A Look At Red Raiders’ Chances Heading Into Title Run
Will it be another November to remember for the Kahuku football team? All signs point that direction. The Division I state tournament begins this weekend, and pairings were to be revealed late Sunday. Here’s a look at the Red Raiders’ post-season prospects:
Head coach: Reggie Torres
Record: 9-0 overall heading into last weekend’s OIA championship game with Mililani. (The Red Raiders went 6-0 in the OIA Red East this year.)
What to watch: For most teams, making the state tournament field provides more stress than playing in it. Kahuku escaped its major scare of the year – a come-from-behind win over Waianae in the OIA quarterfinals – and then guaranteed itself a berth at states with a work-manlike win over Leilehua in the semifinals. A collective sigh of relief was heard after the riveting win over Waianae, and those events have left Kahuku battle-tested but right on schedule for what they hope will be a second straight state title. In its nine games, it controlled the action. Indeed, its only two close games were with Waianae and with Punahou in its season-opener nine weeks earlier.
When Kahuku has the ball: Running back Aofaga Wily has been the workhorse, even with a host of playmakers around him, and that will again be the case at states. An injury accounted for more time in the weight room last off-season, and Wily came back stronger in 2012, maintaining his speed and quickness to go with his more solid frame en route to rushing for 1,254 yards and 17 touchdowns this fall. Quarterback Viliami Liva is now a senior, and his experience should pay off as Kahuku moves into the state tournament. Receivers Kawehena Johnson (21.1 yards per catch, four touchdowns) and Polikapu (18.8 yards per catch) will help to balance out the attack, but it all begins up front, where the offensive line play has been a huge key to the season.
Kahuku’s ability to wear teams down with its run game is among its best assets. After a stretch of putting up a lot of points, Kahuku scored just 14 apiece versus Waianae and Leilehua, so it hopes to finish off more drives this week.
When Kahuku is on defense: One characteristic of championship teams is their ability to run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense. Kahuku has both of these covered, especially in the run-defense department. It’s yielding only 27 yards a game on the ground and giving up just 7.9 points per outing. It’s yielding just 155 yards total per game.
Linebacker Ku J Tapusoa has been the all-around leader. Kawehena Johnson highlights the secondary. His streak of games started currently stands at 46 in a row, dating back to his freshman year.
Red Raider fact: Prior to last Friday’s OIA championship game, Kahuku had won 21 of its last 22 games dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season.
Make plans for the state championship game if: The defense continues to play up to its potential. Kahuku’s defensive personnel and coaching make it a hard unit to move the ball on – especially when it gives up so few big plays. The combination of run game on offense and defensive play are the keys to another state title.