This year, OIA teams are going to have to earn it.
Last year, in the first edition of the open state championship, each of the four schools that won their opening round games in the OIA playoffs (Moanalua, Farrington, Waianae and Leilehua) eventually made it to the state tournament.
Before last year, the last time a program played in the first round of the OIA tournament and went on to the state tournament was Leilehua in 2007.
With the OIA staying out of the Division I tournament this year, the only state spots available to top-tier teams are three for the Open division.
The OIA tournament didn’t become a 12-team affair until 2011, but there have been a fair share of upsets since the expansion including two six seeds beating No. 3 seeds. Every one of those underdogs went on to lose their next game. The last time a first-round underdog made it to the semifinals was Kapolei in 2007, which beat Kailua as the fifth seed out of the West and then traveled to Kahuku to upset the Red Raiders. Despite the run, the Hurricanes failed to make it to the state tournament.
OIA first-round upsets
>> 2015 Moanalua (Blue 5) def. Leilehua (Red 4), 58-22
Na Menehune’s powerful offense had trouble overcoming its leaky defense early in the season until a 28-20 win over Campbell two weeks before the playoffs. The offense exploded behind quarterback Alakai Yuen and dual threat Michael Feliciano to torch the Mules for 58 points and earn a road trip to Mililani. The Trojans ended Na Menehune’s season with a 48-13 blowout. Moanalua finished the year 4-6.
>> 2015 Campbell (Blue 6) def. Kaiser (Red 3), 27-21
This one was not so difficult to see coming. Amosa Amosa‘s Sabers started the season with five straight losses and went to Kaiser carrying a dreadful 1-7 record. But Campbell played Farrington tough in a 21-14 loss the week before the playoffs began. They loaded up the bus for the ninth time that season, their field was being worked on which left them with no home games, and won a tough game when Kaiser’s Nic Tom suffered a dislocated hip in the second quarter and the Sabers held off a furious Kaiser comeback in the fourth quarter. The Sabers failed to put together their first winning streak of the season when Farrington held Terrell Johnson to just 10 yards on the ground in a 28-0 win at Roosevelt. Quarterback Kawika Ulufale came back the next year to lead the Sabers to the state tournament.
>> 2013 Leilehua (West 5) def. Moanalua (East 4), 54-17
Things looked so good for Tristin Kamaka and the Mules, starting the season 3-0 with wins over Iolani and Campbell before losing three of their next four. And then Leilehua’s offense, which was held to 14 points by rival Mililani in the regular season, caught fire. Justin Jenks took over at quarterback and led the team to 66 points in a win over Waipahu and then switched things up by handing the ball to running back Randy Neverson, who ran for 175 yards against Na Menehune in the first round. Mililani had the antidote for Nolan Tokuda‘s midseason adjustments, though, dropping Leilehua 21-9 in the next round of the playoffs.
>> 2012 Campbell (West 5) def. McKinley (East 4), 35-0
The 2012 Sabers started their season 4-0 before its stifling defense fell apart and their suddenly potent offense, led by veteran quarterback Justin Tago-Sue, couldn’t overcome it. Campbell lost three of its next four to erase its great start and went into the playoffs hurting after a 35-34 loss to rival Kapolei. The close losses forged a stronger team, though, and the Sabers destroyed the Tigers behind a running game led by future all-state quarterback Isaac Hurd‘s 74 yards and a defense that held McKinley to just 102 yards. The dream ended the next week, however, when Mililani trounced Campbell 42-14.
>> 2011 Aiea (West 6) def. Kailua (East 3), 13-12
Na Alii had to grow into a team capable of a big upset, starting the season 1-4 with an offense that couldn’t do much of anything. That changed when quarterback Isaiah Fonoti started looking Jarrel Chaveira‘s way and putting up just enough points to beat Mililani and Radford and lose a close game to Campbell. Fonoti and Chaveira did it again when the playoffs began, edging the East’s N0. 3 team 13-12 in a defensive battle. The difference in the game came when Max Maafala-Maiava led a group of Na Alii to gang tackle Kailua running back Jarrin Young on a two-point conversion in the third quarter. Na Alii’s season ended the week after the upset, falling 13-7 to Campbell in another defensive battle. The Sabers sealed it when Donovan Poniatowski intercepted Isaiah Fonoti‘s pass with just over a second left.