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Chalk Talk with Paps: Hilo trying to make history against Kahuku

Updated: 
November 7, 2014 - 12:05am

WHAT: 16th Annual First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I Football State Championships, first round

WHO: Hilo Vikings (10-0, BIIF champion) vs. No. 4 Kahuku Red Raiders (8-2, OIA runner-up)

WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Aloha Stadium

TV: OC16 (channel 12, HD 1012)

STATE TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Hilo-Fourth appearance (2000, ’03, ’13, ’14), 0-3 all-time record; Kahuku-12th appearance (1999-2001, ’03-06, ’08-09, ’11-12, ’14), 20-4 all-time record, 7 state championships (2000-01, ’03, ’05-06, ’11-12), 2 runner-up finishes (1999, 2009)

Hilo (10-0) climbed Mount Kealakehe for a second consecutive year in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I championship game, knocking off the perennial contender Waveriders 32-0.

But now the Vikings face a Mount Everest-size roadblock as the team travels to Aloha Stadium to face Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up Kahuku (8-2) in the first round of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I Football State Championships on Friday.

The winner will face Punahou, the top seed in the tournament, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15.

Kahuku has been the most dominant team in Hawaii since the tournament started in 1999 — winning seven state titles — and the squad is hungry for a big performance on the state stage. After two consecutive championships, Kahuku missed out on the tournament last year.

The only two blemishes on the Red Raiders resume are a 20-19 loss to Kaiser and a 20-7 loss in the OIA championship to No. 2 Mililani.

Hilo is making its second consecutive tournament appearance and fourth overall. While the Vikings ran the table in the BIIF, outscoring the opposition by an average of more than 35 points per game, they are untested outside of the Big Island.

Last year against Campbell, the Vikings held a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter, but the Sabers reeled off 28 straight points, sinking the Vikings’ hopes of being the first BIIF D-I school to win a game at the state tournament. If Hilo isn’t competitive against Kahuku, it begs the question of the BIIF competing exclusively in D-II.

PAPALII’S POINTS

Can the Vikings find a way to move the ball against Kahuku’s vaunted defense

The Red Raiders are no strangers to slowing down high-powered offenses. Mililani entered the OIA championship averaging more than 50 points per game, and Kahuku held the Trojans to a season-low 20 points and 208 yards — a small victory.

The Kahuku defense is allowing 13.8 points and 195.6 yards per game this season. The biggest cause of concern for Hilo is that the Red Raiders have stuffed opponents’ running games for less than 70 yards per game.

Standouts for Kahuku on defense are Hawaii-committed defensive lineman Salanoa-Alo Wily, linebacker Manaia Atuaia, and speedy defensive backs Keala Santiago — who ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the PIAA combine this offseason — and Alohi Gilman.

Both quarterback Sione Atuekaho and running back Tristin Spikes will have to show up in a big way for Hilo. The duo has accounted for nearly all of the Vikings’ offense this season.

Spikes has gone over the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive year, and has done it with defenses game-planning against him. The reigning BIIF Offensive Player of the Year will likely see even less room against the Red Raiders.

Atuekaho is a dual-threat weapon, and comes off a season-high 127-yard performance against Kealakehe in the BIIF title game. He has thrown and run for a touchdown in a game on five occasions this season, but has only eclipsed the 200-yard mark passing once in 2014.

Kaiser’s shocking upset of Kahuku in the OIA regular season could be a game plan Hilo follows. The Cougarswho have similar depth to the Vikings — racked up 462 yards against the stingy Red Raiders defense.

How will the Hilo defense handle its biggest test

The Hilo defense allowed just seven points per game and shut out opponents four times. The most points the Vikings gave up in a game was 20 in an overtime win against BIIF D-II champion Kamehameha.

Ofa Fahiua leads the Vikings in tackles and highlight plays. The linebacker has four defensive scores this season.

Kahuku first-year coach Lee Leslie rode his defense to a state berth, but offense has been balanced, averaging 145 yards per game rushing, and just over 128 passing. The squad averaged more than 45 points per game through its first four games, but has not scored more than 28 points since.

Multi-use sophomore Kesi Ah Hoy leads the team in all rushing categories with 98 carries for 459 yards and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Tuli Wily-Matagi — who was concussed in the OIA championship and is questionable for the state game — is completing his passes at just under a 50 percent clip. He has 1,078 yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season.

While the Red Raiders’ offensive numbers cannot stack up with Hilo’s, the strength of schedule has to be taken into consideration. In the OIA, teams face consistent battles week in and week out.

Which team will provide more momentum-swinging plays

Kahuku lost Wily-Matagi to a concussion against Mililani, and the senior QB’s absence was evident. Kahuku managed just 128 yards of offense and backup Samuta Avea was just 1 of 12 for four yards.

Santiago has been a game-changer for Kahuku in the return game, and could pick up the slack if the offense struggles again. In a 21-14 win against Leilehua, the offense recorded just 59 yards, but Santiago set the tone of the game with two first-quarter return scores.

For Hilo, that guy could be Donovan Kelley, who has played the majority of his reps on the defensive side of the ball, but has been an offensive weapon in the past for Hilo. He is electric in the return game, and sparked a comeback against Kamehameha earlier this season.

The Vikings’ defense has also turned the tide in games. Against Kealakehe, a Fahiua fumble return in the opening minute ended up being the only score in a 7-0 victory. And if the defense does not take it back, the offense has a habit of capitalizing on the turnovers and flipping them into points.

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