Red West Football Showdown at Campbell Friday Night

There are some things you guess at, some things you assume, and some things you just know. A breakdown of Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup between host Campbell and Kapolei follows.

Setting the stage – why watch: Rivalry games bring out the best in both teams, and Campbell-Kapolei matchups are never short on entertainment. This year’s contest has added intrigue, since both teams have remained in the OIA Red West title picture through six weeks of action. Depending on the results of Kapolei’s road date with Waianae last weekend and Campbell’s date with Waipahu, the outcome of this Campbell-Kapolei encounter could have huge implications in the league race. (Both schools also were watching last weekend’s Leilehua-Mililani matchup closely, as a Mililani win would turn the race upside down and open the door for Kapolei.) This marks the third straight road game for Kapolei, which had begun the season with five straight at home. The defining moment to date was Kapolei scoring 35 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of its riveting win over Leilehua in week four. For Campbell’s part, an error-filled second half doomed its chances in a 42-21 loss to Mililani in week four of Red West play, saddling the Sabers with a second conference loss. Their signature win of 2013 was 32-24 over Waianae Sept. 13.

Recent history: Campbell has won three of the last five Kapolei meetings. Results: Kapolei 35, Campbell 34 in 2012; Campbell 29, Kapolei 13 in 2011; Campbell 26, Kapolei 21 in 2010; Kapolei 13, Campbell 7 in 2009; Campbell 19, Kapolei 12 in 2007.

Defensive key to victory for Kapolei: Pressure Campbell’s quarterback Isaac Hurd and hope to create some turnovers. Mililani turned around its fortunes when it defeated Campbell two weeks ago by taking advantage of turnovers to win a game it had once trailed in, 21-7. Offensive balance is a huge key for the Saber offense, which has the personnel to make its short passing game akin to a run game.

As such, disrupting the precision that the Campbell passing game has shown in its best moments will be huge here. When Hurd and the Campbell passing attack are in rhythm, the Sabers control the game. The Kapolei defense needs to take the Sabers out of their comfort zone, and it all begins with getting a push up front from its defensive line.

Offensive key to victory for Kapolei: Control the ball and the clock with its run game. Kapolei’s offensive success is all because of its ability to be physical at the point of attack, and a huge night from their front five is plainly the key to this game. While it will likely need to make some plays in the passing game this week as well, the effectiveness of that passing attack will depend on its ability to ground out the yards via the run. A big game from running back Tristan Pebria could go a long way in aiding the cause. Quarterback Aizon Kahana’s decision-making should also figure big, as Campbell has been among the league’s best in converting the other team’s miscues into quick scores.

Offensive key to victory for Campbell: The Sabers need to first get out of their own way and eliminate turnovers and self-imposed miscues, such as momentum-stopping penalties. A pair of tide-turning interceptions proved to be critical in Campbell’s disastrous second half versus Mililani. Since the Kapolei offense thrives on controlling the ball and the clock with its own run game, Campbell’s best defense in this game could be its offense if it can move the chains and possess the ball, thus keeping the Kapolei offensive attack off the field for long stretches. With quarterback Hurd, running back Austin May and receivers Jayce Bantolina and Kainoa Perry, the Sabers have the weapons to do just that.

Defensive key to victory for Campbell: Stop the Kapolei run game. Is it a coincidence that Kapolei’s only 2013 loss (entering last weekend’s action, that is) came to Mililani, when the Hurricanes could muster a mere 69 yards on the ground? In Kapolei’s other three Red West games, its ground game produced 251 yards against Leilehua, 176 against Aiea and 182 against Waipahu. The Kapolei passing game is most effective when its run-game is clicking. To that end, first down will be a critical down for the Saber defense, which needs to put the Hurricanes in second and long situations, which translate into obvious passing downs.

Key match-up to watch: Campbell’s defensive front versus the Kapolei offensive line.