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Thursday, November 4, 2004



[ HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ]


Kahuku and Mililani
aim for OIA Red final

The top teams in the East and West need
wins tomorrow to reach the title game

The long season crystallizes tomorrow for the remaining four teams still alive in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference football playoffs.

Schedule

Friday

ILH
» Iolani at Punahou, 3:15 p.m.
» Saint Louis vs. Damien at Kamehameha, 4:45 p.m.
» Pac-Five at Kamehameha, 7:30 p.m.

OIA Red Semifinals
At Aloha Stadium
» Mililani vs. Castle, 4:30 p.m.
» Kahuku vs. Leilehua, 7 p.m.


Neighbor-island Schedule

Friday

BIIF D-II playoffs
» Kamehameha-Hawaii at Konawaena, 7 p.m.

KIF
» Waimea vs. Kapaa at Hanapepe Ball Park, 7:35 p.m.

MIL
» Lahainaluna at Kekaulike, 7:30 p.m.
» Kamehameha-Maui vs. Pac 3 at War Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

BIIF D-I playoffs
» Keaau at Kealakehe, 7 p.m.

MIL
» Baldwin vs. Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

So far, so normal. Not a single upset in the tournament, which resumes tomorrow when Castle takes on unbeaten Mililani.

Later that night, top-ranked Kahuku faces Leilehua in a classic David-and-Goliath matchup. Tomorrow's winners advance to the championship game. They also secure state tournament berths.

The losers? They get one more shot in next week's third-place game, which will provide the league with its third and final state-tournament entry.

Here's a look at the OIA Red semifinal battles:

No. 8 Castle (7-2)
vs.
No. 2 Mililani (9-0)

» Last week: Castle def. Kapolei 16-6; Mililani def. Kailua 41-21.

» On paper: Castle is patched up, tied together with string and still awaiting reinforcements to its M*A*S*H unit.

Mililani runs deep, literally. The Trojans have a committee of able running backs, led by Kekoa Perbera. They are relatively healthy, especially with the return of defensive end/linebacker Michael Suan. Even their newcomers, like middle 'backer Josh Andrews, have been tremendous contributors.

Seems Mililani should have this game won even before the two teams hit the FieldTurf.

» The skinny: The Black Knights of Castle football are vivid proof of why anything written on paper can be erased at the opening kickoff. Twice this year, Castle has overcome 28-14 deficits for 29-28 wins, including one behind backup quarterback Jordan Nakayama.

In fact, it was two years ago when Mililani went to Castle and took a two-touchdown lead into the final minutes. Castle came from behind for a resounding win, setting the tone for a successful season.

The Trojans weren't quite the team they are now. They're balanced on offense, defense and special teams. In the run-heavy West, they allowed just 68 yards per game. Last week, Kailua racked up significant yardage on the ground, but Mililani is an extremely pliable bunch.

Offensively, Maka Kahoano (13-for-21, 177 yards, no picks) completed passes to five different teammates in the first half. After intermission, the Trojans adjusted and virtually shut down Kailua's running game.

Can Mililani stop Castle's run-and-shoot? The Trojans have played one squad that racks up passing yardage like it's nobody's business: Leilehua.

The Trojans limited the Mules to just 14 points. They also met Punahou, another run-and-shoot team, and limited it to 7 points. In other words, the Trojans have the speed and smarts to deal with shotgun teams.

The question remains, even with all-state caliber Blaze Soares healthy at linebacker, can Castle's defense withstand the brutal pounding of Mililani's offensive line for four quarters?

Another question: Will Mililani's secondary make another mistake by gambling on interceptions? Kailua showed that a quick pass can yield a big play, and the Surfriders don't quite have the passing game that Castle does. Nakayama may have started the season at second string, but his efficiency and speed are big factors. He threw just two interceptions during the regular season.

» X factor: The Knights know plenty about Mililani's tackle-breaking wideout, Jon Santos, the West's second-leading receiver in yardage. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior had five grabs, 76 yards and one touchdown last week.

It's the other receiver, Nick Rogers, who stepped up last week with key catches in traffic and finished with three receptions for 62 yards, including an 11-yard scoring play. The midseason addition of Rogers, a blue-collar rebounder on the basketball court, is almost unfair for opposing defenses.

No team can focus on Mililani's ground game and Santos any more. The 6-foot-2 Rogers, who can go short or long, kicks Mililani's offense up a notch.

No. 9 Leilehua (8-1)
vs.
No. 1 Kahuku (8-1)

» Last week: Leilehua def. Farrington 7-6; Kahuku def. Aiea 32-8

» On paper: What? The mighty Mules? A threat to the most dominant team in the state?

Never say never. Kahuku has a tendency, now and then, to let the pigskin hit the mud, grass, turf. And that alone always gives opportunistic foes hope.

Problem is, if Leilehua's hybrid offense isn't clicking, the clock will keep stopping. It could be a blowout early. Maybe.

