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Kahuku's defense must step up to beat Castle


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POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2009

Two weeks into the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference football playoffs, one thing is certain.

Kahuku has not been ambushed by a quarterback this season like it was by Mililani's Trent McKinney. The most scintillating offensive performance in the playoffs so far — 348 passing yards and 67 rushing yards — came against one of the state's elite defensive units.

Fortunately, for Kahuku and all of the OIA's title contenders, McKinney and the Trojans are done for the season. He not only hit pinpoint passes short and long, but proved to be a sturdy scrambler who broke tackles at the line of scrimmage.

There simply aren't many playmakers capable of doing what he did, and the result was large: 27 points against a defense that hadn't surrendered more than 14 to any foe. In fact, three of Kahuku's nine wins were shutouts.

What does that bode for Castle, which is hoping for an upset win over Kahuku tonight at Aloha Stadium?

On fast, dry synthetic turf, anything may be possible. Here's a look at today's matchups:

No. 1 Kahuku vs. No. 8 Castle, Aloha Stadium

Last week, the Knights went to Waianae and conquered with a 23-16 upset win.

“;They had a great game. If they can beat Waianae, they can beat anybody,”; Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said.

Though Waianae was depleted by suspensions, it was no fluke. Just three weeks ago, the Red Raiders (9-0) visited the soggy mud bog of Castle's home field and escaped with a 30-6 win.

Escaped?

Castle (6-3) met its bigger foes and had a 6-2 lead in the second quarter. Kahuku quarterback Evan Moe's normally sure hands were slickened and buttery from the mud, and Kahuku finished the game with an astounding 13 fumbles (Castle had just eight). It was backup Sage Kaka who entered and engineered a touchdown drive in the final 2 minutes of the half, which followed a fumble return for a touchdown by Hauoli Jamora.

The Knights had problems with their shotgun snap — quite a deterrent to their potent run-and-shoot offense — and Kahuku's ground game ground out a messy, but key victory.

In the sloppy conditions, Castle receiver Shaydon Kehano mustered seven catches for 112 yards, even after quarterback Jaymason Lee left with a hip injury. Lee is healthy now, and if skies are clear over Aloha Stadium tonight, the Knights have a puncher's chance.

“;Rain and mud negated their speed,”; Torres recalled. “;Both teams will be faster this time.”;

No. 4 Leilehua vs. No. 3 Farrington, Aloha Stadium

The past two seasons, the Leilehua Mules (6-2) fell short of an OIA Red title, but reached the final of the state tourney. The last time the Mules lost in the OIA playoffs, it was Farrington that dealt the blow.

In last season's OIA semifinals, Leilehua nearly pulled off a miraculous last-second win before Farrington's Isaiah Iuta — whose face-mask penalty on a previous play had kept the Mules' drive alive — blocked a 36-yard field-goal try to seal the Governors' win.

The Mules haven't forgotten. Farrington (7-1) used two pick-6 plays to rally for that win, which came in handy on a night when the offense managed just 31 passing yards. The defense wasn't in full lockdown mode, however; Leilehua quarterback Andrew Manley passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns that night.

Word of Life at No. 5 'Iolani

Two weeks ago, the Firebrands enjoyed an historic night by posting their first win in Interscholastic League of Honolulu play, a 50-42 triple-overtime win over Damien. Toppling 'Iolani, which has clinched the league's D-II title again, will be a huge challenge.

Word of Life's old-school ground attack managed just 77 rushing yards in a 42-0 loss to the Raiders on Sept. 12. 'Iolani (8-2) has rested up thanks to a bye last week. Defensive tackles Kaena Moose and Seali'i Epenesa will be tested again by an offensive line that uses tight splits and sheer numbers to get its yardage.