HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
High school teams put on mileage tomorrow
Aiea's long trip to Waianae is minor compared with Konawaena's trek
There's travel day and then there's major travel day.
From Oahu to the Big Island, teams are venturing farther than teams have traveled before. More or less.
Not only is the gas mileage racking up -- and subsequent bus rental costs -- but several of tomorrow's games will have playoff implications for winners.
Among the possible victors are Aiea and Waianae, preseason contenders for the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West title. Na Alii have an important trip to Waianae (4-2, 4-0 Red West), where a full house is expected at Raymond Torii Field.
Injuries have taken their toll on Aiea, including five in last week's loss to Mililani. Na Alii are 2-2 in conference play (3-3 overall) and need to stay afloat to qualify for the playoffs.
"This is gonna be a tough game. They've got tough receivers," Waianae coach Daniel Matsumoto said. "We've gotta make sure we understand our coverages. They're up there with Punahou skill-wise."
Waianae's stellar defense, led by 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker George Kauwalu, has allowed only 6.8 points per game in league play. The last two efforts were shutouts, an amazing feat for a defense that has its share of underclassmen.
In fact, when two starting linebackers missed the early part of the season due to an off-field incident, the Seariders seemed to have deep voids. The concern was for naught. Ernest Stevens (6-0, 225) and Josh Iriarte (5-7, 175), penciled in as reserves, entered the starting lineup without a glitch.
"It's been neat that the kids up from the JV have stepped up," Matsumoto said.
The Seariders have shown enough balance on offense to keep Red West defenses guessing. After falling to Farrington and Punahou in nonconference play, all they've done is roll over the Red West with four straight wins: Mililani, Campbell, Leilehua and Radford.
After showing their prowess through the air earlier in the season, Waianae returned to earth. The Seariders ran 49 times for 314 yards against Leilehua's normally tough defense. Joe Abell ran for 116 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Ben McQuown threw just five passes, completing three for 11 yards.
Enter Aiea, which had one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the league. However, Na Alii were decimated by injuries through the first half of the season. Last week, backup quarterback Keenan Naeole was one of five players to suffer injuries.
The two teams are first and second in Red West total offense, but the difference could be on defense. Aiea's defense is just fourth against the run (143 yards per game), while Waianae's ground attack ranks first (223 yards per game).
The ride is 25 miles to Waianae, but Na Alii could be thankful. At least they won't be traveling on a Friday afternoon.
Here's a look at tomorrow's other games, mileage included.
Pearl City (3-0-1, 2-0-1) at Kaiser (3-2, 3-1)
-- The first-place finisher in the OIA White gets a bye into the championship game. That makes this trip to Hawaii Kai an especially important one for the front-running Chargers. It won't be easy against a Cougar squad that routed Waialua 42-21 last week. Isaac Saffrey, one of the most underrated backs in the state, ran for 185 yards. Odometer: 48 miles round trip.
Nanakuli (1-4, 1-3) vs. Anuenue (1-5, 1-4), Roosevelt Stadium -- The Golden Hawks are coming off their first win of the season (40-7 over Kalani), but another long trip to town awaits. Lalo Respecio and Chase McGill shared duties at quarterback, combining for 8-for-16 passing for 99 yards. The last time Nanakuli's defense faced a run-and-shoot offense, Roosevelt won 24-0. Odometer: 56 miles round trip.
Waiakea (2-3, 2-2) at No. 9 Kealakehe (6-0, 4-0)
-- Gabe Tuata is as efficient as they get. He ran for 98 yards on just two carries in a win over Honokaa, then peeled out for a 95-yard touchdown run in last week's rout of Konawaena. Waiakea remembers him well -- he gained 126 yards on just seven attempts in Kealakehe's 26-7 win last year. Odometer: 198 miles round trip.
Kohala (1-3, 1-3) at Kamehameha-Hawaii (2-3, 2-2) -- The Warriors already have as many losses as they had all last season, but their youth is becoming less of an obstacle. Kohala lost at home to KS-Hawaii 44-6 last year. Odometer: 172 miles round trip.
Konawaena (3-2, 3-1) vs. Hilo (1-4, 1-3), Wong Stadium -- The Vikings are winless at home, which is Dr. Francis Wong Stadium. Though the Vikes play in Division I, they were no match for the D-II Wildcats last year. Konawaena won at home 40-0, and quarterback Kawai Kanuha is off to a strong start this year, but Hilo will see a lot of new faces across the line of scrimmage this time. Odometer on tilt: 210 miles round trip.