screen to Tafai helped set up Gabriel Colon-Valentin's 10-yard reception from Kaipo and Villanueva added the PAT for a 17-9 lead that held up to halftime.
"That was big," Hao said on the turnover that resulted in Campbell points. "Our kids have to learn to let go of the negative and move on."
"We got some things that turned our way. We needed some breaks and got some breaks," said Johnson.
Following a Knights' punt, the Sabers scored on a four-play drive where the ball bounced toward the home team's favor. Kaipo completed a 17-yard pass to Viliami Vaimoui, who fumbled it at the 1, but Vernon Etrata-Daite was there to recover the fumble in the end zone for the last score of the night.
Castle had an opportunity early in the fourth quarter and marched all the way down to the Campbell 6 but turned it over on downs and was 1 of 3 on fourth down conversions.
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