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Top-ranked Saints healing up


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POSTED: Friday, September 11, 2009

From the start of preseason, John Hao had concerns.

A No. 1 ranking before the single scrimmage, let alone any games, did not fit the psychology he wanted his team to have. Not a big deal, though. His real concerns were much deeper: injuries.

That problem hasn't disappeared, but it seems to be waning. As the Saints (4-0) go into a bye weekend, they're due some down time.

“;It's injury-healing time for everybody,”; the former University of Hawaii quarterback said. “;The other week we had 19 guys injured. This week we had 12.”;

One of the guys who hasn't been hurt is Jeremy Higgins. The senior southpaw has been almost superhuman in his execution of the run-and-shoot offense. Two of the four wins have been against Top 10 foes.

» 25-for-29, 391 yards, six touchdowns, no picks in a 48-35 win at Waianae

» 20-for-33, 283 yards, two touchdowns, one pick in a 28-21 win at Leilehua

He has been protected well by an offensive line that has no returning starters and Saint Louis has remained a lock at No. 1 every week.

The other constants—a solid defense and seamless special teams—are no surprise. Last Saturday's game against Pac-Five provided a glimpse of the future when backup quarterback Marcus Mariota played most of the second half.

The tall junior has drawn raves from teammates. Last year's deep threat, current UH Warrior Billy Ray Stutzmann, said Mariota had the strongest arm on the team, but was still getting comfortable with the offense. Mariota completed five of his seven pass attempts for 89 yards, but his elusiveness and speed were stunning. Mariota had 55 rushing yards on five attempts.

Hao, a former Saint Louis standout, continues to emphasize discipline, especially for his passers.

Now, if the Saints can just get healthy, he might break into a smile someday.

Here's a look at tonight's matchups:

No. 3 Mililani at Campbell
The Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West) don't swing for home runs often. With a pestering defense—coach Darnell Arceneaux was just fine with a smaller, but quicker unit—Mililani hasn't needed a ton of big plays from the offense. Campbell (2-2, 1-1) may offer a tough matchup with its run-and-shoot attack and playmakers like Samson Anguay. The Sabers were shut out at Waianae last week.

No. 8 Castle at Roosevelt
Farrington's rugged defense stymied the Knights last week in a 19-8 win, but Castle (3-1, 1-1 OIA Red East) will adjust, as always. Quarterback Jaymason Lee progressed steadily: 140 yards against Pearl City; 216 vs. 'Iolani; 197 against Kaimuki. He didn't throw a pick until the Farrington game. Roosevelt (1-3, 0-1) should be buoyed by its performance against Kahuku. The Rough Riders went toe-to-toe with the defending league champs through three quarters.

No. 10 Leilehua at Kapolei
The Mules (1-2, 0-1 OIA Red West) should benefit from a bye week, getting reps for a talented group of first-year starting receivers. Kapolei (2-2, 1-1 OIA) has dealt with a torrent of injuries, playing without safety Shaydon Ahuna. Leilehua won last year's matchup 21-7.

Kaimuki at Kailua
The Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1 OIA Red East) and Surfriders (1-3, 0-2) could use a win to improve their playoff chances. Kaimuki won last year's game 21-14.

Waipahu at Nanakuli
The Marauders (2-2, 0-2 OIA Red West) have played well at times, but a win would boost their shot at a playoff berth. Nanakuli (0-2, 0-1) is playing its third straight game at home.

Pearl City at Moanalua
Na Menehune (3-1, 3-0 OIA White) are on a roll. The Chargers (1-2, 1-1) are regrouping under a new coaching staff and moved down from Division I this fall. When they last played (Aug. 17, 2007), these teams played to a 14-all tie.

Anuenue at Aiea
Na Alii (3-1, 2-1 OIA White) are back on track after last week's 31-14 win over Kalaheo. Na Koa (1-2, 0-2) had a bye last week. Aiea outlasted Anuenue 9-0 in last year's battle.