They are not your ordinary 60-point offensive juggernaut.
The Waianae Seariders have much in common with their predecessors of a few years ago, even a few decades ago.
>> Their head coach, Walter Young, is a teacher at the school.
>> They line up in the wing offense and blast away while keeping defenses honest with an occasional counter.
>> They run a majority of the time. In Saturday’s 62-27 win over Kaiser, the Seariders ran 75 percent of the time: 42 rushes, 14 pass attempts.
>> Deep threat. Isaiah Freeney has emerged as a consistent playmaker in one-on-one coverage. I thought at one point last night that he would probably love running routes in a pass-happy offense, getting eight, 10, 15 targets per game. The ball came his way just three times against Kaiser, and he caught all three for 69 yards, including a 28-yard TD. He may not get a lot of looks, but when he does, Freeney is a hugely valuable piece of a potent offense.
>> They still play rugged defense. Waianae has long produced great run stuffers, a sort of Linebacker U in the mold of Penn State back in the day. Kaiser’s terrific running back, Jensen McDaniel finished with 147 yards, but he didn’t get into a consistent, breakaway mode.
He had just one carry of at least 10 yards in the first half (an 11-yard gain). By halftime, he had 47 yards on 13 carries — 3.6 per attempt. To his credit, McDaniel’s legs never stopped churning. I wondered how much more punishment he would take, but he ended up with seven second-half carries of at least 10 yards, even after QB Nic Tom got hurt and stayed out (head injury). The battle between Kaiser’s talented O-line and Waianae’s front seven was an absolute battle royale from start to finish.
Lots of respect for the guys on both sides of that battle.
>> Secondary play was stellar. Mosiah Brame, a senior safety, had a pick and a fumble recovery. Ikaika Pa’ao’ao-Ahina also had an interception. They were aided by a pass rush that provided three sacks (Noah Kealoha, Joey Nuuanu-Kuhiiki/Josiah Viliamu, Rudy-Jay Keopuhiwa).
For the Seariders, who are now unbeaten at 6-0 in the OIA Red (6-1 overall), there are also some key differences compared to many of their previous teams.
>> Kicking game. They’ve had a notable placekicker occasionally, but Tate Ebel may wind up becoming the best of them all. He’s consistent and deep. His 48-yard field goal in the second half did more than stretch their lead to 20 points. He might be the difference maker come playoff time. That kick had at least an extra five yards on it.
>> More kicking game. The Seariders used a low-risk, high-reward approach to kickoffs by pooching and squibbing throughout the first half. After their first TD, Solofua Grey came up with the ball after a Waianae pooch at the Kaiser 21. Even if he hadn’t recovered, that would been the equal of a touchback kickoff, basically.
Waianae scored on the next play.
Then came a squib kick that the Seariders almost recovered, but Kaiser gained possession at its 35-yard line. No big loss in field position. Another squib came after Waianae’s next TD, returned by Kaiser to its 24, but a penalty set the Cougars back to the 12, After a procedure call pushed them back another 5 yards, the shotgun snap sailed high and out of the end zone for a safety.
It’s not easy to tally up the effectiveness of Waianae’s pooches and squibs, but they clearly made a difference last night.
There was also one more difference, a slight one, that wasn’t exactly positive for the Seariders. Ten penalties for 100 yards may seem light compared to what other teams have racked up this season. (Several Top 10 teams have racked up close to 200 yards, and one had well over 200 this fall.) But Waianae had several personal fouls plus a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct flags last night even after building up a sizable lead.
Some of that came on special teams. Kicking game. There’s nothing that can negate the enormous edge that a unit and its coaches work so hard for like a loose cannon or two. It could mean the difference, in the postseason, between a title run and elimination.
All that being said, the Seariders have proven they can handle their business in divisional play. Say what you like about the OIA Blue being less competitive than the OIA Red this season. Waianae is playing high-percentage football at a elite level. They don’t need to spread the field and throw the ball on every down to dominate foes.
They have scored at least 36 points in every divisional game, including these totals in the last four games:
50-28 over Leilehua
90-0 over McKinley
69-28 over Waipahu
62-27 over Kaiser
Next Saturday’s matchup with Kahuku, a deep, big and physical team, will probably produce a game with an entirely different game flow. There will be punts. At least more than two, which is what Waianae had on Friday night. Like Waianae, Kahuku has shown little variation in its playbook so far. It will be a time-travel kind of battle, maybe, something straight out of the 1970s or ’80s. A battle of the OIA’s top juggernauts not named Mililani.