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Punahou in playoff mode as ILH race winds down

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  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Punahou defenders Kekai Newman and Kian Lutu sandwiched Kamehameha running back Jason Muraoka earlier this month.

While Aiea, Farrington, Moanalua and Radford battle tonight for survival in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference tournament, title hopes for Punahou are also at stake.

The Buffanblu, at 3-2 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, have an opportunity to put a dent in leader Saint Louis. A Crusaders loss would open the race for a Division I state berth for Punahou and Kamehameha. A Saint Louis win would mathematically oust Punahou from contention.

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

 

TONIGHT

ILH

» No. 2 Saint Louis vs. No. 5 Punahou, Aloha Stadium: It’s cut and dry for the Buffanblu (5-2, 3-2). Win and stay alive. That’s easier said than done for a team with a sturdy defense and an offense that’s had multiple quarterbacks due to injuries. Liloa Travis was the returning starter, but was slow to recover from a knee injury. Lokahi Matsuo (6-1, 235), a tight end two years ago, made significant progress with tutelage from offensive coordinator Darryl Kan. However, he suffered an injury and missed time.

Third stringer Kale Dyas was efficient in his starts. Punahou opens up the offense more with Travis under center, but injuries have cut into the game experience he could’ve had by now. As a result, Saint Louis’ athletic defense will probably see more wrinkles — Steven Lakalaka throwing more out of the Wildcat? — from Punahou, which was the case when the Crusaders rallied from a 17-14 halftime deficit for a 35-17 win on Sept. 17.

The Crusaders (7-1, 5-0) have won two more games since by margins of 29 and 27 points.

Saint Louis’ situation at quarterback has been steady, sometimes spectacular with Marcus Mariota. The 6-3 5/8-inch, 190-pound senior was highly effective in the win over Punahou, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown, and connecting on 11 of his 16 passes for 142 yards and two more scores. That night, he didn’t have to lock in on a specific target; Six Crusaders teammates caught the ball.

Mariota was in full command in a no-huddle offense that went to warp speed after the half. The stunner was a 54-yard strike to tight end Dallas Tuumalo, who remains one of the X factors tonight.

Lakalaka churned out 90 yards that evening (4.5 per carry). Remember, it was just a year ago when the Buffanblu rushed for 237 yards in a 26-3 win over the Crusaders.

» Pac-Five vs. No. 6 ‘Iolani, Aloha Stadium: With three games left, the Wolfpack (2-6, 1-4 ILH) can get right back into the D-II title race with a win. Pac-Five had Kamehameha on the ropes last week before losing in the final moments, 21-17. Solid defense, developing offense … enough to knock off the Raiders?

‘Iolani (5-3, 3-2) has fallen in its last two games, both to D-I programs. The Raiders’ most recent win was over Pac-Five, 26-7, five weeks ago.

 

OIA Red

» Aiea vs. No. 9 Farrington, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: The Governors (5-3, 3-3) are loaded on defense, yet are 0-2 when scoring 15 or fewer points. In other words, the West Coast offense has to move the chains to help the defensive unit.

This "wild-card" scenario — the winner of this game will take on West No. 1 seed Mililani next week — is an odd scenario for the Govs.

Just 11 months ago, they lost in overtime to Kahuku in the state tourney semifinal. This fall, they were ranked as high as No. 2 in the state.

Aiea (4-4, 2-4) snuck into the playoffs with another grind of a win over Campbell on the last night of the regular season. Technically, Aiea is the fourth seed from the Red West and Farrington is the fifth seed in the Red East, but it doesn’t matter now. Aiea simply needs to find a way to score more; four times, Na Alii have scored in single digits, losing three of those games.

» Moanalua at Radford: The boundary line between Salt Lake and Aliamanu is thin, but the old rivalry isn’t. There was a time when Moanalua coach Arnold Martinez banned his players from wearing red — one of Radford’s colors — during football season. But the fact is, both Martinez and Radford coach Fred Salanoa are highly competitive, excellent taskmasters.

Moanalua (4-4, 3-3), the fifth and last seed out of the Red East, cracked the Top 10 early on. An upset win over Castle was followed by losses in five of its next six games, but a forfeiture by Roosevelt has revived Moanalua’s title hopes. Na Menehune have scored just 13 points in their last three games.

The Rams (4-4, 3-3) have an athletic defense — defensive backs Dorsey Norris and Tevita Baravilala also catch passes from Maika Ulufale — that got pushed back by Waianae last week in a 41-20 loss.

 

BIIF

» Keaau at Waiakea, Wong Stadium: The Cougars’ boom-or-bust offense scored 41 in a miraculous comeback win over Hilo two weeks ago, then went goose egg at Kealakehe last week.

Waiakea (1-5, 1-4 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) is out of the D-I title picture, but has plenty of motivation. Keaau (2-4, 2-3) won their first matchup 8-5 on Sept. 18.

» Hawaii Prep at Ka’u: Ka Makani (6-2, 5-2) were once flying high toward the D-II title, but injuries to their top two passers have been pivotal. They still have great talent in lineman Shane Brostek and running back Isaiah Adams, and more depth than small, rising programs like Ka’u (2-5, 2-5). The Trojans have lost three in a row since a 2-2 start.

