What is it that makes second-round favorites so successful?
Is it the bye, the chance to rest easy and prepare while your opponent fights for its life? Or is it the home-field advantage, where a loud home crowd can make all the difference to a team that knows it is two wins away from a spot in states?
Both of them are huge advantages. Put them together, and recent history considers it a free ticket to the semifinals.
And that has been a huge advantage in the past five years. The higher-seeded team has come out of the bye to win all 14 OIA quarterfinal games since 2008, and most of them have not even been close, with the average score being 30-12. Having an extra week to prepare and heal seems to help most on the defensive side of the ball, where a well-rested defense didn’t allow more than 10 points last year.
And this year’s quarterfinals, beginning Friday, certainly boast of stout defenses that are rested and ready to go. Kahuku hosts Waianae, Campbell hosts McKinley and Farrington plays Kapolei at Roosevelt on Friday with Mililani hosting rival Leilehua on Saturday.
Things have gone according to form in every year since 2008, but that doesn’t mean an upset is out of the question. Two of the architects of the biggest upsets are in the same role this year, with Darren Hernandez and Nolan Tokuda coming up with game plans that might turn the tide like they did in 2007.
Here is a look at the only upsets in the OIA quarterfinals since the tournament began rewarding byes in 2002. The playoffs were a strict eight-team affair in 2003.
Leilehua 27, Mililani 21
This might sound familiar. The Mules were the fifth seed out West and No. 10 in the Star-Bulletin’s poll, while the Trojans were riding high at 7-1 and No. 4 in the same poll. But Leilehua sophomore Andrew Manley threw two touchdown passes in his first varsity start and Leilehua’s Bradley Iaulualo and Josh Cruz stopped Mililani’s Taz Stevenson short of the end zone on fourth down in overtime to seal the win. Bronson Pausa scored the game-winner on a 2-yard touchdown run in overtime and the Mules rode the upset to the OIA and state titles.
Kapolei 14, Kahuku 7
Unranked Kapolei forced five turnovers and the Hurricanes ended No. 2 Kahuku’s season short of the playoffs in a shocker in the North Shore. The Hurricanes had only 23 yards in the second half but the defense dominated, holding Red Raiders quarterback Jray Galeai to just 47 yards passing and 49 yards rushing. It was the first time Kahuku had lost at home since 1996 when Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez took his Campbell squad up there for a win.
Farrington 20, Mililani 19
Elijah Filifili threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns and the Governors came from two scores down in the fourth quarter to shock the champions of the West. No. 7 Mililani was in control and had the ball at Farrington’s 1-yard line but fumbled and Filifili drove his team the length of the field before scoring on a 13-yard pass to Tanner Fetui. Larry Siuta added the extra point and the inspired Farrington defense did the rest of the work by stopping Mililani for the final four minutes of the game.
Aiea 52, Castle 31
Aiea quarterback Kali Kuia exploded by completing 25 of 41 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns and Na Alii shocked the No. 3 Knights at Kaiser. Wide receiver Josh Blakemore was on the receiving end of all four scores. He caught eight passes for 183 yards. Aiea went on to beat Waianae in the semifinals before losing to Kahuku in the OIA championship.
Castle 28, Campbell 25
Castle quarterback Jacob Ramos hit Jared Suzui in the right side of the end zone with a 24-yard crossing pass with 6:14 left and an option pitch left to Kawika Sebay gave the Knights a 2-point conversion and the final points in the victory. Campbell almost sent the game into overtime as the Sabers drove 50 yards to set up a 33-yard field-goal try by Shauncey-Blaine Saito. Saito missed it wide left, sending the Castle sideline into a wild celebration with under a minute remaining. The Knights went on to win the OIA title and reach the state championship where they lost to Saint Louis.
Farrington 21, Kahuku 20
Farrington’s Joshua Tili Voa stripped Kahuku’s Paea Vaimoui on the Farrington 15 with just 25 seconds left at Aloha Stadium and the two-time defending state champions were left out of the state tournament. Defensive back Jay Ocol came up with the recovery but the celebration was shortlived for the Governors, who lost the next week to Castle, fell to McKinley in the OIA third-place game and ended its season with a first-round loss to Saint Louis in the state tournament.
McKinley 35, Waianae 0
The Tigers broke open a close first half with three interceptions and 20 points in the final three minutes to take a 27-0 lead at the break and cruised the rest of the way behind a stifling defense and Abel Werner’s mature play at quarterback. The Tigers couldn’t capitalize on the year of upsets, losing to Kailua in the next round but beat Farrington in the third-place game and went all the way to the second round of the state tournament where they lost to Castle in three overtimes.