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Kahuku perfects the power offense

By Paul Honda

LAST UPDATED: 2:27 a.m. HST, Oct 1, 2010

First, there is strength.

Second, though no less forceful, is speed.

Combined, they provide power.

At Kahuku, finesse and girth go hand-in-hand. While last year's Red Raiders opened the season with new-look stretch plays designed to give running backs cut-back space, this season's squad is back to square one.

Straight-ahead power is the name of Kahuku's game. They can still stretch with the best of them, if necessary. But the Red Raiders have made an effort to go from Point A to Point B in the quickest time possible. The results have been remarkable.

In Kahuku's potent running game, its point-of-attack execution forces defenses to commit on the handoff much more quickly. That gives quarterback Evan Moe a second or 2 more on play-action, while allowing his targets -- primarily wide receiver Punga Vea and tight end Shairone Thompson on solo coverages -- more opportunity to create separation. Any backside blitzing can be measured by Moe a bit more efficiently.

The variables are crucial to a program that is more balanced than it had been for years, perhaps going back to former quarterback Inoke Funaki's senior year.

When the No. 1 Red Raiders host Farrington tonight in a pivotal Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East duel, the visiting Governors may offer more resistance against the run than any team Kahuku has faced. Stopping the aerial game, though, is a big question mark for a Farrington squad that endured losses to shotgun, run-and-shoot teams (Castle, Kailua).

Here's a look at this weekend's matchups:


» No. 8 Farrington at No. 1 Kahuku: The Governors (4-2, 2-2 OIA) were ranked No. 2 just a few weeks ago, but have slipped following conference losses.

Kahuku (6-0, 4-0) has permitted only six points in its last three games.

A year ago, the Red Raiders were ranked first in the state, the Govs had them on the ropes, and Kahuku got a field goal from Cameron Mercado with 6:41 to play, winning 16-14 at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.

It was another frustrating finish for Farrington, which has lost to its North Shore rival in 13 of the last 14 meetings, including the past eight in a row. The recent three meetings were decided by a total of 12 points.

Two running backs, Tyrone Brown and Fonoivasa Mataafa, combined for 91 yards on 17 carries in last year's battle. Brown scored on a 35-yard touchdown run.

Though Moe was just 6-for-15 for 87 yards with two picks, the Red Raiders gladly accepted a key roughing-the-kicker gift from Farrington that sparked a rally from a 14-0 deficit.

Farrington's defense is among the best in the islands, but lost All-State cornerback Alvin Faamausili to graduation, and Kahuku has the benefit of surging sophomore Aofaga Wily, one of the state's top rushers.

Thompson and Vea combined for just two receptions (40 yards) in last season's matchup. The onus is on Farrington's defense, particularly linebackers Justin Vele, Lancelot Williams and Charles Tauaefa.

The pressure's on because Farrington's offense is heavily dependent on the ground attack (Scotland Smith) and the frontal assault of the "Bamboolas."

Farrington quarterback Jared Hakuole passed for 25 yards in last fall's game, and the passing attack will be severely tested by Kahuku linebackers T.J. Tito and Ben Mamea.

» No. 3 Mililani at Kapolei: The Trojans' march to a league title has been near-perfect. The one stain, a home loss to Waianae, hasn't been forgotten. If the Trojans (5-1, 3-1 OIA) look back to last year, Kapolei was also a nemesis, handing the men in brown a 41-24 loss in late September.

It's safe to say Mililani quarterback Trent McKinney is looking forward to this rematch. He threw three picks in last year's loss as the Trojans fell despite limiting the visitors to 185 total yards.

Kapolei (1-6, 1-4) is hoping to salvage what remains of a disappointing season.

» No. 10 Kamehameha vs. No. 4 Punahou, Aloha Stadium: The Warriors (3-3, 1-2 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) are clinging to title hopes after ending a three-game skid last week with a win over Damien.

Kamehameha won last year's matchups 28-10 and 45-21.

Punahou (4-1, 2-1) features a steel curtain of a defense and a reliable, durable running back in Steven Lakalaka (623 yards). The 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior is averaging 5.5 yards per attempt even though he sometimes lines up in the wildcat and runs with the ball virtually every time.

» Damien vs. Pac-Five, Aloha Stadium: After facing teams ranked No. 3, No. 6 and No. 2 in the past three games, the Wolfpack face a fellow Division II member. While Pac-Five (1-4, 0-2 ILH) scored just 13 points in that stretch, they were close against Punahou (0-0 at the half), beat Kaiser and lost by two points to Campbell -- all D-I programs. Even with the losses, the 'Pack are still in the hunt for a D-II state berth.

» Pearl City at Waipahu: It's a homecoming of sorts for Chargers coach Kai Kamaka, who played under then-Waipahu coach Sam Delos Reyes. This matchup is a crucial one in the OIA White; both are on a path to the playoffs and home-field advantage is at stake.

Waipahu (4-1, 3-1) is coming off a 31-20 win over Kalaheo and a herculean effort by running back Victor Moananu (36 carries, 214 yards). Pearl City (6-0, 5-0) has counted on an air-tight defense sparked by linebacker Ray Cooper and safety Cyrus Coen.

» Moanalua at Roosevelt: The Rough Riders (1-5, 1-3 OIA) finally ended a skid by upsetting Castle last week. Another win would keep playoff possibilities alive.

Moanalua (3-3, 2-2), once ranked in the Top 10, is battling for its place in the postseason. Last week's loss to Kahuku uncovered a gem of good news: Running back Charles Spencer rushed for 139 yards on 24 attempts.

