HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Spy may be key for Lahainaluna in stopping Iolani
STORY SUMMARY »
First in a series
A team does not get to the state football championship on talent alone.
It takes a plan, and Hawaii's four surviving prep football teams have shown that their ideas work.
Beginning today with Iolani's run-and-shoot, the Star-Bulletin will profile the "go-to" play for each team.
FULL STORY »
When Lahainaluna bears down on defense against Iolani on Friday night, there will certainly be questions about whether the talented Lunas will decipher the many facets of the Raiders' run-and-shoot offense.
Iolani lacks the gargantuan size of many opponents, but uses its superior speed to its advantage.
No teams aside from Iolani actually go to a no-huddle offense the entire game. The Raiders take hand signals from their coaching staff after the end of a play, barely even huddling. Then they go to their positions and snap before a defensive unit can adjust personnel.
That creates a quandary for teams that rely on rotation of defensive players, and linemen in particular. The Lunas are the top seed in the Division II First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA state championships in large part because of their talent, plus depth defensively.
One of the many weapons at Iolani quarterback Kela Marciel's disposal is Lionel Fujioka, also known in general terminology as the "Z" receiver. Against a man-free defense, when receivers face press coverage, Fujioka has the speed to force his defender to soften up and brace for a streak or post route. Often enough, Fujioka creates enough separation 10 to 12 yards downfield, enabling his quarterback an opportunity to throw a relatively safe comeback-route pass. With single coverage and the ball thrown to the outside, Iolani picks up key first downs.
Stopping this play is a matter of picking one's poison. If the safety shades over to the "Z" receiver, the rest of the field opens up for the trio, or trips, to the left. In effect, the left side becomes a flood gate. Man-free coverage also means that the left side would be empty. Marciel has run for ample yardage, sometimes 15 to 30 yards, in these third-and-long situations when there is no spy, or the spy overcommits on Marciel's look to the right side/"Z" receiver.
A disciplined, speedy spy is absolutely necessary if the front three or front four can't get to Marciel enough. Lahainaluna's best athlete is Lake Casco. Will he be the Friday spy?
And yes, Lahainaluna nearly beat another prolific run-and-shoot team, Baldwin, this season. But Baldwin's offense had no scrambling threat at quarterback, and Iolani has one of the best runners in the state with Marciel.
Ultimately, the Lunas, like many defenses, may turn to zone coverage and hope that the Raiders lack patience.