 

MIL

» Kamehameha-Maui at King Kekaulike: Neighborhood rivalry — this one is in Upcountry Maui — usually makes for tough competition, but the Warriors won the matchup with Na Alii five weeks ago, 40-0. KS-Maui (3-4, 2-4) could be vulnerable, though, after a home loss to D-II rival Lahainaluna last week. King Kekaulike (3-4, 2-4) needs a miracle to catch first-place Baldwin in the D-I chase. Na Alii have scored 64 in two wins against Maui, but are averaging 6.5 points per game against the rest of the league.

 

OIA White

» Anuenue at Waipahu: The Marauders (5-2, 5-2) were limited to a season-low 21 points in a loss to front-running Kaimuki last week, though punishing running back Victor Moananu picked up 157 yards.

Kaimuki backup quarterback Nainoa Spencer demonstrated excellent field awareness and finesse in the pocket. Behind Spencer, the offense charged up and scored 20 second-half points, and Chester Sua (Washington State) continues to be a lethal weapon as a running back, receiver and safety.

With one game left, Anuenue (3-5, 3-4) is out of the playoff race, but its "Iron 19" has resisted defeat consistently. Ikaika Gante, with 1,235 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, has benefited from a steady double-wing offense.

 

TOMORROW

OIA White

» Pearl City vs. Kaimuki, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: The Bulldogs (7-1, 7-0) have only one obstacle standing in the way of an unbeaten White run, but the top seed is already theirs since top contenders Pearl City (6-2, 5-2), Kalaheo and Waipahu each have two conference losses.

The Chargers have stumbled after a perfect start, losing to Waipahu and Kalaheo. Staying healthy for the playoffs may take precedence over winning this game.

» Nanakuli vs. Kalani, Kaiser Stadium: The Golden Hawks (0-7, 0-7) and Falcons (0-8, 0-7) have one last chance to break their losing streaks. The Golden Hawks had one of their better games two weeks ago before officials called off the contest with Anuenue, and Nanakuli subsequently forfeited its game with Waialua last week.

Kalani’s offense has become reasonably effective with quarterbacks Wilkins Kato and Ka’au Kuia, plus a seasoned group of receivers.

» McKinley vs. Kalaheo, Kailua H.S. field: The Tigers (3-5, 3-4) saw their playoff shot fizzle with a heart-breaking 28-27 loss at Waialua last week. Solomon Dixon (Idaho) remains a huge weapon offensively.

Kalaheo (5-2, 5-2) clinched a playoff berth last week with a 13-6 win over Pearl City and would probably love to rest its two-way starters, but with a small roster, that might not be possible. Jesse Carney (1,188 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns) and Justin Pagan (1,257 total yards) are the main cogs in Kalaheo’s veer offense.

McKinley’s toughest tests have come against run-first teams, but an offense averaging nearly 28 points per game since an early loss to Kaimuki will keep hope alive.

 

BIIF

» Kealakehe at Hilo, Wong Stadium: The Waveriders (7-1, 5-0) are back to dominating the league once again, but the 195-mile trip has a way of taking the legs of traveling teams. Kealakehe had some struggles in a 38-23 win against Waiakea in Wong Stadium, then later routed the same team 38-9.

The Waveriders got past Keaau 18-9 at the Cougars field, then skunked them 32-0 a month later at Kealakehe.

A 48-7 win over Hilo one month ago? The Viks — V-I-K-S is the shortened, traditional way they spell their nickname — will be tougher at home. More importantly, Hilo has found itself offensively, ramping up from 31 points per game in its first two BIIF games to 46 points in its last two meetings. Kamaka Lewis-to-Scotty Wong has been a big touchdown maker reminiscent of Robert Medeiros-to-Casey Newman more than a decade ago.

» Honokaa at Kamehameha-Hawaii: Suddenly, the Dragons are breathing fire. Dropping to D-II was no guarantee of wins. Honokaa started BIIF play 1-2, but after four wins in a row — including a 13-0 upset of HPA two weeks ago — the race has changed. A win over KS-Hawaii (7-1, 7-0) would keep momentum rolling, but the Warriors are 3-0 in league play at home.

» Konawaena at Kohala: The Wildcats (2-7, 2-5) can score a second win against the Cowboys in this hot afternoon battle. Kohala (0-6, 0-6) has two games left — Konawaena and Ka’u.

 

KIF

» Kauai at Kapaa: The Warriors (5-1, 3-1) can take the first-place lead against the perennial champs. Kapaa has bumped up its run-and-shoot offensive output to 29 points per game in the last two outings. Kauai (5-1, 3-1) lost to Kapaa three weeks ago 24-13.

 

MIL

» Lahainaluna vs. Maui, War Memorial Stadium: The Lunas (5-1, 4-1) were a winner last week in their first game on the new synthetic home turf. The last time they played in War Memorial, they fell to Baldwin. The Sabers (1-5, 0-5) had a bye last week, their second in the past month.

 

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