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Kamehameha, Leilehua lock horns


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POSTED: Friday, November 27, 2009

There was a time when all hopes were sky high for the Kamehameha Warriors.

The return of standout defensive stoppers, offensive linemen and running back Ryan Ho gave patient fans a vision of both league and state championships.

After three nonconference wins—and only five points permitted—the Warriors were looking up. Then came a 20-17 loss to 'Iolani in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu opener. Kamehameha found itself backed against the wall.

Hope turned to urgency, even a sense of desperation. The response was better than good. The Warriors won their next seven games to seal the league title and a state-tourney berth for the first time since 2004.

The Warriors (10-1), who haven't played since Nov. 5, drew a bye last week in the Division I first round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships. If destiny is on their side, they've earned that favor. Problem is, destiny may be on the side of tonight's semifinal opponent, the Leilehua Mules (9-3), a Cinderella program that rose to a state title two years ago. Andrew Manley, the “;man child”; who steered the Mules to that crown as a sophomore, leads a squad trying for a third straight appearance in the state final.

               

     

 

STATE FOOTBALL

        Semifinals today
       

DIVISION I
        At Aloha Stadium
        » Farrington (9-2) vs. Kahuku (11-0), 4 p.m., OC 16, KWAI 1080-AM.
        » Leilehua (9-3) vs. Kamehameha (10-1), 7 p.m., OC 16, KWAI 1080-AM

       

DIVISION II
        At Radford High
        » Aiea (9-3) vs. 'Iolani (10-2), 7 p.m.
        At Vidinha Stadium
        » Hawaii Prep (11-0) at Kauai (9-0), 7 p.m.

       

On paper: The Warriors are ranked No. 2 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10. The Mules are No. 3.

Coach David Stant wasn't in charge yet when Kamehameha last played Leilehua. The Warriors won a nonconference game in 2005, 28-14, after winning the state title in '04 with a 28-7 victory over the Mules.

Leilehua is coming off a 48-12 win at Baldwin. Manley hurled five touchdown passes, including three to Kamana Akagi. Manley has passed for 2,979 yards in 12 games (233-for-384) with 28 touchdowns and 11 picks.

Akagi's return was a boost. The senior receiver left the OIA Red final against Kahuku with a concussion. He has 68 receptions for 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games.

Ho has been prolific with 1,302 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games.

The skinny: Kamehameha's defensive line—ends Koa Ka'ai and Beau Yap, tackles Landon Aano and Keko'o Weisbarth-Tafaoimalo—are the biggest reason why the unit has not permitted more than 21 points in a game all season.

“;We have to make sure we get pressure on Manley,”; Stant said. “;If we can do that, we can do well. If we have to blitz, he's going to get a couple of big plays.”;

Leilehua's chemistry through the air progressed rapidly as first-year starting receivers matured. Darrien Shealy and Blaine Furtado have emerged as threats, while Carlos Marshall and Austin Schmidt are effective out of the backfield. The Mules employ everything from five-wide, shotgun sets to double-tight-end formations.

“;They do a lot on offense. Different coverages on different formations. We have to get aligned and cover down,”; Stant said.

Tokuda has seen enough to be wary.

“;They can gamble because they have athletes like Farrington. They play man across the board; no team in the OIA does that. They're good enough to bring pressure with three (pass rushers),”; Tokuda said.

The only team to beat Kamehameha, 'Iolani, is a pass-first team.

Leilehua's defense is no pushover, either. Linemen Charlie Tuaau (6-4, 290) and Frazer Taua (6-2, 250) anchor a unit that has given up less than 13 points per game in the last five contests.

“;They're tough on defense,”; said Stant, a former UH defensive lineman. “;They're really good.”;

Tokuda's squad has put plenty of extra time into special teams lately. A blocked punt by Kahuku was a pivotal point in the OIA final.

“;Special teams will be huge. We've done some things the past couple of weeks and I feel good,”; he said.

X factor: How Kamehameha handles Leilehua's complex air attack—receivers make reads and communicate with Manley through signals at times—is key. Matching up is another factor; ace cornerbacks Chaz Bajet and Walter Santiago won't necessarily line up on Akagi, who is a slotback.