While other state-tourney qualifiers can breathe sighs of relief, nothing is absolutely certain just yet in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference.
The four teams in tonight’s semifinal round are guaranteed of little, unless, of course, they win. Victory tonight for Kahuku, Leilehua, Mililani or Waianae seals one of the three state berths allotted to the OIA for the six-team Division I state championships.
A loss tonight means a battle next week for third place and the final state slot.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s matchups.
» No. 4 Leilehua vs. No. 1 Kahuku, 7:30 p.m., Aloha Stadium: The Red Raiders (9-0, 7-0 OIA Red) have power, finesse, balance, discipline. Yes, even the kicking game is still solid. That won’t mean, of course, that the Mules (6-2, 6-1) are without hope.
Last year, Kahuku got past Leilehua 24-21 in the OIA Red final. The Red Raiders returned key contributors on offense (quarterback Evan Moe, tight end Shairone Thompson, wide receiver Punga Vea) and defense (linebackers Ben Mamea and T.J. Tito, safety Tigi Hill). They’ve continued to dominate even with the loss of defensive ends Hauoli Jamora and Kona Schwenke to graduation.
Leilehua’s "Man Child," quarterback Andrew Manley, graduated along with a host of talent on both sides of the ball, but the Mules barely missed a beat. Fred Padrones (37 receptions, 638 yards, eight touchdowns) and Darrien Shealy (43 catches, 600 yards, six touchdowns) have emerged as possibly the best 1-2 receiving combo in the state. Jordan Kalaau and Kenan Sadanaga have elevated their level of play at quarterback, enabling Leilehua to be explosive offensively without a consistent ground attack.
A big question is whether the Mules’ unpredictable, stand-up defensive tactics can work against a Kahuku offensive line that has plowed through every opponent. Early in preseason, Kamehameha controlled the line of scrimmage in a 21-7 win. Four weeks ago, Mililani’s balanced offense ran up the gut with success in a 42-35 overtime victory.
Still, the only teams to score more than seven points in a game against Big Red — Kailua (25), Saint Louis (27) and Castle (23) — are all shotgun or pistol pass-first teams. The trouble for those three, though, was that Kahuku scored 155 points against them.
Moe has been rock-steady with a 60-percent completion rate, 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. His 1,162 passing yards have complemented the rushing attack. Sophomore Aofaga Wily, a converted linebacker, galloped for 1,010 yards (7.6 per attempt) and 15 touchdowns, and Tyrone Brown has 552 yards (7.3 per) and 10 touchdowns.
Jeremiah Andrade, a junior, may be the most dangerous kick returner Kahuku will face this year. Andrade, Allen Racette and Elijah Barro are scoring threats in Leilehua’s complex passing attack.
» No. 3 Mililani vs. No. 10 Waianae, 4:30 p.m., Aloha Stadium: There is no other weapon in the OIA quite like Hassan Richardson, Mililani’s 6-foot-4, 190-pound wide receiver. He pulled in two touchdown passes in the mud last week against Castle. Facing Waianae, a team that beat Mililani 42-28 in midseason, is more of a task for the Trojans’ defense than the offense.
Though Waianae (4-5, 4-3) struggled often this season, the same key offensive weapons have blossomed in October. Quarterback Puletua Wilson and his brother, James Wilson, have helped spark the Seariders’ attack.
That’s partly why the Trojans (8-1, 6-1) are hoping to make enough progress defensively to slow the Wilsons. Playing on the synthetic turf at Aloha Stadium only helps a group of speedsters like the Trojans.
Running back Zachary Payomo (1,125 yards, 7.6 per carry, 10 touchdowns) hit the century mark again in last week’s win, but took a hit to the head and sat out the last several minutes.
Quarterback Trent McKinney is efficient and explosive. The senior has passed for 1,660 yards and 18 touchdowns with only five picks on 68-percent accuracy. McKinney has also rushed for 437 yards (5 per attempt) and 12 touchdowns, accounting for 30 total touchdowns.
Richardson has 38 catches for 583 yards and eight touchdowns, while Bryson Calma (32 receptions, 392 yards, three touchdowns), Nainoa Pihana and Colby Lum are also reliable targets.
Puletua Wilson (662 passing yards, 328 rushing yards, 16 total touchdowns) hands the ball often to Bryson Panui (397 yards, 5 yards per attempt, four touchdowns), but Jaylen Mitchell, Keola Bradley and James Wilson have also shared the load.
