All eyes were fixated on a showdown of titans last week.
With No. 1 Kahuku still unbeaten after a 49-27 win over second-ranked Saint Louis, danger remains.
The Kaiser Cougars, featuring a number of potential college players, await Kahuku.
Kahuku coach Reggie Torres gave the Red Raiders a couple of days to enjoy the victory.
"I was happy for our kids. Any time you’re in competition with a team like Saint Louis and come out with a win, it’s a good thing," he said. "But we reminded them, it’s not a regular-season game. Whatever happens on Friday, by Monday, we focus on the next game."
Saint Louis, he added, exposed Kahuku’s flaws.
"Our angles were terrible," he said, noting a 52-yard touchdown run by Crusaders quarterback Marcus Mariota on the second play from scrimmage.
The play came on a double-tight-end pistol formation — a set rarely used by any team statewide.
"But we’ve seen it before. We practice against it," Torres said. "They used it against Roosevelt."
Still, limiting a prolific offense to seven points in the second half was a feat by Kahuku’s 4-3 defense.
Offensively, the Red Raiders are employing more smashmouth football technique.
"A lot of teams are going to zone (blocking) and stretching out the defense," Torres said, referring to Saint Louis’ running philosophy. "You need those kinds of smaller, quicker running backs."
Kahuku used that approach often last year.
"We tried to go outside on Kamehameha, but they were too fast," he said of the state final, won by the Warriors. "Now we’re more straight-ahead. We go more at ’em, push downfield rather than stretch it wide."
The result: a 27-7 win over Waianae (184 rushing yards); 54-25 over Kailua (256 rushing yards) and 192 rushing yards against Saint Louis.
While Tyrone Brown and Fonoivasa Mataafa remain cogs in the ground attack, the ascent of sophomore Aofaga Wily has been key.
Wily had 11 carries for 69 yards against Waianae, 141 yards on six touches against Kailua and 85 yards on 21 attempts against Saint Louis.
He was a defensive end and outside linebacker last year on the JV squad.
"After their playoffs were done, he was on our scout team doing scenarios, game situations. That’s when we saw him try tailback," Torres said.
Kahuku’s stronghold at the top of the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10 is no guarantee against the Cougars, who have Seth Keolanui at defensive end and Jarrin Inagaki at linebacker. Though the Cougars have considerable talent, much of it is extended to two-way action, and depth could become an issue.
But if there ever was a moment when Goliath might be vulnerable, this week could be it.
Here’s a look at the rest of this weekend’s matchups:
» No. 2 Farrington at Castle: The Governors’ stifling defense and hammering ground game have been effective. It’s been years since they were ranked this high by coaches and media, but Castle’s focus has sharpened since an upset loss to Moanalua two weeks ago. Farrington’s Scotland Smith rambled for 140 yards and a score in a win over Kamehameha last week. The Govs will be tested by one of the state’s premier passers, Jaymason Lee.
» Roosevelt at Kailua: The Surfriders and their developing aerial attack are improving after a 38-21 win over Pac-Five last week. The Rough Riders didn’t need additional motivation, though. They lost at home to Kailua 42-10 last season.
» No. 7 Leilehua at Campbell: The Mules are relying heavily on a quick, tricky defense while the offense finds its footing. The Mules limited Kapolei to just one touchdown in a win last week, but Campbell’s defense was tough, as well, in a 13-6 win at Waianae.
» Kalani at Waipahu: The Falcons will be tested by the Marauders’ spread-option attack. Waipahu racked up 305 rushing yards against McKinley last week, but still lost 34-27.
» Nanakuli at Pearl City: The Chargers will count on linebacker Ray Cooper and safety Cyrus Coen to fortify their rushing offense. Nanakuli allowed Kalaheo’s Jesse Carney to rush for 240 yards in last week’s matchup.
» Konawaena at Ka’u: The Wildcats (0-3, 0-1 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) are young and struggling this season, while the Trojans are showing signs of improvement. It’s been decades since Ka’u last beat Konawaena.
» Skyline (Utah) at Kealakehe: One of Utah’s top programs will give the Waveriders (3-0, 1-0 BIIF) possibly their roughest ride this fall. The rotation of quarterbacks Dominick Trevino and Tyler Yates has worked well so far for coach Gary Clark.
» Lahainaluna vs. Maui, War Memorial Stadium: The Sabers lost some momentum with a loss to Kamehameha-Maui last weekend. The Lunas, meanwhile, remain one of the state’s top D-II programs. They improved to 2-0 (1-0 Maui Interscholastic League) after a 35-12 win at King Kekaulike.