» Aiea at Radford: Na Alii (3-3, 1-3 OIA) lost momentum in recent losses to Leilehua and Mililani, but are still mathematically eligible for a playoff berth. Aiea's offense came alive for the first time in a month behind the play of quarterback Chucky Kaahanui in a 39-27 loss to the Trojans.

Like Aiea, Radford (3-3, 2-2) moved up to the Red Conference this season. Aiea's athletic corps of defensive backs will present another challenge for Radford quarterback Maika Ulufale.

» Hilo at Keaau: The rise of Cougars football in recent years has hit a speed bump this season. Keaau (1-3, 1-2 Big Island Interscholastic Federation), the kryptonite to league powerhouse Kealakehe, has scored just 17 points in its last three games. That includes zero in a 30-point loss to Hilo four weeks ago.

The Vikings (2-3, 1-2) are well-rested after last week's bye. They lost last year's game at Keaau 20-7.

» Ka'u at Konawaena: The Trojans (2-3, 2-3 BIIF) ended a long drought with a home win over the Wildcats four weeks ago. They've lost big to the BIIF's D-II contenders since, but also won on the road against D-II Kohala.

Konawaena (1-6, 1-4) is looking to avenge its 12-0 loss at Ka'u.

» Baldwin at Kamehameha-Maui: The Bears (5-1, 4-0 Maui Interscholastic League) dropped out of the Top 10 this week despite an unbeaten mark against island teams, including a 19-10 victory at Kailua to start nonconference play in mid-August.

Baldwin excels at defense and special teams, the latter being anchored by Ceejay Santos. The senior has 53- and 50-yard field goals to his credit so far this season.

KS-Maui (3-2, 2-2) lost to D-II rival Lahainaluna last week. Baldwin won the earlier matchup with the Warriors 41-6 just three weeks ago.


» Waianae at No. 5 Leilehua: The Mules find ways to win, whether it's with special teams or defense or an occasional trick play on offense. Nimble-footed Jeremiah Andrade has emerged as one of the OIA's top returners. A crew of blitzers gives Leilehua (4-1, 4-0 OIA) the aura of a defense that requires vast study. Waianae (2-4, 2-2) has the power to cast aside sneaky, smaller foes. A 42-28 win at Mililani one month ago is proof of that. Last week's bye can only help the Seariders, who could vault back into the Red West title hunt with a win.

» Castle at No. 7 Kailua: The Knights (4-2, 2-2) won last year's battle between Windward rivals 39-21. This time, they're coming off a stunning loss to previously winless Roosevelt, while Kailua (5-2, 4-1) is on a roll behind a stout defense and the passing proficiency of sophomore Kahaku Iaea.

The 6-foot side-armer has learned quickly since early scrimmages and a loss to Baldwin. Since coach Gary Rosolowich and staff switched from a traditional I formation to a four-wide, shotgun set, Iaea has passed for 1,823 yards and 14 touchdowns in seven contests. He's tossed only two picks in the last three games. The emergence of running back Jarrin Young, who rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns against Kaiser, has bolstered the offense.

» Kalani vs. McKinley, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: McKinley (2-4, 2-2 OIA) is scoring points -- 28 per game in the past four -- and a playoff berth is still in reach.

Kalani (0-5, 0-4) is showing life offensively, but hasn't allowed fewer than 34 points in a game this season.

» Waialua at Nanakuli: Last week's 27-21 loss to Pearl City was a near-lethal blow for the Bulldogs (2-5, 2-4 OIA), who can keep their scant playoff chances alive with win over the Golden Hawks (0-5, 0-5).

» Anuenue vs. Kalaheo, Kaiser Stadium: Na Koa (2-4, 2-3 OIA) are chasing the four frontrunners for a playoff spot in the White Conference. Ikaika Gante rushed for 175 yards in last week's win at Nanakuli.

Kalaheo (3-2, 3-2 OIA) hopes to be at full strength following last week's loss to Waipahu. Running back Jesse Carney was limited to just seven carries in that game, but is still closing in on 1,000 rushing yards.

» Waiakea at Kealakehe: The Waveriders (5-1, 3-0 BIIF) are rested after last week's bye and looking forward to meeting the Warriors, a team it has dominated for many years.

Waiakea, though, pushed the 'Riders hard in a 38-23 Kealakehe win five weeks ago in Hilo.

» Honokaa at Hawaii Prep: Ka Makani (5-1, 4-1 BIIF) blanked their neighbors 29-0 when they played a month ago. The Dragons (3-3, 3-2) have outscored two D-II foes 81-0 since losing to HPA and KS-Hawaii.

HPA bounced back from a loss at KS-Hawaii with a shutout win at Konawaena last week. Micah Ashburn took snaps in place of injured quarterback Keanu Yamamoto while running back Isaiah Adams topped the 1,000-yard mark with 83 on 11 attempts. Adams has 1,024 yards.

» Kamehameha-Hawaii at Kohala: The Warriors (5-1, 5-0 BIIF) are riding high since an overtime win over HPA two weeks ago. KS-Hawaii's only loss came in mid-August against Kauai, 27-15.

The Cowboys lost at KS-Hawaii 42-0 on Sept. 4, the second in a string of defeats.

» Waimea at Kapaa: Once the dominant program in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation, the Menehune (1-3, 0-2 KIF) find themselves in the role of spoiler after losing closely to Kapaa and Kauai.

Kapaa (4-1, 2-1) knocked off perennial champion Kauai 24-13 last week and is in a first-place tie.

» Maui at King Kekaulike: The Sabers (1-4, 0-4 MIL) haven't scored in a month and are on the road against a squad it lost to 32-0 during that span. King Kekaulike (2-3, 1-3) had a bye last week.

When the teams last met, Maui gained 127 total yards while quarterback Vevesi Uta sat out with a concussion.

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