OIA Red Playoffs
The matchup: Waianae (7-2) vs. Kahuku (5-3)
Location/Time: Kahuku, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Head-to-head (since 1973): Kahuku leads 22-13-1
Biggest margin of victory: Kahuku, 43-0, Nov. 26, 2005
*Smallest margin of victory: Waianae, 14-13, Nov. 21, 1986
*Teams played to 21-21 tie on Sept. 15, 1995
Waianae’s offensive leadersUpdated: Oct. 20
Kahuku’s offensive leadersUpdated: Nov. 6
|Polikapo Liua Jr.||11||110||623||12|
|Polikapo Liua Jr.||11||11||183||1|
If this game is as good as last year’s OIA quarterfinal matchup, then we’re in for another treat.
Kahuku survived a giant scare on the North Shore last year, when it needed a 4-yard touchdown run by Aofaga Wily with 2:32 remaining to beat Waianae, 14-10, and keep its season alive, which ultimately ended four wins later with a state championship.
Wily is gone this season and Kahuku, which is the No. 2 seed out of the East, has seen its vaunted run game suffer greatly. An injury to running back Soli Afalava hasn’t helped either. The Red Raiders will play for the first time in 15 days, when they lost to Farrington at Aloha Stadium.
Waianae, the West No. 3 seed, is a respectable 13-22-1 in the series but is 0-5 since 1973 at Carleton Weimer Field. The task at hand isn’t impossible. Kahuku has been beat on its home turf in the OIA quarterfinals (see Kapolei: 2007).
This game could have a similar outcome as that one. Both teams have struggled to throw the ball. Kahuku has actually improved its passing game with quarterback Tuli Wily-Matagi averaging over 100 yards a contest with 11 touchdowns in eight games. Still, when the Red Raiders got behind the Govs two weeks ago, they showed very little ability to throw their way out of a deficit.
Waianae quarterback Kekoa Kaluhiokalani will start against Kahuku for the third straight year in the quarterfinals and has yet to top 100 yards passing. Waianae enters the game with three players who have rushed for at least 400 yards this season in Jemery Willes (119 carries, 665 yards, 6 TDs), Mahven Tau (88-593-4) and Kaluhiokalani (104-423-5).
Kaluhiokalani is going to have to find a way to move the ball through the air as running on Kahuku hasn’t been easy. In last year’s playoff loss, Willes was the team’s leading rusher with only 16 yards. In 2011, Leighton Panui managed only 58 yards to lead the team against Kahuku’s talented front seven.
If Waianae can score 24 points, which it has in every game this season, it has a chance. Kaluhiokalani is trying to avoid letting his season end on the North Shore for the third straight year. This is the time for receiver Pookela Noa-Nakamoto (29 receptions, 554 yards, 5 TDs) to come up big.
With these two titans, it always starts on the defensive side of the ball. With both running games likely to be held in check by the defenses, which quarterback can find at least a little success through the air could be the difference. Waianae is much more battle tested playing in the West then Kahuku has been in the East.
This is Kaluhiokalani’s last chance to beat his East rival. He’s lost to Kahuku twice in the OIA quarterfinals and his dad lost to the Red Raiders in the OIA semifinals in 1989. Is this the game the Kaluhiokalani family and the rest of the Seariders finally break through, or will the Red Raiders get a shot at defending their back-to-back state titles?