Rivals to grind it out in OIA Red semifinals


POSTED: Thursday, October 30, 2008

There are few traditional rivals that go back in time the way Kahuku and Waianae do in high school football.

Decades have passed and now we have sons taking the field just as their fathers did 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

Take cousins Danny Kekoanui and St. John Lessary III. Kekoanui has been a formidable running back for the Seariders—his season high of 148 yards and two touchdowns came against defending state champion Leilehua. He followed in the footsteps of his dad, Alexander.

Lessary, one of the key running backs in Kahuku's ground attack, followed his father, St. John Lessary II.

Their fathers played against each other 20 years ago. Waianae, guided by Harry Mitsui, won the Oahu Interscholastic Association championship that season.

This time, the two storied programs meet in the OIA Red semifinals tomorrow night at Aloha Stadium. Kahuku (8-1) is still unbeaten in league play, relying heavily on a deep corps of running backs and an air-tight defense. The fourth-ranked Red Raiders have permitted only 52 points in seven conference games (7.4 per game) thanks to a steady front seven and one of the state's best secondaries.

Aulola Tonga and Jray Galeai are a superb duo at safety.

Ninth-ranked Waianae (5-4) has myriad weapons in its wing-T offense. Kekoanui is a bruiser between the tackles, but has breakaway speed. Johnathan Ligsay, who rushed for 101 yards in last week's win over Castle, is a punishing fullback, as is 290-pound Eleu Wilson.

Though the teams aren't entirely familiar with each other—they did not match up last season—the run-first, trust-your-defense approach has always been a pillar of wisdom to each side. For Kahuku, a return to Aloha Stadium will be poignant. When the Red Raiders last suited up there, it was the first week of full contact and the staff was still in personnel evaluation mode.

Now, both teams are in championship mode.

Here's a look at more matchups in tomorrow's games:


No. 5 Farrington vs. No. 3 Leilehua

A year later, almost to the day, the Governors (7-2) will get another shot at the Mules (8-1). They may be relishing the opportunity after a 7-3 loss to Leilehua in the OIA Red semifinals. In that game, Mules wide receiver Edieson Dumlao recovered from a concussion, returned from a two-week hiatus and had eight catches for 101 yards and the game's lone touchdown.

Dumlao has faced his share of injuries again this fall, but should be at close to full strength tomorrow. It will be Leilehua's underrated defense, though, that will have a high bar to reach. Last year's Mules defense came up with a key interception by Robert Siavii to thwart Farrington in the final 4 minutes.

Siavii, Art Laurel and several more hearty defenders have graduated. Farrington's offense, led by one of the top offensive lines in the state—affectionately known as the Bamboolas—mowed down Kapolei's stellar defense last week.

A note of caution for the Govs fans—the only foe to score more than 14 points was another efficient passing team: Saint Louis. Leilehua quarterback Andrew Manley is now 13-1 as a varsity starter.


Word of Life at No. 8 'Iolani

The Firebrands (2-7, 0-7 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) are coming off a 6-0 loss to Kamehameha and should have momentum as they visit Eddie Hamada Field. 'Iolani (7-3) won the first matchup on Sept. 12, 35-0.


Waimea at Kauai

The Red Raiders (6-0, 4-0) have dominated the KIF and clinched another title during an idle week. Waimea (2-3-1, 2-2-1), which tied Kapaa last weekend, has lost its Midas touch since the days of coach Jon Kobayashi and running back Jordon Dizon. This rivalry, however, is still one of the most intense in the islands.


No. 7 Baldwin vs. Maui

The Bears continue to escape by the hairs of their chinny-chin-chins. After squeaking past Kamehameha-Maui, Baldwin (6-1) rallied from a 25-7 deficit to beat D-II powerhouse Lahainaluna 29-28 last week. The Bears are still growing and building chemistry after losing several standouts to graduation, but time is still on their side. Baldwin topped Maui 37-12 on Sept. 12. Maui (0-7, 0-5 Maui Interscholastic League) is improving, but the record doesn't show it yet in one of the state's top football leagues.


St. Anthony at King Kekaulike

Baldwin's win over Lahainaluna last week clinched the MIL D-I title for the Bears, which means King Kekaulike (3-4, 2-3) is playing for pride from here on out. Na Alii won last year's matchup 55-14. The Trojans (1-6, 1-4) are coming off a loss to Kamehameha-Maui.


Honokaa at Waiakea

Both teams are drifting out of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation D-I second-round race, but the Dragons haven't forgotten a 14-0 home loss to the Warriors four weeks ago. Honokaa (3-5, 2-4) had last week off. Waiakea (2-6, 2-4) was not so fortunate in a lopsided loss at Kealakehe.


Kamehameha-Hawaii at Ka'u

The Warriors (2-7, 2-4 BIIF) are one of the most improved teams in the state—not a surprise considering last year's mass exodus of talent to graduation and a tough first round. That doesn't make this game any easier. Ka'u (0-6, 0-6) had its best game of the year in a 31-16 loss to KS-Hawaii four weeks ago.