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Critical Rankings At Stake In Windward Football Action

This weekend’s prep football action should be called “Separation Saturday” for Windward teams as Kalaheo, Kailua, Castle and Kahuku all play critical games. With playoff prospects looming large, MidWeek’s Windward Islander breaks down the action for all four teams — all playing Saturday with kickoffs at 6 p.m.

Kalaheo at Pearl City
The Mustangs’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, as it followed their hard-fought 21-16 loss Sept. 7 to OIA White league leader Radford. Following this game, the team plays Kalani, Anuenue and Roosevelt — teams that entered last weekend’s action a combined 3-9 — so this is obviously The Game on the Mustang schedule and a must-win. They have aspirations to do some damage in the OIA playoffs, not to men- tion create a potential rematch with Radford.

The good news here for the Mustangs is that their run game has been hum- ming along to the tune of 258 yards per game, while Pearl City’s run defense has been merely average to date. In fact, the top five Kalaheo rushers (Willie Lynch, Cristian Johnston, Makena Johnston, Stephen Lee and Chase Hanawahine) all are aver- aging better than 4.6 yards per attempt. Quarterback Lee and tight end Nainoa Frank have balanced out the offense with their explo- siveness in the passing game. Pearl City’s own offense is improving week to week, meanwhile, so the Chargers’ best defense Saturday may be their offense, which will need to possess the ball to keep Kalaheo’s offense off of the field for long stretch- es.

Castle at Kailua
Bragging rights in this year’s Hammer Trophy game may take a temporary backseat to playoff posi- tioning. Every game is critical for both schools, as they hope to ensure a berth in the OIA post-season — especially for the Knights, who were still searching for their first league win heading into last weekend. Following this game, Castle plays Kaimuki and McKinley, both winnable, so it controls its own destiny. The Knights hope for a big game from quarterback Kela Shea and fellow playmakers Kyle Urasaki and Cullen Shiroma-Fernandez.

Kailua broke into the Red East win column in resounding fashion this month with a 48-12 win over Kaimuki and then entered its bye week, giving the team extra time to prepare for this game. Offensive balance has been Kailua’s forte to date behind quarterback Kahuku Iaea, running backs Jarrin Young and Micah Kaimana, and a talented corps of receivers in both Noah Auld and Cason Kalei. Kailua won last year’s meeting 28-8.

Kahuku versus Kaimuki at Kaiser High School
Kahuku’s greater task is to avoid looking ahead. That temptation would only seem natural given its struggles this season after being promoted to the OIA Red. But the Red Raider Nation is certainly aware that next week’s much-anticipated matchup with fellow league leader Farrington looms as the biggest game of the year to date. Kahuku has been flawless in taking care of its business up to this point, overcoming a good Punahou team in week one with a big second half, and soaring to big wins over Kailua and McKinley heading into last weekend’s game with Castle. The cornerstone of Kahuku’s success to date has been its ability to run the ball on offense and to stop the run, defensively.

Offensively, Kahuku’s line has been stellar, even overcoming early-season injuries to starters, to help make room for backs Aofaga Wily and Polikapu Liua. Quarterback Viliami Livai and receivers Kawehena Johnson and Will Cravens have provided a bulk of the passing attack so far. Johnson, who goes both ways, including his duties in the secondary, will start his 41st consec- utive game as a Red Raider Saturday night, a string that dates back to his first game as a freshman in 2009.