Mule-Trojan Weekend To Have Big Impact On OIA Playoffs

With two weeks remaining in the OIA season, the top seeds for the post-season are still up in the air, making every game critical for both Mililani and Leilehua.

The reward for finishing first or second in the Red West is a first-round bye. A preview of their games for this weekend — both at 7 p.m. Friday — follows.

Waipahu at Leilehua
If the Red West has proven anything so far, it’s that it’s truly all about how a team responds week to week — whether coming off of a win or a loss.

The Mules’ win over rival Mililani in week one may have made Leilehua the team to beat, but they were quickly brought back to earth in an 18- 16 loss to a good Aiea team the next week. The Mules followed that setback with their most complete effort of the year, a 47-0 road win over Kapolei. Now Waipahu comes to town, arguably one of the most dangerous Red West teams, promoted from Division II last year.

Waipahu has signature wins over Kapolei and Aiea and has a noteworthy run game. Indeed, while no one had been able to run the ball with any success against Aiea’s defense through five weeks, Waipahu managed to ground out 188 yards against Na Ali‘i. Therein lies the key to this game for Leilehua and defensive coordinator Mark Kurisu.

If the Mules can stop Waipahu on the ground, they should be able to put this one into the win column, since the Mules’ offense gets better and better with each game and figures to do its share. Waipahu has to control the ball and keep the Mules’ offense off of the field. The mainstays of Leilehua’s offense to date have been quarterback Justin Jenks, running back Ikaika Piceno, and receivers Keoni Piceno and Josh Jenks.

Mililani at Aiea
Among the revelations through the first six weeks is that when playing against Aiea, it’s far better to play from ahead than behind. All of Na Ali‘i’s success to date has come by way of its defense while they have strug- gled much of the year to score as needed.

That might be good news for Mililani, since the Trojans have the ability to strike early and often behind quarterback Jarin Morikawa and his host of play-makers. And while Morikawa and company won’t find the yards easy to come by in this matchup against a stellar Aiea defense, the Trojans bring an outstanding defense of their own.

If everything plays out true to form, two scores by the Mililani offense might be just enough. Controlling the game via offense for Mililani also may involve getting big games from running backs Dayton Furuta, Antonio Boies and Kamalii Olayan-Keawe. All three are averaging better than 4.4 yards per rushing attempt.

Aiea’s playmakers on offense include quarterback Isaiah Hernandez-Fonoti, Mana Kaahanui and Kamakana Apelu.