» The skinny: Kahuku saw passing offenses. The results were lopsided wins over Castle and Saint Louis. Red Raider defensive backs like Al Afalava have speed and size.

The Mules don't see secondary players like that often. In fact, Kahuku may not need to blitz often, relying on its DBs to play straight up.

Leilehua's mix of Florida State, Hawaii, San Francisco and the old Mule offense produced the West's No. 1 passing attack (263 yards per game). Kahuku ranked second against the pass (107 yards per game) in the East. Will receivers Anthony Palomares and Chustin Senas be productive against the Red Raiders? They have the size and skills to make a difference. Whether quarterback Bryant Moniz will have enough time and windows available is another question.

If Kahuku sits back, Leilehua may be dared to run the ball. That means the Mules' undersized, but highly-efficient O-line will be tested. So will running back Justin Lawelawe, the fifth-leading receiver in the West.

Aiea showed that Kahuku's running game can be tripped up a bit. If the Red Raiders still don't have their top two running backs this weekend, they'll still have power on the ground. They may have to go to the air again, which is a luxury because they have one of the state's top receivers in Spencer Hafoka.

The senior caught four touchdown passes from Bronson Ponciano-Ahue in the win last week.

» X factor: Micah Strickland (671 yards in five games, 19.7 yards per carry, nine touchdowns). If he plays this weekend, Kahuku's offense will be at full throttle. If he doesn't play, the Red Raiders lose the state's top breakaway threat.

Here's a look at tomorrow's ILH schedule:

No. 6 Iolani (8-1, 5-1 ILH)
vs.
Punahou (4-5, 2-4 ILH)

» Last week: Iolani def. Damien 49-7; Punahou def. Pac-Five 35-2

» On paper: Rankings and records mean less than the arch rivalry between these old private schools. Hate is too simplistic a word to describe the mood and desires of alums of the two institutions when it comes to any matchup between the Raiders and Buffanblu.

Of course, for those of us who pay attention to win-loss standings and league championships, this is a huge game for Iolani. The Raiders are in position to qualify for a shot at the ILH championship.

If Iolani and Kamehameha both win or both lose tomorrow, they will play for the ILH title.

» The skinny: Iolani and Punahou both operate the run-and-shoot with their own sets of tweaks and wrinkles. Iolani loves to run out of the shotgun set with a pulling guard. Punahou occasionally goes to an Ace formation to run the ball.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two offenses is experience. Punahou signal-caller Brett Kan has been effective against slower defenses, but his relative youth (sophomore) has made this a learning year.

Iolani's Kiran Kepo'o went through that phase last year, and now the junior is among the top quarterbacks in the state. He knows when to break out of the pocket, and picks his spots when coverage is tight.

» X factor: Mike Hirokawa is the little engine that propelled the Raider offense into new territory. Without his production, moving the chains would've become a serious issue for the Raiders. Thanks to him -- and his consistent O-line -- Iolani has more field to work with, sideline to sideline.

Punahou hasn't found a Hirokawa-type runner this season, and that has hampered its ability to sustain drives.

Damien (4-5, 2-4 ILH)
vs.
No. 5 Saint Louis (7-3, 4-2 ILH)

» Last week: Damien lost at Iolani 49-7; Saint Louis lost to Kamehameha 18-0.

» On paper: Once again, sturdy Vaa Faualo ran for more than 100 yards, but Damien's inability to throw effectively makes life easier for opposing defenses.

Saint Louis is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Kamehameha, but will likely not have a letdown.

» The skinny: The Crusaders know they are still mathematically in the hunt for the league's Division I title. A win would assure the Crusaders that they did their part.

» X factor: It will be important for both teams to finish the season with maximum effort. While Saint Louis has tradition to lean on next year, the Monarchs will be aiming to return to the state tournament. That momentum, in some ways, begins in the final week of this season.

Pac-Five (3-6-1, 0-5-1 ILH)
vs.
No. 3 Kamehameha (7-2-1, 5-1 ILH)

» On paper: The Warriors won't be looking past the Wolfpack, not after two decades of waiting for another ILH title.

The Warriors are deeper and have momentum on their side.

» The skinny: Pac-Five hasn't been the same since suffering a number of injuries late in preseason. What started with three wins against OIA teams has turned into a struggle for the depleted 'Pack.

Pac-Five likes to throw the ball, but Kamehameha has a steady secondary that has seen some of the state's best passing attacks in Saint Louis, Iolani, Punahou and Baldwin.

If Kamehameha sticks to its usual game plan, the Warriors will wear down the Wolfpack defense by the second half. Pac-Five would love to move the ball with some precise passes by Bryson Beirne and inside running from Brashton Satele. The 'Pack will need a perfect game to stay in this one.

» X factor: Ikaika Hardie. The speedy wide receiver is a multiple threat as a receiver and a runner. The Warriors like to send him in motion and hand him the ball for end-arounds.

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