POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 19, 2010
Two months ago, Waianae felt fortunate just to win a game.
Now, the battle-tested Seariders are the most improbable team left in the Division I state football playoffs.
Waianae, which evened its record at 6-6 after starting 1-4, faces familiar foe Mililani tonight in the semifinals of the state football tournament at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.
SEASON RECORDMililani (10-1)
Aug. 13: Kaimuki W, 34-6
Aug. 20: Iolani W, 43-23
Aug. 28: at Radford W, 37-14
Sept. 4: Waianae L, 42-28
Sept. 10: Campbell W, 48-12
Sept. 24: Aiea W, 38-27
Oct. 1: at Kapolei W, 34-7
Oct. 9: at Leilehua W, 42-35
Oct. 22: Farrington W, 21-14
Oct. 29: Waianae W, 38-28
Nov. 5: Kahuku W, forfeit
STATE TOURNAMENT HISTORYMililani: 0-3
Waianae: 5-5 (3-10-1 Prep Bowl)
BEST STATE PERFORMANCES
Mililani single game» Passing yards: 192, Rustin Funakoshi in 2006 loss to Baldwin
» Rush yards: 126, Jordan Torres, in 2006 loss to Baldwin
Waianae single game» Passing yards: 246, Puletua Wilson, 2010 win over Kealakehe
» Rush yards: 184, Danny Kekoanui in 2007 win over Kealakehe
Waianae's only win in its first five games came in a shocker at John Kauinana Stadium, 42-28 over Mililani. The Trojans came back to beat the Seariders, 38-28, in the semifinals of the OIA playoffs, setting the stage for tonight's rubber match, which has the most on the line.
On paper: It's a classic match-up of pass-happy Mililani against the downhill-running Seariders, led by quarterback Puletua Wilson (6-foot-1, 185).
Waianae is averaging more than 225 rushing yards a game in its two meetings with Mililani. In the first game, the Trojans couldn't stop anybody, as Bryson Panui (5-11, 185), sophomore Jaylen Mitchell (5-7, 175), senior James Wilson (5-10, 160) and Puletua Wilson all averaged at least 5 yards a carry.
In the second meeting, Panui ran wild again with 85 yards on eight attempts. The difference was the Trojans defense held Puletua Wilson to only 24 yards on 14 carries, less than 2 yards a play.
Wilson showed the ability to throw the ball against the Trojans, totaling 201 yards on 14-for-23 passing. He's still much more dangerous as a runner, but if the Trojans are in the lead early, it'll force Wilson to take to the air.
Mililani coach Rod York spent the preseason emphasizing the importance of establishing the run. Running back Zachary Payomo (5-7, 170) has totaled more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, but has been slowed down in big games.
That's paved the way for quarterback Trent McKinney (6-0, 175), a legit all-state candidate, to carve up opposing defenses to the tune of 1,977 yards and 35 total touchdowns (23 passing, 12 rushing).
Waianae held McKinney to 234 in its win, but the senior QB came back with 317 yards and five touchdowns in the playoff win. Lanky receiver Hassan Richardson has 17 catches for 264 yards and seven touchdowns in the two meetings.
The skinny: Waianae is the only team to beat Mililani (10-1) this season, and did it by scoring more than 40 points against the Trojans, the only time it's happened.
Mililani used it as a learning experience, averaging 15.3 points allowed over the next three games.
The Trojans have been susceptible against the pass, allowing 364 yards in the regular-season finale against Leilehua. That shouldn't be much of a problem, as the Seariders will be content with trying to pound the ball against a Mililani defensive line that has steadily improved throughout the season.
Puletua Wilson is the heart of the Waianae offense. Expect Panui and James Wilson to get their fair share of yards, but if the Trojans can bottle up Puletua, it could be a long night for the Waianae offense, which can't afford to make mistakes.
Likewise, Mililani is going to get its points, as its passing game has been one of the state's best all season. Richardson has been unstoppable all year, but McKinney could use help from slotback Colby Lum (5-6, 150) and Ervan Jean-Pierre (6-4, 190).
X-factor: Penalties are always a big deal in playoff games, but here more than any other. Waianae can pound the rock at a steady pace, but 10-yard holding calls put the Seariders in passing downs, something they struggle with.
The Trojans can throw the rock, but a lot of their passes are intermediate routes, with the occasional deep ball to Richardson. Third-and-long situations are bound to do in both teams, so whichever team can stay out of them the most has the best chance.