HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Kapolei takes aim at No. 2 Leilehua
The last time they met, Kapolei sent Leilehua and all Mules fans this message of sorts: You probably won't win the league title or a state championship.
That was a year ago, when Kapolei trounced Leilehua 21-0 early in the season. Of course, things turned out a little differently than expected. Leilehua eventually ran into injury issues at quarterback, called up Andrew Manley from the junior varsity, and finished the season with five wins in a row -- including a comeback victory over Saint Louis in the state Division I final.
Kapolei went on to upset Kahuku in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red playoffs, but fell short of the state tourney.
Tomorrow night, the Hurricanes and the second-ranked Mules meet at Hugh Yoshida Stadium, both again in contention for the league title. However, the arc of momentum has been erratic for No. 10 Kapolei (2-2, 1-1 OIA Red West).
Injuries to two key defensive players temporarily sunk the Hurricanes. Chad Lopati, one of the state's premier players, went down with an injury against Kamehameha, and Luke Spencer sustained injuries against Kamehameha-Hawaii.
Lopati suffered his injury while chasing Kamehameha quarterback Edmund Kamano Jr. An illegal block took Lopati out, and Kapolei's defense struggled in losses to the Warriors and Waianae. He underwent an MRI last week and learned what actually turned out to be good news: He has a partially torn meniscus, but no torn ligaments.
"It looks promising, but it's iffy. We're looking at him ready in maybe a week or two," Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said.
Lopati, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound linebacker/defensive end, has made brisk progress in rehab.
"I'm not going to rule him out playing against Leilehua because he's been working hard with the trainers, backpedaling and doing a lot of cutting," Hernandez said. "We'll go with whatever our medical people say."
Spencer, a 6-3, 260-pound defensive tackle, played sparingly in last week's win against Nanakuli and is ready to go against Leilehua (3-0, 1-0).
The Mules rested up last weekend, while the banged-up Hurricanes blanked Nanakuli.
The rest, apparently, did the Mules some good.
"Today was the best practice we've had in the last two or three years," Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said yesterday. "Today's emphasis was enthusiasm in everything, whether it's offense, defense or special teams. The energy was amazing."
Last year, at Kapolei, the 'Canes won behind two interceptions by Lyle Santiago and 153 total yards by quarterback Mason Koa. The difference this time? Leilehua has Manley at quarterback and Koa has graduated.
"They didn't have him when we beat them last year," Hernandez said. "He gets the ball off real quick. He throws darts out there."
In three games, the 6-3, 215-pound junior has completed 63 percent of his attempts (61-for-97) for 688 yards, four touchdowns and only two interceptions. Best of all for the Mules, he is now 8-0 in varsity starts since being called up by Tokuda.
Rico Newman, the jack-of-all-trades senior, has rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns, but his damage as a pass catcher is key. Newman has 14 receptions for 119 yards and a score, and he's also one of the best punters in the state.
Edieson Dumlao has 14 catches for 255 yards and has a touchdown in each of the Mules' three games.
Here's a look at more matchups tomorrow:
Nanakuli at Waipahu
The Golden Hawks (1-2, 0-1 OIA Red West) have a multitude of speedy running backs, but found the going tough at Kapolei last week. Waipahu (3-1, 1-1) saw its scoring machine (126 points in three games) stalled in a 20-7 loss at Mililani.
Moanalua at Campbell
These contenders for the OIA White crown are a study in contrasts. Moanalua (2-1, 1-1) loves its veer and spread options. Campbell (3-1, 2-1) is explosive out of the run-and-shoot attack. Samson Anguay was a breakaway playmaker in the loss at Radford. Quarterback Lalo Respicio is back on the field after missing the Radford game with an illness.
Kaimuki vs. Kailua
Both teams could use a win at Roosevelt's field to get closer to a playoff berth. The Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1 OIA Red East) are coming off a bye week, while Kailua (0-3, 0-2) lost another heartbreaker last week.
Word of Life at No. 9 Iolani
An afternoon game at Iolani is never easy. The Raiders (3-1, 1-0 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) have a recent history of comeback wins at Eddie Hamada Field. Whether they have enough ammunition to combat WLA's double-wing ground attack is another matter. WLA's ironman unit surrendered 511 passing yards to Pac-Five's P.J. Minaya last week.
Roosevelt at Castle
The Rough Riders (1-3, 0-1 OIA Red East) have just one road game this season, but Castle is a tough site for visitors. The Knights (2-2, 1-1) and Rough Riders love their run-and-shoot sets. Roosevelt's Alex Fowler and Castle's Shaydon Kehano are potential game breakers.
Waialua vs. Kalaheo
The Mustangs (4-0, 2-0 OIA White) can score big, but won with just one touchdown at Aiea. Waialua (2-2, 2-0) has struggled away from home. This matchup will be at Kailua's field.
Kalani at Kaiser
After forfeiting its game with Waialua, the Falcons (0-2, 0-2 OIA White) are back on the field this week. "We have 22 (players) for the game," Kalani athletic director Greg Van Cantfort said. Kaiser (1-2, 1-1) is 20-something strong as well.
Maui vs. No. 8 Baldwin
This ancient rivalry has lost some luster since Maui (0-2, 0-0 Maui Interscholastic League) lost talent to new schools upcountry. Baldwin (1-1, 0-0) needs time to find chemistry, but has had time to jell since losing to Mission Viejo (Calif.) two weeks ago. This week the teams face off at War Memorial Stadium.
Hawaii Prep at KS-Hawaii
Ka Makani (1-1, 0-1 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) are smarting after a close home loss to Kohala, but the Warriors (0-3, 0-0) have been stung by D-I Kapolei, Baldwin and California powerhouse Bonita Vista.
Keaau at Honokaa
Keaau (1-2, 1-0 BIIF) seems to be back on track after suffering lopsided losses to Waipahu and Lahainaluna. Honokaa (2-0, 1-0) is no pushover. The Dragons blitzed Hilo 30-13 last week.