JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Louis' Vonn Feao will get another crack at Punahou when the top two teams in ILH Division I meet for the second time this season. The Crusaders won the first meeting, 28-14.
High school teams head down the stretch
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One league is nearing the playoffs, and another is in the middle of traffic.
The Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference playoffs begin next week, and though the East champion is already determined, the West is wide open.
Mililani is 4-1 and alone atop the Red West, but a loss to Radford, plus a Waianae win over Kapolei, would open a Pandora's box. Why? Waianae, 3-2 in the Red West, knocked off Mililani in the opening week of the regular season. A Waianae win over Kapolei could result in a tie with Mililani. That would give Waianae the edge and the West title because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
In addition, Leilehua (3-2 in league play) and Kapolei (3-2) are still in the running. Though they lost to Mililani, a three-way tie for first or second place would put the league's tiebreaker formula into the fire. The top two teams in the division will earn first-round byes.
Depending on the schedule set by the league and OC 16, the top two teams in the West and East may not necessarily have home-field advantage, which was the norm in years past.
In other words, just about every team, from the first seed to the last, will probably board the bus and travel at some point in the playoffs.
The Interscholastic League of Honolulu, meanwhile, is weeks away from completing regular-season play. This weekend's matchups, however, will be pivotal for title chasers Punahou, in Division I, and D-II Damien.
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Three weeks may seem like a lot of time to draw up a plan of redemption.
For Punahou, which fell to No. 1 Saint Louis 28-14 on Sept. 21, hopes for a league title and a run at the state championship are at stake. The Buffanblu get one more shot at the Crusaders tomorrow night in the feature game of an Interscholastic League of Honolulu doubleheader at Aloha Stadium.
The opener pits two teams -- Damien and Iolani -- who are battling for the ILH's Division II title and state berth.
The Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East title has been sewn up by Kahuku, while in the Red West, Mililani can secure the top spot and a first-round bye in the playoffs if it can get past Radford.
Here's a look at this week's matchups on Oahu:
No. 2 Punahou (4-1, 2-1) vs. No. 1 Saint Louis (6-0, 3-0)
-- It's been a string of three Crusader wins in the past two seasons when these two teams met. Three weeks ago, Saint Louis' defense cooled off a hot Punahou offense in a 28-14 win. The Crusaders intercepted three passes, and had plenty of power running between the tackles by Keani Nishigaya and Vonn Feao to control the tempo.
Punahou, which has been an offensive juggernaut against everyone else, ran for just 82 yards against Saint Louis.
Damien (2-3-1, 1-2) vs. Iolani (3-3, 2-1) -- One team is hot, the other is not. The Monarchs are reeling after a lopsided loss to Kamehameha, but they're still in the running for a Division II state berth. All that stands between Damien and postseason play is nemesis Iolani. Since winning the D-II league title in 2003, Damien's trail is littered with close games against Iolani.
In 2004, Iolani won 28-25 and 49-7. In '05, Iolani won 24-7 and 57-49. Last season, the teams tied at 34 before Iolani won 33-19. The last time Damien posted a win over Iolani was on Oct. 31, 2003: 28-21. Since then, Iolani has won three ILH titles in a row.
Damien senior Kama Bailey leads the ILH with 577 rushing yards and six touchdowns (9.5 yards per attempt). Iolani is last in the league in rushing defense (198 yards per game).
Iolani's offense, which amassed 361 yards against No. 1 Saint Louis last week, is averaging 400 total yards per game to lead the ILH. Quarterback Kela Marciel leads the league in completions (53), attempts (86) and yardage (766).
No. 3 Kahuku (5-2, 5-0) at Moanalua (2-4-1, 1-4)
-- Even if the Red Raiders were to lose, they've got the Red East title clinched. Moanalua, however, still has an outside chance at a final playoff berth. Kahuku won last year's matchup 48-14. This could be the swan song for Na Menehune quarterback Jordan Monico, another D-I prospect from Arnold Martinez's program. Monico, a 6-foot, 226-pound senior, leads the OIA in scoring with 64 points.
Farrington (3-1-1) vs. Castle (3-2) -- The battle for second place in the OIA Red East is crucial because a first-round playoff bye comes with it. The Knights won last year's game 32-22, but muddy conditions at tomorrow's site (Mililani) could favor the run-oriented Governors.
Campbell (2-3-1, 2-3) at No. 9 Leilehua (4-3, 3-2) -- The Sabers have been competitive in every game, losing by just one touchdown to Aiea and Mililani, and by just nine points to Kamehameha. Leilehua won last year's matchup 34-7. Using a Wing-T offense, Campbell leads the OIA Red West with 192 rushing yards per game. Leilehua's stingy defense, however, allows just 67 rushing yards per game. Campbell's Samson Anguay leads the Red West with 340 yards and six TDs.
No. 4 Mililani (6-1, 4-1) at Radford (0-6, 0-5) -- The young Rams would love to halt Mililani's momentum. Last year, they battled the Trojans close before losing 27-21. Epa Maika, now a senior, threw for a career-high 433 yards on 31-for-48 passing that night at John Kauinana Stadium. His favorite target this season is Shawn Putnam-Curry (27 receptions, 444 yards).
Kaimuki (6-1, 6-0) at Nanakuli (2-5, 2-4)
-- Two smashmouth teams go to battle. Only Kaimuki (211 yards per game) averages more on the ground than Nanakuli (186) in the OIA White. Justin Paderes of Kaimuki leads the conference in rushing with 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nanakuli's Solo Sausi is fifth in the White with 549 yards and six touchdowns.
Kalani (0-6, 0-6) at Kaiser (5-3, 5-2) -- The Falcons have lost seven games in a row to their neighboring rivals. The last Kalani win came in 1999, 31-30.
No. 9 Kapolei (5-2, 3-2) at No. 8 Waianae (5-2, 3-2)
-- Four teams in the OIA Red West enter this weekend with two losses or fewer, which means seedings and first-round byes are up for grabs.
Pac-Five (1-5, 0-3) at No. 6 Kamehameha (2-2-1, 1-2)
-- The Warriors are jelling in their new offense under first-year coach David Stant. With two losses, they still have an outside shot of winning the ILH's D-I title and a state berth. The Wolfpack have not beaten the Warriors in more than a decade, but last year's game (28-15) was relatively close.
Kalaheo (4-3, 2-3) vs. McKinley (0-6-1, 0-4-1)
-- The Mustang ironmen have been resting and healing up during the past two weeks. Cody vonAppen ranks first in the OIA Red East with 822 passing yards. McKinley is coming off a tie with playoff-bound Farrington. The Tigers lack depth, but feature some outstanding talent offensively. McKinley won last year's shootout 35-26.
Anuenue (4-3, 3-3) at Waipahu (5-2, 5-1)
-- Na Koa are in position to squeeze into the playoffs if they can run the table. The Marauders won last year's matchup 41-14. Anuenue's conversion from a pass-first offense to a run-oriented unit is the right formula against the defending White champions. Keo Palimoo of Waipahu ranks fourth in White rushing with 629 yards and six touchdowns.