Tuesday, October 6, 2015         


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Mililani hopes it has an answer for Kahuku

By Paul Honda


There is pain when the Mililani Trojans revisit their playoff loss at Kahuku a year ago.

Down a touchdown. Ball near the goal line with time running out. A mishandled football. A fumble. Game over. Kahuku won 35-27, advanced and went on win the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I title. The Red Raiders won their semifinal and final by a combined margin of eight points.

Mililani's season ended with one simple question: When?

This year, the Trojans hope they have the answer: Now.

Mililani has been a perennial contender out of the OIA Red West, but has never won an OIA title. Factor in the success of arch rival Leilehua, which won OIA and state titles in 2007, and reached the state final in '08, and the Trojans have been winners without that one crowning jewel.

Things might be different this fall. Mililani is arguably better now than it was a season ago. But so is Kahuku, which is why tonight's showdown for the OIA Red championship is, in some ways, a continuation of that botched play at the goal line at Kahuku's Carleton Weimer Field last fall.

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


» No. 3 Mililani (9-1) vs. No. 1 Kahuku (10-0), Aloha Stadium: There is no question that the Red Raiders have invested time and energy into developing their passing game, primarily out of play-action. At this time of year, though, there's no messing around. They have a front five that isn't classically large, but is primal and intelligent just the same. They are physical and take pride in knocking the snot out of every opponent whether it's heralded Saint Louis or a smaller, quick unit like Mililani.

That's where the Trojans face one of many battles within the war tonight. Can its front seven contend with Kahuku's blowout style of attack in the trenches? Big Red can go shotgun or zone block on stretch run plays with ease, but coach Reggie Torres will keep things simple and attempt to bulldoze through the brown and gold.

He has ample reason to keep things basic. Sophomore tailback Aofaga Wily has racked up All-State type numbers despite a platoon situation. He has 1,175 yards and 17 touchdowns. Senior Tyrone Brown has 633 yards and 12 scores. That's 1,808 yards and 29 touchdowns from the tailback position.

It remains to be seen whether senior quarterback Evan Moe has reached his potential with just 11.7 pass attempts per game, but clearly, his poise, ballhandling and accuracy have been outstanding. Moe has thrown for 14 touchdowns with only four picks while completing 61 percent of his tosses.

With 1,283 passing yards at a clip of 8.4 yards per attempt -- 7 yards is reasonably good -- that's efficiency. Moe's passing efficiency, by the way, is a whopping 185.45. His favorite targets, Punga Vea (30 catches, 610 yards, six touchdowns) and tight end Shairone Thompson (22, 481, four) haven't compiled huge numbers, but easily could with more looks.

Mililani took a calculated risk this season when first-year head coach Rod York chose to protect his master playmaker, Trent McKinney, with all the guardians at his disposal. The results have been remarkable. McKinney threw for five touchdowns in a 38-28 win over Waianae last week, including four to Hassan Richardson. McKinney, who was superb in the playoff loss to Kahuku last year, hasn't missed a beat all season. The savvy scrambler finished with 317 passing yards and 96 more on the ground against Waianae.

That versatility was big on a night when leading rusher Zachary Payomo had just seven carries. Payomo has rushed for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns.

McKinney has perhaps one advantage this time. Kahuku's bookends on the D-line a year ago, Hauoli Jamora and Kona Schwenke, graduated. The Red Raiders showed vulnerability against a fast quarterback early on when Saint Louis' Marcus Mariota ran 53 yards for a touchdown in a nonconference game eventually won by Kahuku.

Stopping McKinney (1,977 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions), who has rushed for 532 yards and 12 touchdowns, may be impossible. Slowing him down is more realistic, and that starts with ball control and keeping Mililani's prolific offense (36 points per game) on the sideline.

Kahuku's defense is as physical and basic as it gets, so Richardson (47 catches, 745 yards, 12 touchdowns) may get more solo coverage than usual. However, if safety Tigi Hill isolates on Richardson, fans may get one of the most intriguing one-on-one matchups of the season.

» No. 10 Kaimuki (9-1) vs. Kalaheo (6-3), Aloha Stadium: For mid-sized schools with roster numbers that range at 30 or so, this is an ultimate challenge. Both schools have talent, but both deal with a lack of depth weekly.

While Chester Sua has earned accolades from opposing coaches and fond Bulldogs fans, it's the core of two-way standouts like Johnnie Tuitele, Justice Sarcedo and many more who have given Kaimuki one of its best seasons so far.

Dallas Reis and Nahoa Spencer have combined to pass for 1,114 yards, 11 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Mason Kualii-Moe (24 catches, 453 yards, five touchdowns) is one of the most athletic receivers in the state, though Sarcedo and Kevin Tofiga figure in the passing game, as well.

Sua has few peers as a multi-dimensional force. The senior has rushed for 1,041 yards and 12 touchdowns, caught three touchdown passes and returns kicks full-time.

One of his peers is Kalaheo's Jesse Carney, a senior who doubles at linebacker and running back. Carney has rushed for 1,368 yards and eight touchdowns, also has three picks on defense.

When quarterback Justin Pagan elects to air the ball out, he has sophomore Nainoa Frank (18 receptions, 333 yards, five touchdowns) downfield. Tight end Quincy Mason is more of a receiver than a blocker, and Sage Richardson is another threat for Kalaheo.

Pagan's mastery of the veer offense (807 passing yards, 894 rushing yards, 19 total touchdowns) is key.

Kaimuki won the regular-season meeting with Kalaheo, 14-13.


» No. 8 Waianae (4-6) at No. 4 Leilehua (6-3): There will be an edgy sense of urgency with a state-tournament berth at stake after both teams lost in the OIA Red semifinals last week.

In their regular-season game, Waianae took a 19-13 lead only to give up 10 unanswered points and trailed 23-19 at the half.

Though Waianae sees a shifty quarterback every day at practice in Puletua Wilson, there were few answers against Leilehua. Mules quarterback Kenan Sadanaga was 21-for-31 for 220 yards and four touchdown strikes to four different receivers as Leilehua won 30-26.

Waianae was in brute force mode that night, with a 3:1 ratio of running plays to passing. Running back Bronson Panui (94 yards, two touchdowns) was a key factor, but Wilson was picked off twice.

Leave it to the Mules to dig deep into their bag of tricks. Safety Russell Siavii scored a game-winning touchdown in that regular-season meeting, and coach Nolan Tokuda's imagination has been as unpredictable as ever this fall.

Waianae will have its hands full against Sadanaga, a speedy scrambler, and his talented receiving corps. The Seariders won't mind another bus ride, though; they are 3-2 on the road, 1-3 at home and 0-1 on a neutral field.

» Keaau (4-5) at Kealakehe (9-1): The Cougars have historically had some success on the west side, though it hasn't carried over yet this year. With the Big Island Interscholastic Federation D-I title and state berth at stake, Kealakehe is on a roll offensively. The Waveriders have scored 161 points in their last four games, including a 32-0 victory over Keaau three weeks ago.

If there's any glimmer of hope for Keaau, it's that D-I bottom-dweller Waiakea had Kealakehe on the ropes last week before the Waveriders rallied for a 40-33 win. Keaau has won four of its last five, including two wins over Waiakea.

The Cougars ousted Hilo last week 26-20, picking off Vikings quarterback Kamaka Lewis twice.

Kealakehe, long the powerhouse of the BIIF, fell short last year as Honokaa won the D-I title. Last week, two second-half field goals by Tyler Yates made the difference in the win over Waiakea. Yates is also part of coach Gary Clark's quarterback rotation. The other quarterback, Dominick Trevino, caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the win.

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