Perennial powers Kahuku, Wai'anae won't impede OIA football semifinalists
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
They may have been down this road before, but for the four teams in tomorrow night's O'ahu Interscholastic Association football semifinals, it's "A New Beginning."
Both games represent rematches, as Castle defeated Farrington, 18-14, on Sept. 6 and Kailua rallied past McKinley, 42-22, on Oct. 12. This time, however, a berth in the OIA championship game is at stake. And for the first time since 1983, none of the teams has perennial juggernauts Kahuku nor Wai'anae to hurdle in the title game.
Here is a closer look at each semifinal, both to be played at Aloha Stadium and televised live on Oceanic Channel 16:
Castle vs. Farrington
Kickoff: 5:05 p.m.
Records: Castle 6-4, Farrington 6-4
Coaches: Nelson Maeda, 6th season at Castle, 33-27-1, 8th overall, 37-41-3. Randall Okimoto, 1st year at Farrington, 6-4.
Seeds: Castle OIA Red-East No. 3; Farrington Red-East No. 5
Last week: Castle defeated Campbell, 28-25; Farrington defeated Kahuku, 21-20
Fun facts: Castle has never won an OIA championship, at least under its present name. Before it became Castle, it was Benjamin Parker, which won the Rural O'ahu Secondary Schools League title in 1945. ... Okimoto was a running back on Farrington's last team to win an OIA title in 1990.
Key factors: In the Sept. 6 game, Farrington jumped to a 14-0 halftime lead but Castle came back in the second half with two long field goals by Ethan Gonsalves (47 and 35 yards) and a 36-yard fumble return by Soli Lefiti. ... The teams feature two of the league's more dynamic offenses. Castle's multiple-set attack takes advantage of its excellent team speed, using inside screens and slant patterns that can develop into big plays. Quarterback Jacob Ramos is similar to former Knights standout Joel Botelho, a two-time division Player of the Year. Ramos can throw the deep ball and also can scramble. Castle keeps defenses honest by giving the ball to running back Kawika Sebay on traps and draws. Against Campbell last week, Sebay rushed for 104 yards on 10 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown scamper. ... Farrington's new West Coast offense appears to be clicking. The Governors have one of the state's top running backs in junior Matt Bell, and quarterback Royce Machado has excellent receivers in Dionte Nomaaea, Chris Feagaimaali'i and Alvin Faumui. "(Offensive coordinator) Elroy (Chong) does a great job working with them every day," head coach Randall Okimoto said. ... Castle's team speed extends to its defense, with end Lefiti especially a threat as a pass rusher and in run pursuit. Farrington's defense has a similar player in linebacker Paulo Feagai, who caused two fumbles against Kahuku. "He's a key to our defense," Okimoto said.
KAILUA vs. MCKINLEY
Kickoff: 7:35 p.m.
Records: Kailua 8-1, McKinley 7-3
Coaches: Darren Johnson, 7th season at Kailua, 49-24. David Tanuvasa, 10th season at McKinley, 57-39-1.
Seeds: Kailua OIA Red-East No. 2; McKinley Red-East No. 4
Last week: Kailua defeated Mililani, 41-17; McKinley defeated Wai'anae, 35-0
Fun facts: Before sharing last year's OIA title with Kahuku, Kailua's last sole league championship was in 1965, coached by retired Kailua athletic director Alex Kane. ... McKinley, which has never won an OIA championship, last reached the title game in 1973, when athletic director Neal Takamori was an assistant to then-head coach Herb Moriyama.
Key factors: In the Oct. 12 meeting, Kailua trailed 16-13 at halftime but was aided in the second half by two "inadvertent" onside kicks. Both times, the Surfriders squibbed the kickoff, but the ball hit the back of a McKinley player's leg and Kailua recovered in Tigers' territory. The Surfers scored on both possessions. ... Kailua's only stumble this season came against Kahuku three weeks ago, a 12-7 loss that ended with the Surfriders on the Kahuku 1-yard line. Kailua has won every other game by at least three touchdowns. ... McKinley's run-and-shoot offense is running smoothly, with quarterback Abel Werner and running back Mike Vasconcellos providing a good balance of air and ground attacks. Werner, a junior, has become adept at identifying the open receiver and has been accurate in delivering the ball to him. He also knows when to tuck it in and run. "He's been cool, calm and collected all season," coach Tanuvasa said. "He keeps his composure when we need it most. He hasn't mastered the offense yet, but if we keep playing, he will." ... Kailua's offense has mostly featured a heavy passing attack led by quarterback Ranson Kepa and receiver David Kaihenui, but the Surfriders showed a powerful ground game led by Nathan Leaver, who rushed for 227 yards on 22 carries last week. Kailua's offensive line averages close to 300 pounds per player. ... McKinley's defense produced five turnovers last week, led by Daniel Desoto's two interceptions. Kailua's defense features two big hitters in linebacker Cody Teixeira-Vickery and safety Malakai Mokofisi.