POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 17, 2010
For decades, Kauai and Waimea were among the best football programs on the neighbor islands.
Until the formation of the state tournament, however, the champion of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation had no platform to prove they could beat the top competition on Oahu. In fact, since 2003, when the Division II state tourney began, Kauai High has won every KIF crown. State titles? None. Not yet, anyway, though last year's team came close in a 24-17 loss to 'Iolani.
The semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II State Football Championships kick off on Friday. Here's a look at the Division II semifinal matchups.
» On paper: Kauai (8-1) hasn't seen a shotgun attack like 'Iolani's all season, so last week's defensive performance (Kalaheo rushed for 80 yards on 34 carries) is almost negligible. Though Kalaheo passed for 148 yards -- Justin Pagan was 14-for-20 with one pick -- the pressure was constant and unnerving. Kauai took away the deep route and calculated its best strategy, thanks to defensive coordinator Mike Tresler, the former UH defensive back.
'Iolani (7-3) has not played since routing Damien 42-7 on Oct. 29. In fact, the Raiders have played only one game since Oct. 15.
"You want your kids to re-energize and give their minds and bodies a break," coach Wendell Look said. "Besides, it's hard to practice when you don't know who you're going to play."
Now, they know. 'Iolani's coaching staff made the trek to Lihue on Saturday to view Kauai's 17-13 win over Kalaheo.
"They're always well-coached and very physical," Look added. "They've got good size up front. That surprised me."
Kauai coach Derek Borrero and his staff went into preparation mode for 'Iolani an hour or so after the end of the Kalaheo game.
"It's a huge, huge task. They've got great coaches. They compete at a huge level every weekend," Borrero said. " 'Iolani's been our nemesis. ... Coach Tresler has done it week in and week out, coming up with a scheme to match up with our opponents."
» The skinny: Kauai has made the most of its opportunities. After all, quarterback Shea Shimabukuro is a converted wide receiver and the offense rarely throws the ball. A one-dimensional offense is tailor made for smart, rangy defenses like 'Iolani's. Defensive coordinator Delbert Tengan especially enjoys facing teams that aren't flexible.
However, the wishbone is something he and opposing coaches haven't seen in ages.
"It reminds me of 'Iolani's boom series (under the late Eddie Hamada). A lot of the things are similar, the power plays, the counters," he said.
Switching from the run-and-shoot playbook to the wishbone at midseason was done out of necessity. Kauai's passing game wasn't clicking, but the roster was stocked with fleet-footed ballcarriers.
Darren Acoba has enjoyed the change. He rambled for 158 yards and touchdown runs of 30 and 29 yards in the win over Kalaheo. The scoring plays came on fakes up the middle with Acoba taking the ball off tackle -- Kauai's "Charlie" play -- and beating defenders on the perimeter.
The smashmouth effect -- 41 carries and just four pass attempts -- wore down a thin Kalaheo roster. Can it work on a deeper, healthier 'Iolani unit?
The Interscholastic League of Honolulu D-II champs aren't as big up the middle as last year. If 'Iolani overcommits to plugging up the middle, the responsibilities of linebacker Cody Petro-Sakuma and elite cornerback Reid Saito will expand.
"It's going to come down to all 11 guys doing what they're supposed to be doing," Look said. "The right alignment. The right position."
Meanwhile, Kauai's defense did an excellent job of containing Kalaheo's Pagan, a scrambler. Disciplined pass rushing and a spy kept Pagan under wraps, while cornerbacks used more bump and run.
'Iolani sophomore Reece Foy is a faster, much more unpredictable scrambler than Pagan, and 'Iolani's complex run-and-shoot, no-huddle offense puts all five pass-catchers to use -- something few offenses are proficient at.
Bret Christman (23 catches, 375 yards, 5 TDs) and Josiah Sukamaran (24, 373, 4) lead a productive group.
» X factor: Shimabukuro has a 53-yard field goal to his credit, tying Baldwin's Ceejay Santos for the longest boot of the season.
The bye for 'Iolani may reveal a little rust, but the Raiders have had time to heal up. Kauai suffered injuries to running back/defensive back Jake Leake (6-foot, 180) and lineman Cameron Bargamento (6-2, 235) against Kalaheo.
Aug. 14: KS-Hawaii W, 27-15
Aug. 21: at Honokaa W, 14-13
Sept. 4: at Kapaa W, 13-0
Sept. 18: Waimea W, 14-8
Sept. 25: Kapaa L, 24-13
Oct. 9: Waimea W, 33-14
Oct. 16: at Kapaa W, 14-13
Oct. 30: Waimea W, 24-16
Nov. 13: Kalaheo W, 17-13
Aug. 14: Waialua W, 37-7
Aug. 20: at Mililani L, 43-23
Aug. 28: Kaiser W, 35-0
Sept. 4: Damien W, 23-0
Sept. 11: Kamehameha W, 13-6
Sept. 17: Pac-Five W, 26-7
Sept. 24: at Punahou L, 24-19
Oct. 9: St. Louis L, 41-14
Oct. 15: Pac-Five W, 31-8
Oct. 29: Damien W, 42-7
2009: Iolani 24, Kauai 17
2007: Iolani 35, Kauai 21
STATE TOURNAMENT HISTORY
BEST STATE PERFORMANCES
Kauai single game
» Passing yards: 289, Kekoa Crowell, 2004 loss to Campbell
» Rushing yards: 171, Kelii Ruiz, 2007 win over Roosevelt
Iolani single game
» Passing yards: 369, Ryan Dung, 2006 loss to King Kekaulike
» Rushing yards: 217, Mike Hirokawa, 2005 win over Radford
» On paper: Despite playing in Division II, both Kaimuki and Lahainaluna have histories of success against bigger programs, making this a compelling matchup.
