Crystal ball-Ing: OIA D1 semis and Punahou-Saint Louis round three

Happy to report that Crystal ball-Ing went a spotless four-for-four in picking the OIA Division I quarterfinal winners. Of course, there wasn't a whole lot to picking the four seeded teams to win, but hey, I'll take it.

This week is a little trickier, with two interesting OIA semifinals and a third helping of Saint Louis versus Punahou.

Let's take a look...

FARRINGTON-KAHUKU at Aloha Stadium - Friday, Oct. 23 (5 p.m.)

A rivarly game for sure, and one that could certainly throw a lot of what we think we know about either team out the window. But make no mistake, Kahuku should ease its way back to the OIA title game behind a punishing run game and a stellar defense that still has not surrendered more than one touchdown in any one game this season.

Sure, Farrington held Campbell scoreless to punch its ticket to the Division I semis, but had their share of struggles offensively. Challen Faamatau found the end zone twice in the win, but was held under 100 yards for the first time in five games and Kahuku on the other hand, doubled its previous scoring output in a 56-10 thrashing of Kapolei, and posted a season-high of 437 yards on the ground to boot. Kesi Ah Hoy had another stellar game at the controls of the Red Raiders' ground attack, putting up 200 yards on 26 carries and four touchdowns. The Red Raiders' defense finally allowed a double-digit number on the scoreboard and gave up 356 yards of passing (on 64 attempts), but held the Hurrcanes to negative yardage on the ground and came up with four drive-killing picks.

Anything goes when the Govs and Red Raiders face off, and Randall Okimoto's squad certainly has a game-breaking back in Faamatau as a wildcard, but to me, the Red Raiders' first real test will be in the OIA Division I title game.

Prediction: Kahuku 42 - Farrington 10

WAIANAE-MILILANI at Aloha Stadium - Friday, Oct. 23 (8 p.m.)

The Trojans continue to rack up the points with or without the services of 2014 All-Hawaii Offensive Player of the Year McKenzie Milton, but with the litany of skill players at Rod York's disposal, I don't think that comes as a shock to anyone with even feigned interest in Hawaii prep football. And no, I don't expect the Mililani machine to stop manufacturing points in the D1 semis against Waianae either.

Yes, the Seariders' defense held the Surfriders' offensive attack to just 200 yards in total and picked off quarterback Noah Auld three times (nearly half of his previous total coming into the quarters), but truth be told, they didn't have to contend with a threat in the run game like they will in Vavae Malepeai. The senior running back carried the ball 17 times for 243 yards and scored four times in a 48-13 win over Na Menehune, and I don't expect anything less in the semis in terms of touch count or productivity. Even with the pending return of Milton in the coming weeks, I think leaning more on the run game and Malepeai would be in the Trojans' best interest going forward.

Against the Trojans, the Seariders need the defense to limit big plays and the offense to hit a few 'home runs' of its own, while consistently finding good gains on early downs in order to control the clock (i.e. game tempo). Easier said than done, but that's pretty much the recipe for victory against the Trojans. Waianae certainly has shown the ability to put points on the board, but simply cannot afford to get behind early. Best case would be keeping the score down in the low-to-mid 20's at best, as Waianae has averaged just 25.8 points per game against (then) ranked opponents (Kamehameha, Castle, Moanalua, Kahuku, Kailua) this year.

Prediction: Mililani 55 - Waianae 20

SAINT LOUIS-PUNAHOU at Aloha Stadium - Saturday, Oct. 24 (7 p.m.)

The Crusaders toppled the Buffanblu from the ranks of the unbeaten with a pretty convincing 30-14 win Saturday to force a winner-take-all rematch for the ILH's lone berth to the Division I state tournament. Defensively, Saint Louis played inspired football all night, holding a potent Punahou attack to just 199 yards of total offense, forcing three Ephraim Tuliloa interceptions and coming up with three Wayne Taulapapa fumbles. Running back Saitaua Lefau broke out for 110 yards on 17 carries and a score, and Drew Kobayashi's big day (125 rec yards, touchdown) could have been even bigger were it not for a few overthrown passes on deep routes. Add to the mix the play of Tua Tagovailoa, who kept the Punahou defense baffled for much of the contest, particularly with his ability to extend plays with his mobility, allowing enough time to make throws on the move or scramble for yardage in open spaces.

Given such high praise, am I ready to anoint the Crusaders as the ILH representative come November? Not quite.

Here are a few things to note. The Buffanblu were without two of their primary deep-ball targets in Eamon Brady and Keala Martinson, a pair of 6-foot-1 recievers that I think present better targets on stretch routes than Ethan Takeyama (5 foot 8) and Judd Cockett (5 foot 10) do. A return of hopefully one of them will go a long way in creating better overall spacing in the Buffanblu passing attack. Second, I know the fumbles were a concern, which may have caused a shift away from the run game for Punahou to a certain extent, but make no mistake, Taulapapa needs to be a workhorse back down the stretch, especially against a team like Saint Louis. From my vantage point, I think the fumbles were primarily a byproduct of Wayne trying to do too much after contact, rather than just finishing off runs cleanly and safely. I can't imagine that being too much of a concern going forward.

So who comes out on top Saturday? Consider this. Saint Louis played about as complete of a game on both sides of the ball as it has all year, but still could have been in a fight to the finish had that blocked punt return resulted in a score rather than a harmless touchback. What's more, Punahou played its worst game of the season from an offensive standpoint, in what ultimately could be chalked up as one of those 'good losses' that do more positive than negative, not unlike the one Mililani endured earlier this season to Liberty (Nev.).

I think Punahou can play much better than it did Saturday, but I'm not so sure Saint Louis will be able to replicate another six-turnover defensive performance in round three. Regardless, expect this one to go down to the wire in Halawa.

Prediction: Punahou 42 - Saint Louis 39

Reach Brien Ing at [email protected].

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