'Iolani looks to move a step closer to an ILH title


POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2009

After upsetting No. 1 Saint Louis and losing 9-0 to Kamehameha in back-to-back weeks last year, the 'Iolani Raiders were out of gas.

Or maybe it was just a matter of attrition. Undersized against the behemoths, the Division I powerhouses of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, the Raiders wore down and fell to eventual D-I state champion Punahou 49-7. It was a game the Raiders quickly put behind them. Within several weeks, 'Iolani captured its second D-II state title in a row.

Though the Raiders had giant-killer status last season, it's not exactly the same going into this afternoon's Punahou-'Iolani matchup. In fact, with Punahou still regrouping after losing a ton of All-State talent, the Raiders are the team that has been more consistent. The sixth-ranked Raiders (5-1, 3-0 ILH) have already knocked off No. 5 Kamehameha, which boasts the stingiest defense in the ILH.

Eighth-ranked Punahou (2-3, 2-1 ILH) took a big step forward last week, finding enough offense to go with a tenacious defense in a 23-21 upset of then-No. 1 Saint Louis. The previously erratic Buffanblu showed new looks—a wing formation to complement its unbalanced line, and shotgun and pistol sets—to run the ball with effectiveness against the Saints.

With Kaena Moose (6-foot-1, 275 pounds) and Seali'i Epenesa (6-2, 315) in the trenches, 'Iolani has been no pushover against good running teams.

The key might be Punahou's coverage against the Raiders' no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense. The Buffanblu took away most of Saint Louis' deep looks last week while unleashing blitzers like Jeremy Ioane. In addition, Jonathan Sani Fuimaono and 6-5 Deforest Buckner gave Saints quarterback Jeremy Higgins headaches.

'Iolani quarterback Jarrett Arakawa has seen tough defenses and has always been willing to stand in the pocket to deliver, even at the price of vicious hits. That determination will be tested this afternoon, and if the senior can deliver, the D-II Raiders will be one step closer to an outright ILH crown.

Here's a look at today's other matchups:

Kaimuki at No. 1 Kahuku

The Bulldogs (1-4, 1-2 OIA) were brilliant in a 17-16 overtime win over Roosevelt last week, limiting the Rough Riders' potent passing game. Kahuku (5-0, 3-0) can toss the ball this season, but is happy to pound away on the ground behind Viliami Pasi, Pololu Silva and Johnny Tupola.

No. 9 Leilehua at No. 7 Waianae

Waianae's offense continues to evolve. The Seariders (3-2, 3-0 OIA) can hammer foes with the wing-T, but quarterback Puletua Wilson has ample weaponry at his disposal out of the run-and-shoot set. Leilehua (3-2, 2-1) has lots of magical history with quarterback Andrew Manley, but lost to Waianae 27-21 last year during the regular season. Leilehua later blanked Waianae in a playoff elimination game 32-0.

Roosevelt at Kailua

The Rough Riders' inside track to a playoff berth disintegrated with the loss to Kaimuki, but the battle rages on. Roosevelt (2-4, 1-3 OIA) will face a tough Kailua squad (2-4, 1-3) that lost stud linebacker Calen Friel to a knee injury in a 17-7 loss to Farrington.

Campbell at Kapolei

All four losses for Campbell (2-4, 1-3 OIA) have been to ranked teams, including last week's 29-26 heartbreaker at Leilehua. Kapolei (3-3, 2-2) survived in an overtime win at Waipahu last week.

Radford at Aiea

The Rams (3-2, 3-1 OIA White) are rolling with back-to-back wins. Phil Hogan rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown in a 34-20 victory over Kalaheo. Aiea (5-1, 4-1) hasn't forgotten last year's 46-9 loss to Radford.

Anuenue at Kaiser

The Cougars (2-3, 2-2) are in a quagmire of a playoff chase in the OIA White. Anuenue (2-4, 1-4) posted its first conference win last week over Pearl City. Kaiser won last season's matchup 38-21.