Underdogs look for edge
Playoffs galore in the Oahu Interscholastic Association are around the bend, and good weather could help some upset-minded teams.
Squads like Kalaheo may be outmanned and outsized, but dry turf means the mobile Mustangs could open up their passing attack against a tough Waianae defense.
Kahuku has the biggest linemen in the state, but Kapolei has a history of giving the Red Raiders fits.
While the rest of the state settles into playoff positions, the OIA Red Conference will eliminate some title contenders this weekend. Here's a look at the matchups:
Kapolei (6-3, 4-3) at No. 2 Kahuku (6-2, 6-0) -- Before the doubters chime in, know that the Hurricanes have experienced some level of success at Carleton Weimer Field recently. Last year, Mason Koa ran the option through Kahuku's defense and the 'Canes had a 9-0 lead with 2 minutes left in the first half. Then the Red Raiders seized control and went on to a 33-15 win. Koa, who rushed for 137 yards and threw for another 137, will certainly be a focal point for the Red Raider defense.
Kalaheo (5-3, 3-3) at No. 6 Waianae (6-2, 4-2) -- Years have passed since the Mustangs and Seariders met. The closest Kalaheo has seen to a Wing-T offense like Waianae's was two years ago in a loss to Campbell. Kalaheo had two byes in the past four weeks, ample time to rest up their corps of two-way ironmen. Waianae is also rested and has a full arsenal of weapons, including B.J. Jelf, who made his first start at quarterback and led his team past Kapolei two weeks ago.
No. 4 Mililani (7-1, 5-1) vs. No. 10 Leilehua (5-4, 4-3) at John Kauinana Stadium -- Two arch rivals meet with playoff elimination looming. Mililani won the regular-season matchup 16-14, and also ousted the Mules in last year's playoffs, 23-21. The Trojans were second in the Red West in total offense with 251 yards per game. The Mules were second in total defense, permitting just 204 yards per game.
Pac-Five (2-6, 1-4) vs. No. 1 Saint Louis (8-0, 5-0), Aloha Stadium -- Last year's 41-20 loss by the Wolfpack was the narrowest margin in at least a decade between the two programs. A Saint Louis win clinches the league title and automatic Division I state berth.
No. 7 Kamehameha (3-3-1, 2-3) vs. Iolani (4-4, 3-2), Aloha Stadium -- Even with Iolani's emergence in recent years, Kamehameha has kept the Raiders pinned down. Iolani's best performance came two years ago in a 37-29 loss. The Warriors won last season, 23-0.
Kauai (6-1, 4-1) at Waimea (5-1, 3-1) -- The league title -- and Kauai's four years of dominance -- are on the line at rustic Hanapepe Stadium. The Menehunes took the first meeting last month, but the Red Raiders won the second matchup 21-7.
King Kekaulike (2-5, 2-3) vs. Trojans (2-5, 1-4) -- Na Alii defensive back Corry Roy had a career game with three interceptions in a win over Maui last week.
Kohala (3-6, 2-5) at Ka'u (0-6, 0-6) -- The surprising Cowboys steered the wrong way at midseason, but they could finish strong, starting with a long trip -- 132 miles each way -- to face the Trojans.
Hilo (4-6, 3-4) vs. Waiakea (2-6, 2-4), Wong Stadium -- Nearly two months have passed since the Vikings escaped with a 26-23 overtime win. With Kealakehe and Keaau firmly holding down the first two D-I playoff spots, the Vikings and Warriors will battle for more than cross-town bragging rights.
No. 9 Farrington (4-2-2, 4-1-1) vs. Campbell (3-3-1, 3-3), Roosevelt Stadium -- Two big, physical, proud teams, and they have not met since 2001. Farrington has not beaten Campbell since 1999, when current athletic director Harold Tanaka was the coach. The Governors have plenty of experience on defense, but they haven't seen a Wing-T offense since a nonconference loss at Waianae two months ago.
Damien (2-5-1, 1-4) at No. 3 Punahou (5-2, 3-2) -- Many a year has passed since the Monarchs upended the Buffanblu. Last year, Punahou escaped with a 31-21 win. Damien's new look and new quarterback, Anthony Tuitele, will be tested by a tough Punahou defense. The Buffanblu will likely key on running back Kama Bailey, the ILH's leading rusher.
No. 8 Lahainaluna (6-1, 4-1) at Kamehameha-Maui (3-3, 3-2) -- The Lunas nearly upset D-I Baldwin last week, losing on a field goal in overtime. In fact, Lahainaluna had the ball and a 21-14 lead late in the game before a turnover led to Baldwin's game-tying touchdown. But that's all in the past as the Lunas close in on the D-II title, that is, if they can get past a quickly improving KS-Maui squad.
No. 5 Baldwin (6-1, 5-0) vs. Maui (0-7, 0-5), War Memorial Stadium -- This was once among the most intense rivalry games in the state, but the Sabers have hit tough times. Baldwin, meanwhile, is in position to capture another league title.
Konawaena (3-6, 3-2) at Hawaii Prep (6-2, 5-1) -- The definition of D-II football was made with the Wildcats and Ka Makani in mind. The two rural programs are, as they were in decades past, fighting for supremacy in the BIIF. HPA is battling for the inside track on a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Kamehameha-Hawaii (6-3, 6-1) at Keaau (5-3, 5-2) -- The D-II Warriors are riding the powerful legs of running back Kolten Wong, but they are up against the BIIF's hottest team in this cross-town matchup.