Seismologically speaking, this weekend is an 8.0 on the Hawaii high school football richter scale.
No. 1 Saint Louis and No. 2 Kahuku going at it at Aloha Stadium on Friday night, and fans are also going to be treated to No. 6 Kamehameha at No. 4 Campbell on Friday, and No. 5 Punahou at No. 3 Mililani on Saturday.
It’s not even the midpoint of the season, and yet, these tests await.
“All three games, this is what the fans wanted,” Trojans coach Rod York said. “Normally, you see these types of games in the state playoffs. It’s uncanny in that it’s in the beginning of September, but that was the whole gist of (the creation of) the Open Division.”
On Friday morning, York and Punahou coach Kale Ane gave their thoughts about the weekend’s big matchups in the OIA-ILH Open Division.
No. 1 Saint Louis vs. No. 2 Kahuku
>> Ane: “Saint Louis-Kahuku will be a fun game to watch. One team is known for its defense and one team is known for its offense. And that team known for its offense, Saint Louis, has the No. 1 defensive recruit (Faatui Tuitele) in the state. Coaches know that Saint Louis is also very tough on defense. Kahuku can run the ball, is very physical and can get after it on defense. They have huge hearts. How well will they defend Saint Louis’ passing attack? And Saint Louis also has a running game now. Can Kahuku limit Saint Louis’ offensive reps and minimize their time with the ball and ground and pound?”
>> York: “Saint louis is loaded with dudes as far as talent goes and cocch Cal Lee has proven he is the best coach in the state ever just by his results. But there’s something about Kahuku — that pride and heart of the North Shore. They’ve got dudes, too. They’ve changed their coaches and are doing a helluva job. Both teams are on a roll. It’s a classic example of the Clash of Titans. At Kahuku, they live for football, there’s no mistake about it. The difference is when you ask any young kid at Kahuku who their favorite player is, they don’t mention a college or NFL player, they say a Red Raider playing now. Over there, as soon as you’re born, you’re a Red Raider. It’s that pride that keeps them going.
“Last year, I felt (before the Open Division state championship game) Saint Louis was going to beat ’em by a couple of touchdowns and maybe even blow ’em out based on what I had seen. It turned out Kahuku should have won that game (but ended up losing 31-28 in the final minute).
“And Saint Louis has the best offensive mind and innovator in coach (and offensive coordinator) Ron Lee. Coach Ron makes it all click.”
No. 6 Kamehameha at No. 4 Campbell
>> Ane: Kamehameha and Campbell should be very entertaining. Campbell loves to pass and Kamehameha has a big bag of tricks, is fundamentally sound, can run and throw, and the quarterback (Christmas Togiai) is more comfortable with the more reps he’s getting. Both teams have great athletes making big plays on both offense and defense.”
>> York: DJ (Campbell coach Darren Johnson) is doing a helluva job over there. He’s got them rolling. Success over there is new for them. They’re hungry. They’ve been in the shadows for a little while and are looking for respect. These are the types of games where you can earn that respect. We play them in two weeks and I’m sure they’ve got us circled. They’re trying to make a statement. DJ is a fiery guy. He’s about discipline and about winning. The kids are rallying around him. They’re coming off a trip (37-20 victory over O’Connor of Phoenix) and I’m sure they’ve bonded a whole lot more. It’s great for those kids. They don’t get off the rock too often.
“It’s the Open Division! Kamehameha is tired of playing Saint Louis 80 times and Punahou 80 times. Against us, anybody could have won that game. They could have easily won that game, but fortunately we came out victorious (31-24 on Aug. 18). Now, they’ve got another shot at a top contender. They’ll be ready. Abu (Ma’afala), a former college coach, is over there doing a great job and (former Radford head coach) Fred Salanoa is new (as the OC). They’re still building. Both teams are trying to prove themselves.”
No. 5 Punahou at No. 3 Mililani
>> Ane: “Mililani is well coached and very disciplined. Offensively, they’re very explosive. Their running back (Kilifi Malepeai) has been banged up. He’s powerful and quick and it’s hard for one guy to tackle him. (QB) Dillon (Gabriel) makes quick decisions and is very accurate. Their offense can make for a long night.
“It’s our favorite coachspeak: No turnovers, limit mistakes, control the ball offensively to keep Mililani from not having the ball, gang tackle, strong pursuit and do your assignments.”
>> York: “We’re going to find out (where we stand) and that’s why we play the games. Punahou has new offensive and defensive coordinators, so a lot of what they do is new. We’ve been up to 4 or 5 in the morning looking at film. Usually, it’s until 1. We’ve gotta do our homework more.
“We don’t know how good we are or how bad we are. We’ll definitely know more after the next three games and we’ll know more even on Sunday. It’s about matchups, a chess game. We don’t run plays to run plays. We’re trying to expose weaknesses and they’re trying to do the same to us. It’s exciting for me and exciting for our kids. We’re looking forward to these types of games. It’s every week.
“Last week (a 52-14 loss to St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif.), we learned that they are a lot more simpler than most other teams because they’ve got such great athletes. Their entire line is full of Tuiteles. They’re loaded. Their starting offense and starting defense will be playing Division I on full-ride scholarships. That we can say for sure. We competed and that’s the No. 1 thing. We fought to the end.
“Right now, St. John Bosco is rated high (No. 1 in the nation in the MaxPreps Xcellente 25, No. 2 USA Today Super 25), but in October and November, I believe Hawaii’s top four teams can play with any top 10 teams over there.
“Punahou has a whole bunch of new coaches, young bucks … Nate Ilaoa, Miah Ostrowski, Robbie Toma, Leonard Lau. Trust me, we’re looking forward to (Saturday). I’m a little nervous, too.”