Weekend Gridiron Action Critical For Area Prep Teams

The OIA post-season may still be weeks away, but with every game critical now, all Windward teams are already in playoff mode as they position themselves for a favorable seeding. A preview of this weekend’s matchups for Kailua, Kalaheo and Kahuku follows. (Note: Castle has the week off).

Kahuku versus McKinley, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Roosevelt

If any team has shown glimpses of being able to slow the powerful Kahuku run game, it was its most recent opponents – a scrappy Castle defense last weekend and upcoming McKinley team. McKinley’s defense yielded just 23 yards per game on the ground in its first five games, and it will need to be just as stingy this week to have a chance against Kahuku. The Red Raiders are averaging 263 yards per game on the ground themselves, and the offensive line has been improving steadily each week. Therein lies the key matchup for this game – Kahuku’s offensive line versus the front seven of McKinley.

Kahuku backs Polikapo Liua Jr. and Soli Afalava have been churning out the yardage in big chunks so far, but it may need some big plays in the passing game this week from quarterback Tuli Wily-Matagi to distance themselves from McKinley’s defense. Kahuku won last year’s game 35-6.

Radford versus Kalaheo, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Kailua

With a bye last weekend, Kalaheo has had an extra week to prepare for this game. It will welcome the extra preparation time as it gets ready to face a Radford offense that has put up huge numbers against every opponent, save for Kaiser, which handed the Rams their only loss Aug. 30. Radford and Kalaheo combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense in their meeting a year ago, which was won by Radford 63-39. The Mustangs took a two-game losing streak into their bye week (Kalani and Pearl City). With games versus Nanakuli, Kaiser and Waialua still looming, there’s an opportunity for Kalaheo to get back into the league, pending the outcome of those games. Slowing Radford’s passing game is a top priority. The Rams average 263 yards a game through the air, led by quarterback Cody Lui-Yuen, who had thrown for 15 touchdowns against just four interceptions in his first five games. Kalaheo can help its defense by controlling the ball with its own offense to keep the potent Radford attack off the field for long stretches. That means plenty of touches for Mustang running back Makena Johnston, who has emerged as one of the White Conference’s top rushers.

Kailua versus Kaimuki, 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Kailua

The Surfriders have been true road warriors this fall, having played four straight on the road, followed up by a game versus Farrington on a neutral field. Finally, Kailua gets to play a couple home games, beginning with this key matchup versus Kaimuki. A home date against league-leader Kahuku follows Sept. 28 before the Surfriders close out their season at Aloha Stadium versus McKinley.

With a one-game lead over Kaimuki in the standings heading into last weekend’s action, Kailua needs a win here to solidify its playoff position. How well the Kailua offense fares against the Kaimuki defense should help decide that outcome. Kaimuki is giving up rushing yardage in huge chunks to date, and the Bulldogs’ own offense has been limited to two scores or less in every game. For their part, turnovers have undermined Kailua’s offensive momentum. A big game from playmakers Noah Auld, Tristan Futa and Koolauloa Gasper could strongly aid the Surfriders’ cause. Kailua won last year’s game, 48-12.