LIHUE – Their scripts are different but they have a similar happy ending in mind.
Tonight, just one team – the Kapa’a Warriors or Kaua’i Red Raiders – will get a step closer to the end of their story. The other will remain stumped with lingering question marks.
The Red Raiders (0-1) don’t want to walk away from the KIF season wondering how explosive their offense should have been. Still winless at the onset of the 2002 season, Kaua’i fell hard to the Waimea Menehunes’ 34-20 in the season opener. Although there were occasional sparks, the Raider offense failed to jumpstart. They also couldn’t find a way to stop Menehune running back Jordon Dizon.
The Warriors (0-1) need to add a league win to their apparent revival. With two wins in the preseason, they’ve enjoyed the public esteem of having a promising forecast. Although the sun shimmered green in the first half of their league opener, it rained a Menehune blue the rest of the way – the downpour again summoned by the relentless running of Jordon Dizon. The Warriors fell to the Menehunes 29-6.
In two games, the Raiders have average just under 160 yards per game of total offense. Relying on its passing, Kaua’i hasn’t exhibited the ability to run the ball. So far, the Raiders have rushed for just 72 yards this season – 19 against Maui and 52 against the Menehunes. They’ve gained a considerable number of passing yards – 272 total in two games – but a combined seven turnovers nixed much of the Raiders’ offensive production thus far. Two special teams fumbles led to 14 Maui points in the preseason, which proved to be the difference in a game the Raiders lost 14-7.
The Warriors have also seen turnovers ruin their offensive success. In three games, Kapa’a averaged 150 yards rushing and 99 yards passing. They’ve been outscored 99-75 in their previous four games, but 40 of those points came from an impressive Kamehameha – a program favored by some to take the State title this year. The Warriors notched 210 total yards against a traditionally tough Menehune defense, but watched their effort dwindle in the second half with a slew of damaging penalties and turnovers.
Both the Raiders and Warriors rely on their quarterbacks. Senior QB Dustin Mundon has started for the Warriors for three years, and brings his unmatched agility to the Warriors offense. Along with running backs Devin Machado and Nalu Hawela, Mundon can add to Kapa’a’s running game with his speed and relative comfort leaving the pocket. He can also use his arm – in three games this season he amassed 292 yards, an impressive number for an offense which is selective in its passing game.
The Raiders, in accordance with its air-oriented offense, enjoys employing sophomore Kekoa Crowell at QB, even if he threw several interceptions in the season opener against the Menehunes. Crowell is a nimble quarterback who proved with two rushing touchdowns against Waimea his abilities are not limited to his arm. Whether his scant varsity experience will be enough to lead Raider coach Kelii Morgado’s offensive scheme remains unseen, but there is no doubt his natural athletic ability is – and will be – an asset to Kaua’i.
On defense, Kapa’a may find it will fare better throwing the ball. The Red Raiders have a talented defensive line, with good back up from its linebackers – when they’re healthy. The Warriors have been relatively successful on the ground this season. This much can be attributed to their offensive line, along with the strengths of Mundon and the Warrior back field. Look for a battle on the line in tonight’s game.
The Warrior defense will focus more intently on short passes than plugging up holes. RB Rejis Canales and Crowell are a similar tandem to Mundon and Machado, except thus far they’ve had less success. Of course, the Raiders have only played two games – only one of which they were reasonably healthy. Look for these two to see more action on the ground.
Beyond their differing styles of play, the outcome of the Kapa’a and Kaua’i matchup will be determined, as it has been at the onset of the season, by who makes the most mistakes. Look for turnovers and penalties to be the deciding factor.