For the Red Raiders’ sake, I’ll be staying on Kauai this weekend.
Having been present for the past two Kauai High-Iolani matchups in 2009 and 2010 – both losses – I was not in attendance Saturday for the fourth meeting between the two postseason regulars. Instead, I was in Kilauea getting updates via internet and text message and saying “Wow!” a lot.
The fourth time was not only a charm, it was a complete domination. The way Kauai was able to control the action and suppress a highly powerful offense on the road makes this 28-7 result seem like anything but an upset.
Coming up short in the previous three playoff matchups between the two schools, Kauai once again walked into the Eddie Hamada Field at the Iolani campus as the underdog, but this time completely altered perceptions and story lines moving forward. No longer will there be a sense of inevitability. No longer will “moral victories” be an expected consolation prize for neighbor island squads.
Following the victory, Kauai head coach Tommy John Cox said that it was his offensive line that won the game for his team. It’s hard to argue with that assessment, as the Red Raiders’ game plan was to ground and pound, which they executed pretty flawlessly for the entire game. A characteristic of Kauai all season has been its ability to win with different styles and Saturday’s style was of the blue-collar variety.
Of its 66 offensive plays, Kauai ran the ball on 60 of them. Reggie McFadden handled the largest work load with 29 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Kyren Rapacon recorded 14 carries for 67 yards and a score. Quarterback Kelson Andrade, while throwing only six passes, called his own number 12 times and finished with 79 yards rushing.
The Red Raiders’ 333 rushing yards made up over 90 percent of the team’s total offense, a tactic that kept Iolani off the field and unable to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. Time of possession saw Kauai hold the ball for more than double that of Iolani (32:42 to 15:18). Kauai’s efficiency forced the six-time defending champions into a very unbalanced attack, in which Iolani threw the ball 39 times, but for just 189 yards. The Raiders had only 12 rushing attempts and ended the day with negative-29 yards on the ground.
Winning the battle at the line of scrimmage has been something of a given for Oahu teams over the years. They have typically had the bigger offensive and defensive lines, forcing neighbor island teams into some gimmicky game plans, or at least having to alter their styles to compensate. Saturday was just the opposite, with Kauai playing the role of pace setter and Iolani unable to win in the trenches.
Now, as the only undefeated team remaining, Kauai heads to Aloha Stadium Saturday to take on Kaiser (12-1) with each school looking for its first Division II championship. If the Red Raider game plan remains the same, they will have to run against a defense giving up just 55 rush yards per game on the season and which just ran for 275 yards in a 20-9 win over top seed Lahainaluna.
Both teams will be focused on winning the line of scrimmage. Though that may have previously been a given for a team like Kaiser against a team like Kauai, this past Saturday’s outcome has severely altered that philosophy.
• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to email@example.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI