OIA White Playoffs
The matchup: Radford (7-2) vs. Kaiser (8-1)
Location/Time: Kaiser, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Head-to-head (since 1973): Radford leads 9-8
Biggest margin of victory: Radford, 53-8, Sept. 17, 1999
Smallest margin of victory: Radford, 23-21, Sept. 11, 2004; Radford, 16-14, Sept. 28, 2001
Radford’s offensive leadersUpdated: Oct. 20
Kaiser’s offensive leadersUpdated: Nov. 25
Of all the teams still playing football this week, nobody had a worse weekend than Radford.
Needing a win over Pearl City last Friday to clinch the No. 2 seed and a home game in the OIA White semifinals, the Rams, who had won six league games by an average of 42.7 points, were held to one touchdown and a missed extra point in a 7-6 loss to Pearl City.
It forced a three-way tie for second place in the league and Radford came out the big loser in the tiebreaker, falling all the way to the No. 4 seed. As a result, the Rams have to go to Kaiser to play the top-seeded Cougars on Friday in a rematch of Kaiser’s 48-7 win in the regular season.
Kaiser is just happy to be able to play a game. The Cougars have dominated the OIA White to the point that two different teams (Anuenue and Kalaheo) decided to forfeit their games against Kaiser instead of playing.
So while the Cougars have eight wins according to the standings, they have only actually played six league games. When they take the field on Friday, it’ll be for only the third time in 35 days.
In the league games it did play, Kaiser won five of the six by at least 40 points. Only Pearl City managed to hang close with the Cougars for a while, trailing 10-7 at the half before getting outscored 21-0 in the second half.
Kaiser still has a lot to prove as the Cougars have waited an entire year to get over the heartbreak of last season’s OIA White semifinal loss to Nanakuli. Kaiser lost the game in front of its home crowd to see its season come to a sudden end. The Golden Hawks went on to play in the Division II state tournament after losing to the Rams in the OIA White title game.
Kaiser coach Rich Miano is 2-0 against the Rams, winning by a combined score of 81-21. The Cougars have done it by slowing down Rams quarterback Cody Lui-Yuen, who holds eight of the 10 best single-game passing performances in school history. Lui-Yuen has thrown for at least 288 yards in six of Radford’s nine games this season, but was held to a season-low 138 in the loss to Kaiser and threw for less than 200 (187) in the loss to Pearl City.
The Rams have to be better moving the ball through the air if they want to upset Kaiser. That means giving Lui-Yuen enough time in the pocket to find his money duo of receivers in juniors Absolom Henry (6-3, 190) and Jameson Pasigan (5-11, 170). Pasigan is tied with Kalani’s Brandon Roberts for the most touchdown receptions this season with 13. Henry has four of the five best single-game receiving marks in school history, including a record 185 yards in a win over Rooosevelt this season.
Running backs Tobias Powell and Chance Cacatian have combined for 15 rushing touchdowns this season but were held to 49 yards on 16 carries in the first meeting against Kaiser. The Cougars have a talented front seven with senior Fitou Fisiiahi, an Oregon State commit, junior Zeno Choi, sophomore Parker Higgins and freshman Isaac Slade-Matautia all legitimate playmakers, and that’s without mentioning a talented secondary.
Kaiser’s going to score points with quarterback Kahoalii Karratti and Fisiiahi and Thomas Buntenbah-Leong at running back. Radford is going to have find a way to keep up and to do so, it’ll need a big game from Lui-Yuen, the guy the Rams have relied on all season.
Can the 6-foot-4 senior rise to the occasion in what could be his final game? Or are the Cougars on the fast track to an OIA White championship and potentially ending ‘Iolani’s run as the six-time defending Division II state champions?