» Lahainaluna vs. No. 5 Baldwin, War Memorial Stadium: The Bears have scarcely been challenged in the Maui Interscholastic League en route to a 7-0 mark (8-1 overall). The one team to give Baldwin stiff competition was Lahainaluna five weeks ago, a 27-20 win by the Bears.
Baldwin’s stout defense has been the foundation, but the offense continues to improve with Keelan Ewaliko at quarterback. Ewaliko (16 touchdowns, six picks on 62-percent passing) has the luxury of locating one of the state’s top receivers, Ro Wilson.
The Lunas (7-1, 6-1) have sewn up a D-II state berth by allowing fewer than 10 points per game. Their modified Wing-T offense has a lead man in Jostin Carbajal (454 rushing yards, eight touchdowns) and no receiver has more than eight catches.
» Damien at No. 6 ‘Iolani: The Raiders’ lone home game of the season comes after a bye week. ‘Iolani (6-3, 4-2 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) has already clinched the ILH’s D-II title and a state berth.
Sophomore Reece Foy has 1,263 passing yards, 172 rushing yards and uncounted hundreds of yards left in his wake as would-be tacklers chased the speedster from sideline to sideline in his first season as a starter.
Ammon Baldomero (415 rushing yards, six touchdowns) has been a constant. Bret Christman (22 catches, 361 yards, five touchdowns), Josiah Sukumaran (22, 348, three), Kevin Barayuga (18, 158, three), Kelsey Takahashi (16, 136, two) and Sheldon Gallarde (15, 125) have filled in notably in the absence of All-State receiver Trevyn Tulonghari (ankle).
The Monarchs (0-9, 0-6) have capable receivers in Daylan Demello (12 catches, 215 yards, two touchdowns) and Dustin Lungay (17, 127).
» Kohala at Honokaa: The inaugural season in Division II for Honokaa (6-5, 6-3 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) has been one of mixed results, highlighted by a 13-0 victory over arch-rival Hawaii Prep.
Kohala (0-9, 0-9) lost to Honokaa 36-0 when the teams met in late September.
» Hilo at Keaau: The Vikings’ zany season closes with another tough matchup. Hilo (3-5, 2-4 BIIF) scored 40 and 51 points in consecutive weeks only to lose to Kealakehe 51-20 last weekend.
» Ka’u at Kamehameha-Hawaii: The Warriors (10-1, 9-0 BIIF) are having, perhaps, their best season since current University of Hawaii safety Mana Silva was their quarterback. The league’s D-II state berth is already in their hands. Ka’u (3-6, 3-6) ended a four-game skid with a 26-0 win over Kohala last week.
» Konawaena at Hawaii Prep: Dreams of a BIIF D-II title and trip to the state tourney went down with key injuries to their quarterbacks, but HPA (7-3, 6-3) can make it a sweep over old-time rival Konawaena with a win tomorrow afternoon. Konawaena (3-8, 3-7) is one of the youngest squads in the BIIF.
» Waiakea at Kealakehe: The Waveriders (8-1, 6-0) are dominating the BIIF again. Lopsided wins over Hilo (48-7), Waiakea (38-9), Keaau (32-0) and Hilo (51-20) still haven’t convinced voters in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Waiakea (1-7, 1-5) is enduring a four-game losing streak, including a 51-47 loss to Hilo and 22-19 defeat to Keaau in recent weeks.
» Waimea at Kauai: The Red Raiders (6-1, 4-1 KIF) could thank Waimea for beating Kapaa last week and ensuring Kauai another league championship. Instead, they’ll look to finish the KIF season with a sweep of the Menehunes (2-5, 1-4). Waimea has played its league foes tough all season despite the win-loss record. Alika Emayo (412 yards, four touchdowns) is among the KIF’s top rushers.
Kauai has shifted between its traditional run-and-shoot sets and a wishbone formation this season to utilize its depth at running back.
» Maui at Kamehameha-Maui: KS-Maui (4-4, 3-4 MIL) has balance with Bryson Souza at quarterback, Michael Lacno III at running back and receivers Daylan Machado and Cody Pundyke.
Maui (1-7, 0-7) hasn’t tasted victory since blanking Waiakea 33-0 in a nonconference game to start the season.