HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Mamiya almost to the top
STORY SUMMARY »
Nolan Tokuda's hair is green, and if he has his way, the entire Leilehua cheering section will be manned by green-haired, green-wearning Mule fans tomorrow night.
State Football Championships
At Aloha Stadium
Division II Championship
» Iolani vs. Lahainaluna, 5 p.m.
Division I Championship
» Saint Louis vs. Leilehua, 8 p.m.
Leilehua (9-4) is a longshot to upset the top-seeded Saint Louis Crusaders (11-0) when they meet for the Division I title at the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships. Kickoff at Aloha Stadium is set for 8 p.m.
The Division II state final pits top-seeded Lahainaluna (9-1) against Iolani (5-6). Kickoff for the D-II game is set for 5 p.m.
Leilehua has not won a state football title, but took the 1984 Prep Bowl under coach Hugh Yoshida.
Lahainaluna is also seeking its first state football crown.
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The kid stared down the barrel of his toughest foe yet, and he was green as ever.
Then again, when Andrew Manley takes the field at Aloha Stadium, he and his green-and-gold clad Leilehua Mules will certainly know that they're in the duel of their lives.
After all, Micah Mamiya and the top-seeded Saint Louis Crusaders are so close to that elusive state title.
The Mules and Crusaders kick off in the Division I final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA state football championships tomorrow at 8 p.m.
While Manley, the super sophomore, is 4-0 since coming up from the junior varsity, his counterpart is more than just unbeaten. Mamiya is 22-0 as a starting quarterback, including a 248-yard, three-touchdown performance against Waianae last week.
However, fate was unkind to Mamiya a year ago. The Crusaders were on their way to an 11th win during the state semifinals against Waianae when Mamiya went down with a collarbone injury. A week later, with Mamiya in street clothes, Saint Louis suffered its only defeat of the season, a 7-6 heartbreaker to Kahuku.
So, when the two unbeaten quarterbacks take the field tomorrow, one will be fresh and green. The other will be hoping that fate is much kinder as his prep career comes to a close.
The chief playcaller for Leilehua is coach Nolan Tokuda, who has garnered a creative-thinking staff to forge an offensive playbook that has borrowed from Florida State, the San Francisco 49ers and the University of Hawaii, among others.
When Tokuda joins a number of coaches tomorrow morning for a weekly 6 a.m. fellowship, he'll see Saint Louis defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro. No word on whether they'll compare notes. They won't be the only familiar faces in different uniforms.
Saint Louis offensive lineman Tytan Timoteo and cousin Jiniki Timoteo of Leilehua will have something to talk about during the holiday season. Tytan, a junior, has started at different spots on the O-line. Jiniki was called up to the varsity recently along with Manley, replacing left guard Josh Quinn, who suffered a knee injury.
Leilehua's depth is solid, but Tokuda views Saint Louis as Goliath.
"They don't compare to anyone else. They've separated themselves with their size, speed and coaching," he said. "Saint Louis is just loaded. If one doesn't do the job, six or seven others can do it."
Saint Louis (11-0) vs. Leilehua (9-4)
Delbert Tengan, Saint Louis; Nolan Tokuda, Leilehua.
On paper: Rarely do the Crusaders and Mules cross paths on the gridiron. Their only meeting in the past decade occurred last year, a 20-0 Saint Louis win on Aug. 26 at Hugh Yoshida Stadium.
Their common opponents comprise a short list. Saint Louis won at Aiea 41-12. Leilehua topped Aiea 21-6.
Saint Louis swept Punahou 28-14 and 7-0. Leilehua lost at home to Punahou 28-19.
Saint Louis routed Waianae 44-6 last weekend in the semifinals. Leilehua swept Waianae 8-0 and 12-3.
In all but one of these common-opponent games, however, Manley wasn't Leilehua's quarterback. He is in his fifth week as a varsity player, though the entire program has known since the start of the 2006 season that he has a cannon of an arm.
"Everything's faster, just faster," he said after Leilehua's win over Baldwin last week. With Saint Louis, he will face a defensive unit that is both faster and bigger.
For Saint Louis, tomorrow's game is an opportunity to end a five-year drought. The one-time dynasty is 1-4 in state title games in this decade. The most recent crown came in 2002, a 34-15 win over Castle.
Leilehua, meanwhile, played for the state title in 2004, losing to Kamehameha 28-7. Prior to that, Leilehua's most recent big game was in 1984, when it defeated Saint Louis 10-0 to win its only Prep Bowl.
In all, Saint Louis has won 15 Prep Bowls to go with two state crowns.
The skinny: The Crusaders don't lose often, and especially to sophomore quarterbacks. If the front four on the D-line can pressure Manley, it could be a long night for the Mules. Tokuda opened up the playbook last week to maximize Manley's passing ability, and the net result was 41 points against a tough Baldwin defense. Though the Bears sacked Manley six times, he never lost complete composure, even after a late interception.
If the Crusaders can't get to Manley without a blitz, he may have his best game yet. However, the Saint Louis front four, led by Geordon Hanohano and Ryan Eastman, is peerless. Against a secondary loaded with returning starters like Manoa Latu and Todd Nakano, Manley's chances for another huge game may be slim.
"They could come with four and drop seven, or bring the heat and try to make (Manley) crack early," Tokuda said. "They might try to get an early lead. Whatever Jacob Yoro comes up with, we have to adjust."
Leilehua's defense, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the best in recent years under coordinator Mark Kurisu. They play smart, responsibility-oriented football, allowing explosive Robert Siavii (6-2, 200) to roam the field and make plays. Will the Mules be disciplined enough to contain Saint Louis' flex option? Will they forget about Mamiya's scrambling ability?
Rico Newman's contributions in the backfield and as a punter have been invaluable to the Mules. His switch from running back to slotback last week was a tell, indicating that the Mules were going to unleash Manley. Though Newman didn't turn in big numbers against Baldwin, he can draw attention away from Leilehua's other receivers.
"If they shade to Rico, that means Edieson (Dumlao) is one-on-one," Tokuda said. Dumlao turned into a career game, and Allan Macam was clutch with a touchdown catch and a key interception with 13 seconds left at the 1-yard line.
X factor: Leilehua may be the one team that is nearly as good as Saint Louis in special teams. Saint Louis' Brent Shimabukuro has been consistent and deep on kickoffs. Newman, though, has both hangtime and coffin-corner skills that aren't matched. His speed is another underlying factor if the Mules opt to fake a punt or two.