There were some highly entertaining, eye-opening regular-season finales in OIA Division I football last weekend, giving fans one last look before the playoffs start Friday.
Kahuku proved it does indeed have a workable passing attack and it made all the difference in a 28-15 win over Waianae. Farrington followed with a 29-27 win over Campbell.
Senior quarterback Tuli Wily-Matagi, who went through some early season struggles, looked poised in leading the offense that desperately needed a good showing after two straight lackluster performances in a loss to Kaiser and a slim win over Leilehua.
Wily-Matagi’s four touchdown passes came just in time to not only quiet the critics but also to give defenses something else to think about aside from the Red Raiders’ well-known stable of running backs.
Kahuku (6-1) also wrapped up the OIA Red regular-season title and a first-round bye.
The night before, Leilehua finished an interesting three-week round-robin, so to speak, and wrapped up a first-round bye with a second-place OIA Red finish.
Two weeks earlier, Kaiser topped Kahuku 20-19, and one week after that, the Red Raiders got by Leilehua 21-14.
This time, it was Leilehua’s turn for victory in a game that remained close until the late stages. The Mules pulled it out 42-30, but their lead was just 35-30 with just 3:34 to go.
As it did in the loss to Kahuku, Leilehua’s defense played tough, but the 30 points could be a sign of vulnerability.
Mules coach Nolan Tokuda was not too concerned about that total.
“They spread the field out with four receivers, so we had less people in the box against their tough runners,” he said.
Cougars quarterback Kalawaia Judd (125) and running back Jensen McDaniel (109) both went over 100 yards rushing.
The Kaiser defense pounded away for five fumble recoveries, but did not have an answer for the Leilehua offense, which got four TD passes from Kalanimoku Pauole in the first half.
After last weekend’s intriguing OIA season finales, it’s obvious that any way you cut the cake, the league’s Division I playoffs are bound to be full of thrilling games, especially the quarterfinals and beyond.
The first round starts this week. Two of those games are mismatches on paper: Waipahu (1-6) at Campbell (5-2), and Aiea (2-5) at Waianae (4-3).
The road teams in the other two games are underdogs, but have serious potential to make it interesting — Castle (2-5) is at Kapolei (3-4), and Moanalua (3-4) is at Kaiser (4-3).
The OIA Blue regular-season champ Mililani (7-0) also has a first-round bye.