Excitement Plentiful During First Half Of OIA Red Football

As the OIA Red West football season reaches the midway point this weekend, there still is much to sort out among the seven teams. This much we know so far:

Who’s hot: Leilehua. The Mules have beaten defending DII state champion Iolani (on the road, no less), Red West-foe Campbell and Vincent Massey of Canada so far, outscoring the opposition 100-27 in the first half.

Toughest schedule:

Kapolei, without question. The Hurricanes finish up their slate with consecutive road trips to Leilehua, Waianae and Campbell.

Can’t-miss game I:

Leilehua at Mililani Sept. 27. No surprise here. As in past years, expect this rivalry game to decide the league crown. Unlike last year, however, their epic matchup comes at the back end of their respective schedules. With all due respect to the Hammer Trophy game between Castle and Kailua, the Leilehua-Mililani game has become the state’s best rivalry.

Can’t-miss game II:

Campbell at Mililani Sept. 21. The Trojans will want to be on upset-alert for this encounter, as it comes a week before the much-anticipated Mililani-Leilehua battle. Moreover, a Campbell win over the Trojans would hardly qualify as an upset, given how well the Sabers have fared to date. They took Leilehua to the limit in week three in a 28-21 loss to the Mules. They could find themselves in prime position to take over the No. 1 spot in the Red West if they can beat Mililani, and then the Trojans turn around and defeat Leilehua a week later. Stay tuned.

Top newcomer:

Leilehua quarterback Mack Eberhardt. The senior transfer from Groton-Dunstable Regional High in Massachusetts is a big reason why the Mules are averaging 49 points per game, offensively. His strong arm, coupled with his decision-making, bodes well down the stretch.

Most valuable player to date: A tie between the aforementioned Eberhardt and Mililani quarterback McKenzie Milton. Leilehua running back Ikaika Piceno also belongs in the discussion.

Coach of the year to date: Take your pick between Leilehua’s Nolan Tokuda and Mililani’s Rod York. Some teams in the league start fast and fade by season’s end. Traditionally, Tokuda’s teams and York’s teams are strong from start to finish.

The play they’re still talking about: Eberhardt’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Toma Savea with eight minutes and two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to drive Leilehua across the finish line in its 28-21 road win over Campbell Aug. 23.

The plays they’re still talking about II: Tristan Kamaka and Ikaika Piceno’s kickoff returns for touchdowns, which covered 96 and 98 yards, respectively, in Leilehua’s win over Campbell.

Dark horse team:

Waianae. The Seariders had the misfortune to play Mililani (a 44-24 loss) and Leilehua in back-to-back weeks. The outcome of last weekend’s Waianae-Leilehua game will figure big in the league race. With Campbell, Waipahu and Kapolei to close out their slate, the Seariders could finish with three straight wins.

Unsung unit to keep your eye on: With a unit averaging 373 yards and 33 points per game, it’s easy to credit Mililani’s offense, which is among the state’s best year in and year out, with work well-done so far. The Trojans defensive front deserves its equal share of credit in helping hold opposing teams to a mere 63 yards on the ground per game.