Excitement Still High In Windward Race To Post-season

As the OIA’s respective East Red and White conference seasons reach the midway point, there’s still much to be sorted out on the Windward side. This much we know so far:

Team with the toughest schedule: Kalaheo. The last five weeks of the Mustang season include games with Pearl City, Radford, Nanakuli and Kaiser.

Heartbreak team: Castle. With overtime losses in successive weeks to rival Kailua and Farrington, the Knights have endured their share of heartbreak this fall. Castle responded big from those setbacks, however, with a resounding win over McKinley to stay the course and keep hopes alive for a strong finish. With Moanalua and Kaimuki still ahead, a .500 finish in the league is likely.

Can’t miss games remaining:

Kailua versus McKinley (at Aloha Stadium) Oct. 3. Put this game into the “must-win” category for the Surfriders, who want to solidify their playoff prospects.

Kahuku versus Farrington (at Aloha Stadium) Oct. 3.

The Governors are in rebuilding mode, but the Red Raiders can’t afford to stumble as they continue to progress toward what they hope will be another strong post-season run.

Castle at Moanalua Sept. 27. The Knights need a win here as well as a win in their finale against Kaimuki the following weekend to finish at least .500, thus guaranteeing themselves a solid playoff seeding.

Kalaheo versus Nanakuli (at Kaiser High) Oct. 4. The Mustangs close out their league slate versus Nanakuli and Kaiser. A win here would be the first step toward a key two-game sweep of those teams.

Honor roll – Difference-makers at mid-season:

Castle receiver/defensive back Kyle Urasaki, Castle receiver Joseph Lilio, Kahuku quarterback Tuli Wily-Matagi, Kahuku running back Soli Afalava, Kahuku defensive lineman Lamone Williams, Kahuku linebacker Pene Kaonohi, Kailua receiver Koolauloa Gasper, Kailua quarterback Noah Auld, Kailua kicker Naia Graham, Kalaheo linebacker/tight end Bryant Villarosa and Kalaheo running back Makena Johnston.

Coach of the year to date: Castle’s Nelson Maeda. Despite their close losses to Kailua and Farrington, the Knights have returned to the high-rent district of East Red football and are only a few plays from having a far different record. No team from the West will relish drawing Castle in their first-round OIA playoff matchup.

The play they are still talking about: Jameson White’s 99-yard kickoff return for a Kailua touch-down to help send the “Hammer Trophy” game against rival Castle into overtime Aug. 23. Kailua went on to win it 23-20.

The play they are still talking about II: Kyle Urasaki’s 59-yard interception return for a touch-down to help seal Castle’s 21-7 win over McKinley Sept. 6.

Dark-horse team: Kalaheo. Coming off an open date on their schedule last weekend, the Mustangs still have the OIA White’s elite teams (Radford, Waialua, Nanakuli and Kaiser) to face, giving them an opportunity to greatly influence the league race, not to mention their own season.

Unsung unit to keep your eye on: The Castle Defense. The Knights are yielding less than 100 yards per game on the ground and 100 yards a game through the air. If Castle can continue to bring it, defensively, they figure to be one of the tougher teams to contend with during the stretch run of the 2013 season.