Waipahu (7-3, 6-2) vs. Pearl City (9-1, 9-0)
On paper: Two high-octane, run-and-shoot offenses could combine for 21 points in a matter of minutes, right? When these two teams met a month ago, Pearl City escaped with a 13-8 win.
The Chargers’ prolific attack — 335 yards per game — managed to gain just 203 yards against Waipahu’s defensive wall. The good news that night at Bino Neves Stadium was a Chargers’ defense that picked off Waipahu slinger Drake Yoshioka twice and limited one of the division’s top rushers, Gregorio Alip, to 66 yards (3.7 per carry).
“We squandered three or four scoring opportunities in the red zone,” Pearl City coach Kai Kamaka said. “One thing that really pops out — we weren’t efficient, had some missed reads. Kaimi (Paredes) missed a couple open receivers. He knew he had locked in. He’s grown over the season, getting more and more mature and confident in his decisions. He started with six interceptions, and in the last six or so games, only two.”
The elusive junior is a playmaker who has 25 touchdown passes and is also Pearl CIty’s leading rusher. Daicorri Briscoe, a junior speedster, has 31 receptions for 511 yards and six touchdowns. Kelson Laboy (nine touchdown catches) has benefitted from defensive game plans that shadow Briscoe.
The skinny: Alip’s rushing output has eased since a midseason injury and Waipahu coach Eric Keola’s adherence to the four-wide principles of the run and shoot. But the Marauders have gone more smashmouth recently.
“I’m expecting them to go more big ball,” Kamaka said of Waipahu’s recent I-formation sets.
Middle linebacker Wesley Nagaseu, a 5-11, 240-pound junior, has become a bruising lead blocker. Defensive back Tydro Ate-Taito (5-8, 190) has become the tailback in the new smashmouth attack.
“They ran it against Kaimuki and they pound it inside,” Kamaka added. “When Alip rotates in, they’re more in a passing formation.”
In the win over Kaimuki, Alip, Ate-Taito and Nagaseu combined for 158 rushing yards, and each scored a touchdown.
X factor: The Chargers don’t see a lot of 240-pound fullbacks, which makes this matchup intriguing.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser