Kamehameha gets its shot

Eighteen years of frustration is on the line Saturday night when Kamehameha takes on perennial Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Saint Louis at Aloha Stadium.

At stake is first place in the league's Division I race. Without a second berth in the state tourney, the matchup is effectively an elimination game.

Here is a look at the ILH's three games this weekend.


No. 3 Saint Louis vs. No. 4 Kamehameha

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: No. 3 Saint Louis (6-2, 4-1 ILH), No. 4 Kamehameha (6-1-1, 4-1 ILH)

On paper: The pressure is on for the two most storied football programs in the league. For Saint Louis backers, success is almost written into stone after 18 league crowns in a row.

It still doesn't compare to the level of anticipation -- and anxiety -- at Kamehameha. In fact, when an incorrect win-loss record ran in the newspaper, running back Jayson Rego took the time to e-mail, wondering if the media was "pro-Saint Louis."

If Rego, the league's leading rusher (130 yards per game), and the Warriors feel slighted in any way, it was certainly not intentional. After all, their 21-20 loss to Saint Louis weeks ago could have easily been a win. But, somehow, someway, the Crusaders found another way to win.

That mystique hasn't changed, on paper or not.

The skinny: Kamehameha's offensive formula hasn't changed much over the years. Double-tight-end Ace formation that translates to pounding the ball between the tackles with Rego. When the safeties cheat in, give receivers Ikaika Hardie and Waika Spencer deep post patterns. Chew up the clock and let the other team make mistakes offensively.

It's a game plan that works until the Warriors face Saint Louis. Like two heavyweights who have fought many times before, they know each other's tendencies. Will this be the time Kamehameha brings new wrinkles? Will Saint Louis be able to stop a heavy dose of passes to tight ends and running backs?

Or will the Warriors stick to their bread-and-butter strategy? In all likelihood, they won't change it; if it ain't broke. They almost beat Saint Louis already this year with the basic formula.

Saint Louis, on the other hand, will mix it up offensively with both the run-and-shoot and Ace sets. With this year's punishing ground game, led by senior Kevin Sullivan, the Crusaders have been balanced and highly productive.

X factor: Former backup Cameron Higgins has gained on-field confidence rapidly since stepping in for Stanley Nihipali two weeks ago. Higgins possesses much of the arm strength and foot speed that Nihipali, who is out with a separated shoulder, showed for more than two seasons.

Higgins' progress is an example of what repetitions can do for a quarterback. It is also another exhibition of good coaching, and Saint Louis has one of the best quarterback gurus in the state with Vinnie Passas.

Damien at No. 6 Iolani

When: Tomorrow, 3:15 p.m.

Records: Damien (3-4-1, 1-3-1 ILH), No. 6 Iolani (7-1, 4-1 ILH)

On paper: It's easy to dwell on Iolani's upset win over Saint Louis two weeks ago, or even the Raiders' 24-point win over Pac-Five last week.

Fact is, Iolani barely got past Damien in its first battle. That's why coach Wendell Look isn't kidding when he says the Raiders need to take care of their remaining games before even considering a possible championship game for the ILH title.

The rough ILH schedule hasn't netted victories for the Monarchs aside from a 26-14 win over Pac-Five two weeks ago.

Still, they have the components to give the run-and-shoot Raiders problems. Va'a Faualo is second among ILH rushers with 104 yards per game.

The skinny: Damien likes to run the ball. And run it. And run it again.

That served the Monarchs well last week when they went to Kamehameha and were down just 13-7 at halftime.

Despite the eventual 35-7 loss, the Monarchs have the antidote to Iolani's no-huddle approach: Run the ball, chew up clock and play stellar defense.

That'll be tough against the league's top passer. Iolani's Kiran Kepo'o will likely return from an ankle injury. In four league games, the 6-2, 220-pound junior has passed for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns with four picks.

X factor: Damien ranks dead last in passing, and the Raiders will likely dare the Monarchs to throw. Iolani may have already clinched the D-II state berth, but the Monarchs have nothing to lose by digging deeper into the playbook. It will be tougher, still, because of Iolani's homecoming festivities.

Punahou vs. Pac-Five

When: Saturday, 4:45 p.m. at Aloha Stadium

Records: Punahou (3-5, 1-4 ILH), Pac-Five (3-5-1, 0-4-1 ILH)

On paper: The Wolfpack have been decimated by injuries this season, but turnovers have been a bigger problem.

Bryson Beirne returned last week and did fairly well against Iolani. Not having a good ground game, however, doesn't help Beirne.

Pac-Five, averaging 50 rushing yards per game, needs to keep Punahou's run-and-shoot attack off the field one way or another.

One solution could be Brashton Satele. The senior linebacker carried the football out of the backfield eight times last week and ran for 149 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown run.

The skinny: Whether coach Kip Botelho will have Satele run the ball again, the Wolfpack aren't deep. By the second half, a tiring Wolfpack defense could be at the mercy of Brett Kan and his fleet of receivers.

X factor: The 'Pack could shorten the game with an effective ground game. Beirne is a decent scrambler, but they certainly don't want to risk another injury.



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