Game Previews: Calif. Battles the Hawaiians

The image of California high school football has a lot to lose and little to gain in Saturday's First Hawaiian Bank Football Classic at Aloha Stadium. If FAB 50 No. 3 Long Beach Poly defeats two-time Hawaii state champ Kahuku and FAB 50 No. 1 De La Salle downs longtime power St. Louis, those from other power states like Texas, Ohio and Florida will simply say, "Well, you should've beaten those guys."

If Kahuku and St. Louis win, it will not only be one of the greatest nights for Hawaii sports ever it will also reverberate nationally as fans in other states will have more than enough ammo to downgrade California's status.

Both Hawaii teams winning, though, is highly unlikely. Kahuku barely won last week, 14-13, over McKinley and it took a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kyle Juliano to make it happen. Without that play, McKinley perhaps wins that game by two touchdowns.


Long Beach (Calif.) Poly vs. Kahuku, Hawaii

Kahuku will hope to turn around its fortunes with a power ground game. The Red Raiders' best chance for an upset is to control the ball, keeping Poly's offense off the field. Kahuku's key ball carriers figure to be Paea Vaimoui, Michael Garcia and sophomore quarterback Spencer Hafoka.

No one on the team, though, enters the game with more than 100 yards rushing for the season. Kahuku does have a big, strong offensive line to lean on, led by senior Joseph Nape'ahi (6-3, 320) and Jeremy Perry (6-2, 290).

The odds of a Poly shutout are high. The Jackrabbits allowed negative yardage in last week's 45-0 win over Westchester and their front seven already looks like it is even better than last year.

Defensive linemen Junior Lemau'u, Kevin Brown and Josh Tauanuu plus linebackers Marlin Simmons and Mark Washington head up that unit. Kahuku isn't a passing team, so Poly's secondary – which may be its weak point this year -- won't get tested.

On offense, quarterback Leon Jackson will be looking for another 200-plus yardage game, while the running game, with Dwayne Washington and brothers Lorenzo and Larenzo Bursey, will be looking for more consistency.


Concord (Calif.) De La Salle vs. Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis

In the second game, St. Louis might be wise to become more of a pound-and-run team than its more traditional run-and-shoot.

The Crusaders have had success running so far this year with B.J. Batts (31-285, 3 TDs) and Justin Cabansag (10-122, 2 TDs. They'll be running behind a big, strong offensive line, including Jeremy Inferrera (6-3, 270) and Frank Fernandez (6-2, 275).

If St. Louis throws it a lot, that could be playing into De La Salle's strengths. This year's Spartan squad may feature the school's best secondary ever, led by Damon Jenkins and Willie Glasper on the corners.

St. Louis will have a three-year starter at quarterback, though, in Bobby George. St. Louis also has a rugged defensive line led by Tolifili Liufau (6-3, 310) and Wilson Afoa (6-3, 260).

De La Salle's linemen, even by its standards, are small. The storyline is similar to last year's matchup vs. Long Beach Poly (won by DLS), except this year's Spartans don't have Derek Landri to battle the big boys. There is no one on the De La Salle line above 260 pounds and no one who stands above 6-feet-3.

In Thursday's practice, De La Salle running back Maurice Drew was reported to have "tweaked" his injured ankle once again. That makes his status for the game a bit more questionable. Last week, Drew rushed for 131 yards in De La Salle's 24-0 win over Mitty of San Jose.

The key for the De La Salle offense may be its passing game. Quarterback Britt Cecil will only be making his second start. His passes last week were pretty much on target although the receivers dropped five passes. Another 48-yard passing night probably would result in a very good outcome for St. Louis.


Predictions

In the preseaason football issue by Student Sports, I called it 34-27 in favor De La Salle. I now think the score will be lower as the DLS secondary was more impressive than I thought it would be while the DLS offense looked more defendable than usual.

Officially, I'm still going 34-27, but it's probably going to be more like 28-21 or 24-21.

For Kahuku-Poly, I would say 28-7 in favor of the Jackrabbits. Based on last week's games, Kahuku will be lucky to score at all.


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