OIA White Preview: Pearl City vs. Kaiser

Pearl City's Blake Cooper celebrated a touchdown against Kalani. (Krystle Marcellus / Star-Advertiser)
Pearl City’s Blake Cooper celebrated a touchdown against Kalani. (Krystle Marcellus / Star-Advertiser)

OIA White Championship

The matchup: Pearl City (7-3) vs. Kaiser (9-1)
Location/Time: Aloha Stadium, Friday, 4:30 p.m.
Head-to-head (since 1973): Kaiser leads 8-6
Biggest margin of victory: Kaiser, 48-0, Sept. 13, 1979
Smallest margin of victory: Kaiser, 7-6, Oct. 26, 2001

Pearl City’s offensive leaders

Updated: Nov. 11
Jordan Taamu12107-239-121,60212
Travis Joe710-23-21102
Reno Abero11533945
Blake Cooper5373164
Justin Dupio10783126
Jordan Taamu12561751
Timothy Rivera12445995
Kierren McGhee9223535

Kaiser’s offensive leaders

Updated: Nov. 25
Kahoalii Karratti13108-172-81,46912
Kahi Neves816-31-02754
Thomas Buntenbah-Leong139777116
Fitou Fisiiahi1310973118
Thomas Buntenbah-Leong13233532
Parker Higgins13152512
Justin Ikei13142220

The Pearl City Chargers are playing their best football late, beating Radford and Kalani in consecutive weeks to advance to the OIA White final.

Kaiser has played its best football practically season long.

The two teams meet Friday night for the OIA White title at Aloha Stadium. The Chargers are back in the title game for the second time in three years after losing to Waipahu, 9-7, in 2011. Kaiser has never played in an OIA White title game.

The Cougars will play at Aloha Stadium for the first time since losing to Pac-Five, 7-3, in the 2010 Father Bray Classic. Kaiser’s last playoff game at Aloha Stadium came in a 35-0 loss to Waianae in the 1996 OIA quarterfinals.

A victory would give Kaiser 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1980, which was a year after it won its only OIA title in football. The Cougars, led by running back Boyd Yap and quarterback Edmund Kakalia, defeated Waianae, 20-13, in the 1979 OIA title game won the Prep Bowl, 27-7, over Kamehameha.

Both teams have already clinched spots in the state tournament. Pearl City is still searching for its first OIA title of any kind in football.

Since opening the season with a 21-7 loss against OIA Red semifinalist Campbell, the Cougars have ripped through the OIA White at a staggering clip. Taking out the two wins by forfeit, Kaiser has outscored its OIA White opponents by a combined score of 389-56. Its average margin of victory is 47.6 points.

The only team to lose by less than 41 points in that stretch is Pearl City, which gave Kaiser all it could handle for a half. The Cougars led 10-6 at halftime before scoring 21 unanswered points to pull away for a 31-6 win.

The key to it all for the Chargers was slowing down the Cougars’ running game, forcing quarterback Kahoalii Karratti to beat them through the air. Oregon State commit Fitou Fisiiahi was held to just 30 rushing yards on 12 carries and Thomas Buntenbah-Leong had 52 yards on nine carries.

Those numbers are all the more impressive considering Fisiiahi averaged 9.6 yards per carry in the regular season while Buntenbah-Leong was even better, racking up over 10.3 yards per carry.

Karratti was up to the task in the first meeting against the Chargers, throwing two touchdown passes in the second half. He completed 67 percent (14-for-21) of his throws for 225 yards, but the Chargers made him work for it, something very few teams have been able to do.

Pearl City has made it this far relying on a defense that held Radford to six points and Kalani to 14 points in its last two wins. The Chargers really struggled running the ball against Kaiser, forcing quarterback Jordan Taamu to make plays through the air. Taamu has had a decent year, throwing for 1,322 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Chargers will be abe to throw a trio of running backs Kaiser’s way, with Reno Abero, Justin Dupio, and most recently, Blake Cooper, capable of putting up big games. Abero (51 carries, 394 yards, 5 TDs) leads the team in rushing, but Cooper was the featured back two weeks ago against Kalani, rushing for a team-high 188 yards.

Receivers Timothy Rivera (37 catches, 519 yards, 4 TDs) and Kierren McGhee (19-231-4) are Taamu’s two favorite targets. Both of them will need to get open against a very good Kaiser secondary to give Taamu someone to throw the ball to.

Pearl City hung for a half but couldn’t go a full 48 minutes in the first meeting. The Chargers defense will be under a ton of pressure to keep the game close. If Pearl City can make it a four-quarter game, then all of the pressure will fall on Kaiser in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Pearl City was in this spot two years ago. Can the Chargers finally win an OIA championship in football, or will Kaiser continue to steamroll its way toward a potential state championship?


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