» No. 6 Kamehameha vs. No. 3 Saint Louis: The first of two epic clashes between the Interscholastic League of Honolulu rivals is also a conference opener for both teams. Kamehameha’s loss to Farrington and Saint Louis’ loss to Kahuku only intensified this week’s preparations. Though Saint Louis has the more explosive offense, it is highly dependent on Mariota’s speed and scrambling ability.
Kamehameha, with a relatively inexperienced starter at quarterback (Christian Akana), has the benefit of an offensive line geared toward the ground game.
A week of extra work on special teams — a bugaboo in the Kahuku game — should help the Crusaders.
» Damien vs. No. 8 ‘Iolani: The Raiders’ quarterback situation remains in yellow alert with one passer down and another still recovering. That leaves Reece Foy at the forefront of their no-huddle, run-and-shoot attack. With receiver Trevyn Tulonghari still recovering from an offseason ankle injury, much of the burden rests with the defensive unit.
Damien (0-3) is coming off a loss at Castle.
» Waianae at No. 4 Mililani: The Seariders have one of the top playmakers in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, quarterback Puletua Wilson, but have not been able to capitalize during an 0-3 start. Wilson is now rotating at the position and the Seariders’ potential for a wide-open, shotgun offense seems to be stagnant.
Still, this is a team that won at Mililani 54-41 last year. The Trojans, though, have improved, and Trent McKinney remains productive. He passed for 320 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s battle.
» Aiea at Kapolei: Na Alii have returned to Division I just in time to face the wrath of the Hurricanes. Kapolei is 0-3 (0-1 OIA) and in the midst of redevelopment. The re-emphasis on the spread option is beginning to bear fruit; the ‘Canes rushed for 171 yards in a loss to Leilehua.
Aiea (2-0) has allowed just 13 points in wins over Damien and Roosevelt, while quarterback Freddy Taliulu remains an efficient, tough leader.
» Waialua vs. Kaimuki, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: Bulldogs square off against Bulldogs for the first time in a few years now that Kaimuki is back in Division II. Kaimuki’s pack of two-way players, including Chester Sua (Washington State), has rested up since a 16-2 win over McKinley two weeks ago.
» Anuenue vs. McKinley: Na Koa (0-2), plagued by injuries, are set to play this week after forfeiting last week’s matchup with Kaiser.
The Tigers (0-2) have an enormous line, but like Anuenue, aren’t very deep. New coach Joseph Cho’s approach, using a run-oriented offense to preserve the legs of his two-way players, will be a big challenge for Anuenue. If the Tigers wear Na Koa down, speedsters like Solomon Dixon (Idaho) could benefit late in the game.
» Hawaii Prep at Honokaa: This traditional rivalry has taken on additional heat now that Honokaa has moved to D-II. Ka Makani have scored 108 points in two games, thanks to a burly offensive line and Isaiah Adams, who rushed for 216 yards on just eight carries against Kohala.
» Kohala at Kamehameha-Hawaii: The Warriors (2-1, 1-0 BIIF) won big on the road last week at Konawaena, 41-0, as Keoni Thompson fired five touchdown passes.
» Keaau at Hilo: The Cougars and Vikings split last year’s games. Keaau won the first, 20-7, and Hilo won the second, 41-37. Vikings quarterback Kamaka Lewis spiraled five touchdown passes in a 35-21 win over Lethbridge (Canada) last week. Keaau hasn’t played since a 20-0 loss to Lahainaluna two weeks ago.
» King Kekaulike vs. Baldwin, War Memorial Stadium: The Bears are coming off a 42-20 loss to powerful San Clemente (Calif.). Senior Ceejay Santos already has the season’s longest field goal (50 yards) and kickoff return (99 yards). (See the field goal on video via HawaiiPrepWorld.com.)
» La Jolla Country Day (Calif.) at Kamehameha-Maui: The Warriors (1-0) looked solid in Kevin O’Brien’s debut as head coach, a 40-2 win over Maui. The former St. Anthony coach saw his defense return three picks for touchdowns. The visiting Torreys, coached by Jeff Hutzler, haven’t played a game yet, but will continue their journey with a game in Las Vegas next week. They were 10-2 last season, including 7-0 in the San Diego Section Pacific League. Nine players were selected to the All-Pacific League first and second teams, but seven graduated.