Kaimuki (11-1) continues to win whether the performance is near flawless or clumsy, as it was with six turnovers in a 14-9 win at Kamehameha-Hawaii last week.
Lahainaluna (7-2) lost to D-I Baldwin 27-20 and 14-0 during the Maui Interscholastic League season, but hasn't played since Oct. 29. By Friday's kickoff, 21 days will have passed since the Lunas saw game action.
For Lahainaluna, more time to perfect its schemes, including a 3-5-3 base defense, is just fine.
"We're not as talented, not as big as teams in the past, but they work real hard and they have good team chemistry," co-head coach Garrett Tihada said. "They're willing to do whatever you tell them. Very disciplined."
Discipline implemented by second-year coach Clint Onigama and his staff has made a new team out of Kaimuki. Running back Chester Sua (6-foot-2, 208) continued his remarkable season with 117 rushing yards (22 carries) against KS-Hawaii. The Washington State-bound senior has 1,319 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in addition to his contributions as a receiver, safety and kick returner.
Kaimuki has able quarterbacks in Nainoa Spencer and Dallas Reis. Spencer is the better passer (9-for-14 against KS-Hawaii) and spreads the ball around. Leading receiver Mason Kualii-Moe had four catches for 50 yards last week. The Lunas, led by linebackers Chase Rogers, Mitchell Lowen (6-4, 227) and two-way starter Jostin Carbajal, have faced outstanding pass catchers already. They limited Baldwin's Ro Wilson to three receptions for 12 yards in their first meeting.
» The skinny: It was a stout Kaimuki defense that slowed the Warriors' offense. KS-Hawaii rushed for just 21 yards and was 13-for-33 through the air for 146 yards.
Lahainaluna's modified wing-T offense features a "jet," or fly receiver in motion before the snap.
"We've played around with it a little this year. You'll see," Tihada said.
Behind a line led by Teanu Rickard (5-8, 213), the Lunas pound away. Carbajal (490 yards, eight touchdowns), a 5-8, 173-pound senior, had a team-high 82 carries. Quarterback T.J. Rickard had 73 attempts. B.J. Pagdilao-Bala (37 carries), Jojo Hidalgo (26) and J.R. Keniolo-Dusenberry (15) also got touches.
The wing-T could be tricky for the Bulldogs to handle, but the Lunas' defense will have its hands full with Kaimuki's mix of shotgun and I-formation sets.
The Lunas don't have a receiver with more than eight receptions, but a lack of balance on offense won't matter if the Bulldogs don't contain the "jet" motion man and the ensuing series of play-action possibilities.
Kaimuki faced a wing-T in scrimmages against Waianae in 2008 and '09, but hasn't dealt with a jet this year.
» X factor: Lahainaluna didn't see a lot of passing offenses this year, but limited Baldwin and its run-and-shoot attack to just 14 points in their second matchup.
Since a nonconference loss to Mililani in Week 1, no foe has scored more than 21 points against the Bulldogs. Preparing for Lahainaluna's misdirection-loaded scheme, however, will be a major test.
Aug. 21: at Keeau W, 20-0
Aug: 28: at King Kekaulike W, 35-12
Sept. 3: Maui W, 38-6
Sept. 17: Baldwin L, 27-20
Sept. 25: at Kamehameha-Maui W, 21-7
Oct. 9: Kamehameha-Maui W, 37-19
Oct. 16: Maui W, 21-0
Oct. 23: King Kekaulike W, 49-7
Oct. 29: Baldwin L, 14-0
Aug. 13: at Mililani L, 34-6
Aug. 21: McKinley W, 16-2
Aug. 28: Anuenue W, forfeit
Sept. 4: Waialua W, 34-9
Sept. 10: at Nanakuli W, 41-0
Sept. 18: Kalaheo W, 14-13
Sept. 25: Kalani W, 54-14
Oct. 8: at Waipahu W, 27-21
Oct. 16: Pearl City W, 34-12
Oct. 22: Pearl City W, 14-13
Nov. 5: Kalaheo W, 48-12
Nov. 12: at Kamehameha-Hawaii W, 14-9
2007: Lahainaluna 52, Kaimuki 20
STATE TOURNAMENT HISTORY
BEST STATE PERFORMANCES
Lahainaluna single game
» Passing yards: 162, Preston Medeiros, 2004 win over Mililani
» Rushing yards: 144, Wayne Phillips, 2004 win over Mililani
Kaimuki single game
» Passing yards: 149, Kapono Kaiwi-Barrionuebo, 2007 loss to Lahainaluna
» Rushing yards: 143, Dolly Ainuu, 2006 loss to Iolani