There are three weeks left in the regular season and the playoff races are starting to take shape. These might not necessarily be the best matchups over the next 18 days, but in terms of playoff importance, they rank right at the top.
Waianae vs. Farrington
>> Friday, 7:30 p.m., Skippa Diaz Stadium
>> The Seariders are the only team in the OIA Open Division without a victory in division play, but a win against the Governors would likely result in a repeat of last year’s three-way tie for the fourth playoff berth between the Govs, Seariders and Kapolei that was decided by a coin flip. Waianae played Kapolei at the beginning of the season and lost 28-20, while Farrington beat Kapolei, 22-8, three weeks ago. The Hurricanes have been bit by the injury bug and the Seariders have proven they can score against the second tier of the Open Division after putting up 31 points on Campbell last week. The only way Waianae avoids the coin-flip scenario with a win is if either Kapolei upsets Mililani or Farrington upsets Kahuku.
‘Iolani vs. Leilehua
>> Saturday, Oct. 5, 4:45 p.m., Aloha Stadium
>> This game doesn’t count in the OIA standings for the Mules, but boy is it a huge one for the Raiders. After a 38-21 win over Damien on Friday, ‘Iolani controls its own destiny with games against winless Radford and Castle sandwiched around the Mules. A win here would likely lock up the ILH’s lone state-tournament berth in Division I and keep a talented Damien team home in November. A loss and suddenly the Monarchs’ regular-season finale against Moanalua could become huge, assuming Damien can get past a sneaky Kailua team this weekend. Speaking of Kailua….
Castle vs. Kailua
>> Saturday, Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m., Alex Kane Stadium
>> Maybe the most intriguing team to watch the next three weeks, the Surfriders are by no means down and out. Despite starting 1-4, Kailua played undefeated No. 6 Moanalua to a one-point game and the 14-0 loss to a talented Mules squad does not look as bad on paper now, especially on defense. The Surfriders handled their business against Buckeye Union (Ariz.) and Aiea and after this week’s game against Damien, close the season against the other teams currently 2-2 in OIA D-I, Castle and Waipahu. With the Marauders playing Na Alii this week, the Knights/Surfriders game could end up being a playoff eliminator.
Kaiser at Roosevelt
>> Friday, 7:30 p.m., Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium
>> Two years after failing to put a team on the field due to a lack of numbers, the Cougars are already contending for the top spot in the OIA D-II playoffs. With Kaiser, Roosevelt and Kaimuki separating themselves as the “Big Three” in the Division, that No. 1 seed is key. The winner will get to avoid having to play one of the other two teams for a spot in the D-II state tournament in the OIA semifinals. The Rough Riders and their run-and-shoot attack were held to 26 points by Kaimuki a week after Kaiser put 45 up on the Bulldogs. The key to this one? Can the Rough Riders’ offensive line block a Kaiser front seven that has gotten after the quarterback all season? A Roosevelt win and the dreaded three-team tie for first comes into play. A Kaiser win and the Cougars need to win just one of their last two to clinch the top seed.
Kalani vs. Waialua
>> Saturday, Oct. 5, 6 p.m., Kaiser Stadium
>> Kalani and Waialua playing an October game with a lot on the line? You better believe it. We already mentioned the “Big Three” in OIA Division II above, but FOUR teams make the OIA playoffs. Nanakuli is currently the team fourth in the division, a full game up in the loss column on both the Falcons and the Bulldogs, but the Golden Hawks have to close with Kaiser and Roosevelt. Waialua has already beaten Nanakuli to own the tiebreaker, which could come into play. Whichever team prevails, the final berth in Division II likely won’t be decided until the final regular-season game, but the loser can pretty much get those pads ready to be turned in for the year.