OIA RED CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
Mules, Seariders get defensive
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There is more than an OIA Red football title on the line when Waianae and Leilehua hit Aloha Stadium tomorrow.
There are 19 of them.
The Seariders can tie Kahuku with its 19th OIA football title with a win over the Mules. No other school has won it more than nine times.
Waianae hasn't won the OIA since 1997, but that is largely because of Kahuku's dominance. The Red Raiders have won it in eight of the nine years since and each of the last four, but were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Kapolei.
But don't count out Leilehua, which has only raised the flag three times in its history but was the first to do so in 1940.
The OIA White is guaranteed to have its fourth champion in four years when Roosevelt meets Kaimuki before the Red game.
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Don't get too defensive.
When Leilehua and Waianae turn tomorrow's league championship game into a war in the trenches, there could be fewer points scored than there are fingers on one hand.
OIA Red Championship
Who: No. 5 Leilehua (7-4) vs. No. 4 Waianae (8-2)
When: 8 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Aloha Stadium
The Waianae Seariders find ways to win, regardless of injuries at quarterback or major losses to graduation. After all, when Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year George "Oki" Kauwalu completed his career, who knew that the Searider defense would remain stalwart. In fact, the unit has been the rock and foundation of another run to the Oahu Interscholastic Association final.
The Seariders tackle well, so much so that even when they tweaked personnel in an early-season win over Mililani, defensive backs like Matt Ibanez moved up to linebacker and helped limit the explosive Trojans to nine points.
That's why the Leilehua Mules and their first-year quarterback, Andrew Manley, are in for a major battle. Manley will make only his third start, and Seariders defensive coordinator Jason Hussey may or may not have some new wrinkles for the talented sophomore slinger.
Here's a look at the title matchup:
On paper: Seven weeks ago, Seariders quarterback Ben McQuown left the game against Leilehua with an arm injury and Waianae was never the same. The Mules won a defensive duel, 8-0, at the Seariders' field. The game was devoid of a touchdown. Rico Newman kicked field goals of 24 and 27 yards, and the Mule defense came up with a safety in the third quarter.
What didn't kill the Seariders, though, made them stronger. Now McQuown has emerged as a huge game-breaking threat as a runner, and Waianae's defense has allowed just 8.7 points per game in the past three outings.
In five meetings between the teams since Nolan Tokuda became head coach at Leilehua, the Mules have a 3-2 edge.
The skinny: The Waianae offensive line is among the best, giving the Wing T offense plenty of space to work inside and outside. The Seariders averaged 158 rushing yards per game in regular-season play, but had just 58 (2 yards per carry) in the loss to Leilehua. Former running back B.J. Jelf has been a steady, near-flawless ballhandler at quarterback, a key to Waianae's offensive success.
X factor: Leilehua's Edieson Dumlao caught seven passes for 133 yards in the early-season battle, but his quarterback then was Kaipo DeRego, who later was sidelined by injury. The Seariders took away Leilehua's ground game -- the Mules had just 35 rushing yards -- and may force Manley to put the ball in the air. Can the unbeaten super soph work his magic again?