By Paul Honda
While most of the state plays for at least a couple more weeks, two teams face elimination tonight.
The Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference football playoffs kick off with a single game. Kaimuki, a team that has emerged out of the Red East for the final playoff spot, gets a shot at former Red West front-runner Mililani. Here’s a look at today’s matchups:
Kaimuki at No. 8 Mililani
A few weeks ago, the Bulldogs were drifting outside the playoff clique while unbeaten Mililani was ranked second in the state. Things have changed quite a bit since.
The Bulldogs (2-6, 2-4) pulled out a 17-16 overtime win at Roosevelt in mid-September, setting course for an intriguing three-week run. Kaimuki was in striking distance of No. 1 Kahuku for a half before losing, then blanked McKinley and lost 20-17 to No. 3 Farrington.
Running back Chester Sua is a dual threat and quarterback Eddie Char spreads his passes around. He threw just one pick in 24 attempts against Farrington.
Mililani (6-2, 4-2) surrendered 41 points to Kapolei and 54 to Waianae in the last two games and lost its shot at a first-round bye after falling to fourth place in its division. First-year starter Trent McKinney had a 320-yard, four-touchdown passing game against Waianae and two-way starter Dalaunte “Taz” Stevenson pulled in eight passes for 125 yards.
Aiea at Moanalua
This showdown between the top two teams in the OIA White is about seeding since there’s no automatic state berth for the regular-season champion. Aiea (7-1, 6-1) has been rock solid defensively, winning four in a row since a stunning 16-14 loss at Pearl City in late August. Lawrence Lagafuaina (6-foot-1, 310) is one of the anchors for Na Alii.
Moanalua (7-1, 7-0) has a rushing attack that has been unstoppable in conference play. Tahje Canyon’s versatility on the ground and through the air is a focal point for opponents, but he racks up amazing numbers. Canyon had 279 rushing yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win over Kaiser.
Kaiser at Pearl City
The Cougars (3-5, 3-4 OIA White) and Chargers (3-5, 3-4) are playing for pride, as their playoff hopes have been dashed.
Pearl City piled up 316 yards in last week’s overtime loss to Kalaheo. Cyrus Coen ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Back-to-back home losses to Radford and Moanalua cost the Cougars in their playoff push. Josh Gonda rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s game against Moanalua.
Waialua at Radford
The Rams (5-3, 5-2 OIA White) have momentum, winning two in a row since a loss to Aiea. Phil Hogan ran for 147 yards on just eight carries in a win over Kalani last week, scoring all four of his touchdowns in the first quarter.
Waialua (2-6, 2-5) didn’t win a game at home this season and is out of the playoff hunt. With little more than pride at stake — Radford has a playoff berth sealed — this could be an upset in the making.
Damien vs. Word of Life, Kunuiakea Stadium
In their Sept. 18 meeting, Monarchs quarterback Makana Ka’anoi passed for 227 yards and scrambled for another 67, including scoring runs of 62 and 18 yards. Damien (1-6, 1-4 ILH) won that game 37-18.
Word of Life running back Poggi Awa ranks second in the ILH with 490 rushing yards (98 per game). Richard Landford, Ryan Alvarado and T.J. Russell also rank among the league’s top 10 rushers for the Firebrands (0-6, 0-5).
Maui vs. Baldwin, War Memorial Stadium
Maui’s early-season renaissance was clipped by a tough schedule — MIL teams are almost even across the board this fall — but the Sabers (2-5, 1-4) will have no problem getting motivated to play their cross-town rivals.
Brock Shishido leads the MIL with 737 passing yards and nine scoring tosses with just two picks. The Bears (3-2, 3-1) and King Kekaulike (4-1 league) are atop the MIL’s D-I standings.
Kapaa at Waimea
The Warriors (2-2, 1-1 KIF) edged Waimea (0-6, 0-4) in their first meeting three weeks ago, 7-6, at Kapaa. Both teams are chasing unbeaten Kauai.
Waiakea at Honokaa
The Warriors’ (4-3, 2-3 BIIF) second-round title hopes suffered a bit after a loss to Keaau last week, and now first-round champ Honokaa awaits. The Dragons (5-3, 5-1) won the first-round matchup 21-15.
Keaau at Kealakehe
The Cougars (2-4, 2-3 BIIF) have turned their fortunes around after an 0-4 start. Kealakehe (3-3, 3-1) has a Big Island football dynasty that is under pressure.