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State champs face hot Saints


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POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

There may not be a more anxious group of fans than the ones cheering for defending state champion Punahou.

Over the years, they saw their Buffanblu evolve from a single-wing offense to a run-and-shoot—with some West Coast, I-slot sets mixed in—en route to a state crown. This fall, though, with the departure of several All-State phenoms, Punahou is finding its identity with a new group of starters.

With new quarterbacks and first-time starters at slotback and wide receiver, timing is coming along.

Then there's Saint Louis, which was 30-4 in a three-year span, contending for a state championship but going home without the HHSAA koa trophy. The Saints went from a pure run-and-shoot during Cal Lee's tenure (aside from the occasional goal-line and power-I sets) to a flex option (Wildcat) in the later years of Delbert Tengan's era.

With John Hao at head coach and Jeremy Higgins at quarterback, the No. 1-ranked Saints have rarely deviated from the pure run-and-shoot for good reason. There is hardly a team—none this fall—that can stop the Crusaders.

That's why, even as No. 9 Punahou (1-3, 1-1 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) needs a win to stay within one step of front-running Saint Louis, the Crusaders (4-0, 1-0) may be too hungry to let up when the teams battle tonight at Aloha Stadium.

Here's a look at tonight's other matchups on Oahu:

 

McKinley at No. 2 Kahuku

It was a few seasons back when a big, hard-running quarterback led a visiting team to victory at Kahuku. That team, Kapolei, featured Mason Koa. McKinley (1-2, 1-1) has 215-pound bruiser Iosefatu Fiso. The Red Raiders (4-0, 2-0) had a bye last week.

 

Nanakuli at No. 6 Waianae

The Seariders (2-2, 2-0) are coming off a shutout of Campbell. Their defense bent but never broke and limited the Sabers to 211 total yards.

 

Campbell at No. 8 Leilehua

The return to the Red Conference for the Sabers (2-3, 1-2) is a gauntlet, but they're still in playoff contention. The Mules (2-2, 1-1) see plenty of shotgun action at practice, but getting ready for Campbell's shifty Samson Anguay isn't so simple.

 

Damien vs. Word of Life at Aloha Stadium

In four games, the Monarchs have faced three pass-heavy offenses. Damien (0-4, 0-2) finally sees a run-first team in the Firebrands (0-2, 0-1). Damien's Brenan Furtado rushed for 110 yards in last week's loss to Pac-Five.

Damien won last year's matchups 20-7 and 19-14.

 

Kaimuki at Roosevelt

The Bulldogs (0-4, 0-2) may be struggling, but Roosevelt (2-3, 1-2) has memories of last year's 27-6 win by Kaimuki. Rough Riders quarterback Matthew Lono-Holani and receiver Agaese Tago are the hottest aerial combo in the OIA.

 

Kapolei at Waipahu

This televised game (OC 16) is a first for the Marauders at Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex. Leading rusher Victor Moananu didn't play in last week's 14-0 loss to No. 3 Mililani.

 

Aiea at Kaiser

A key matchup for two teams chasing Moanalua in the OIA White race. Na Alii (4-1, 3-1) blanked the Cougars (2-2, 2-1) last season, 16-0.

 

Anuenue at Pearl City

Both teams have been competitive and hit by hard luck. Na Koa (1-4, 0-4) lost at Aiea 25-22 last week. The Chargers (1-3, 1-2) beat Aiea in week 2, but lost to Radford (21-20) and Moanalua (28-25) since. Pearl City, with its new run-and-shoot offense, could be a dangerous playoff foe—if the Chargers can squeeze in.