OIA teams in elimination mode


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

This was not supposed to happen.

No, when Mililani was unbeaten and soaring above the Wild West of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference, a first-round bye and favorable seeding seemed inevitable.

Two losses in the final weeks of the regular season changed everything. The Trojans sank from first place to fourth, then hung on for dear life against a resilient Kaimuki squad for a 47-35 playoff win last week.

Now, instead of a once-dreamy OIA Red final against Kahuku at Aloha Stadium, the Trojans (7-2) find themselves in a make-or-break quarterfinal game with the No. 1-ranked Red Raiders (8-0) tonight. What makes the battle even tougher is playing the game at Kahuku's Carleton Weimer Field.

It's a rematch of last year's quarterfinal, won by Kahuku 42-13.

The game is one of three OIA Red playoff games on tonight's slate. Here's a look at the matchups:


No. 9 Mililani at No. 1 Kahuku

The Red Raiders have tasted defeat on their home field in recent years, but this season's team has more balance and is far less predictable. Between starter Evan Moe and backup Sage Kaka, quarterback command of Kahuku's expanded passing attack is at its highest in recent memory. The passers can go deep to tight end Shairone Thompson or wideout Punga Vea, while Kaipo Pearl and running back Viliami Pasi are also targets in the air attack.

Kaimuki passed proficiently against Mililani, but that same offense was shut out by Kahuku four weekends ago.

Mililani's defense has been generous in the past three games, allowing 41 points to Kapolei, 54 to Waianae and 35 to Kaimuki. If that pattern holds true, the Trojans may need to outscore Kahuku to get into the semifinal round. That might be tough against a defense that permitted just 26 points in six league games.

Kahuku's defense, led by linebacker Ben Memea and linemen Hauoli Jamora and Kona Schwenke, hasn't seen a lot of mobile quarterbacks as dangerous as Mililani junior Trent McKinney. The first-year starter has passed for 1,128 yards and 12 touchdowns (with just six picks) to rank second in the OIA Red West. He has also rushed for 233 yards, ninth in the division.

With running backs Zachary Payomo and Ethan Cook spearheading the ground game, the Trojans ranked second in the Red West in rushing.

As for last year's rout by Kahuku, it wasn't quite what the score may seem. Kahuku scored twice on defense—a fumble return and a pick-6—and added another touchdown with a blocked punt.

The last time Kahuku lost a playoff game at home, the visiting team had a standout playmaker: Kapolei's Mason Koa. Mililani has a gamebreaker of its own in two-way starter Dalaunte “;Taz”; Stevenson, who threw a touchdown pass in last year's game.


Kailua at No. 4 Leilehua

More than two months have passed since the Mules (5-2) have been ranked this high by coaches and media. The trek was arduous, but rewarding for a squad that lost all-state talent at skill positions. Quarterback Andrew Manley was a rock as his rookie receivers developed in Leilehua's intricate run-and-shoot scheme. Manley led the OIA Red West with 1,616 passing yards and 15 touchdowns (with four picks) in six games.

Kamana Akagi, a returnee, emerged as the top receiver in the Red West (35 catches, 613 yards, six touchdowns). The senior has a tremendous connection with his classmate, Manley, that is matched by few duos in the state.

Kailua's opportunistic defense led the way in last week's 21-0 win over Campbell. The Surfriders (4-5) have been tough on run-first teams, but gave up 39 points against the East's top passing team, Castle, three weeks ago.

The Surfriders' conservative approach fits well. Quarterback Chevrolet Mikaele has good chemistry with his targets, including speedy Corey Lau and Eric Lum. Running back Isaac Sato suffered a leg injury last week, but Clinton Aina ranked second in OIA Red East rushing yardage.


Castle at No. 5 Waianae

A year ago, Waianae (5-3) picked off Castle six times in a 25-13 playoff win at Raymond Torii Field. When the teams meet tonight—again in an OIA Red quarterfinal—things might be different.

Castle quarterback Jaymason Lee has been fairly consistent in his first year as a starter, and he has an array of pass-catchers—including explosive Shaydon Kehano—at his disposal. Lee has thrown for 18 touchdowns and just three picks—1,253 yards in six games—to lead Red East slingers. Kehano has been in a universe of his own with 31 catches for 642 yards and 11 touchdown receptions.

That isn't good news for a Waianae defense that has struggled against good passing teams: Saint Louis scored 48 points, Leilehua notched 47 and Mililani racked up 41.

Castle (5-3) will have to contend with one of the most prolific offenses in the state. Since being shut out in a nonconference game by Kamehameha, the Seariders have scored 159 points in four games. Puletua Wilson's first season as starting quarterback has been prolific. The junior ranks third in Red West rushing (395 yards) and third in passing. Converted quarterback Keoni Napierala-Rose ranked second in rushing (514 yards, 11.4 yards per carry) and third in receiving yardage, amassing 11 touchdowns from scrimmage.

Wilson's brother, James, was injured early in the season but still finished eighth in rushing and is another deep threat as a pass catcher.


Kalaheo at Moanalua

Moanalua's perfect 8-0 OIA White mark (8-1 overall) in the regular season is meaningless now as the playoffs kick off. Kalaheo (6-3) was the first to lose to Na Menehune, falling 26-22 more than two months ago. Tonight's winner clinches a state-tourney berth, while the loser calls it a season.


Radford at Aiea

The Rams (6-3) were impressive from the start, losing to Leilehua 23-20 in a nonconference game in mid-August. Their only two losses since were a nail-biter against Moanalua (34-33) and a 34-20 defeat at the hands of Aiea in late September.

Aiea (7-2) went airborne in that game, as Freddy Taliulu passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns, including 39- and 64-yard plays to Kekoa Thompson.


No. 7 Punahou vs. Pac-Five, Aloha Stadium

The Buffanblu (4-4, 4-2 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) find ways to win games when there's no room for failure. Last week's unveiling of the wildcat package put linebacker Jeremy Ioane to full use as a quarterback—a la Miami Dolphins ballcarrier Ronnie Brown.

Coupled with Stabren Caires' best game of the season, Punahou kept its ILH title hopes alive with a one-sided win over Saint Louis. The danger waiting tonight, however, is in Pac-Five's elusive quarterback, P.J. Minaya (279 passing yards per game). The Wolfpack (5-4, 2-4) have surrendered 86 points in recent losses to Kamehameha and 'Iolani.


No. 8 Saint Louis vs. Damien, Aloha Stadium

Both teams are coming off losses. Damien fell in three overtimes to Word of Life, 50-42, while Saint Louis (6-3, 3-3 ILH) suffered a tough loss to Punahou. Monarchs running back Brenan Furtado had a career day, with 230 yards and four touchdowns.