By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Hilo quarterback Drew Kell has stockpiled huge numbers against Waiakea in two Big Island Interscholastic Federation games, throwing for 433 yards and rushing for another 160 yards while producing six touchdowns.
Kell has led the Vikings to 38-21 and 21-14 wins not only with his strong right arm and legs, but also with his intuition, showing a savvy presence to release passes at the last second, and scramble away from danger and throw on the run when his pocket collapses.
He’s earned much respect from Waiakea coach Fred Lau as the No. 2 seed Vikings (4-2 BIIF, 6-2 overall) host the No. 3 seed Warriors (2-4, 3-6) at 7 p.m. today in the BIIF Division I semifinals at Wong Stadium.
“He’s got a sixth sense. He would sidestep pressure,” Lau said. “He’s got that knack. That’s why I call him the real deal. He’s disciplined and he knows where to run or throw. He’s always looking downfield. When he runs, he keeps his eyes downfield.”
In the last meeting, Waiakea often blitzed on first down. It was hit and miss in the 38-21 loss. And when needed, Kell hit a home run.
Kell had four incompletions, but converted a pair of long passes for 24 and 31 yards and bolted for runs of 11 and 17 yards. He went 17 of 31 for 236 yards, getting sacked just once in the third quarter when the score was 35-21.
The numbers suggest the Warriors got pressure on Kell, but just not enough to disrupt the Vikings, who converted 6 of 11 third-down opportunities, extending drives that eventually led to scores.
One clear example was in the third quarter.
Ahead 21-14, Hilo had the ball at the Waiakea 40 on third-and-7. The Warriors needed a stop to not get stuck in a two-touchdown hole. They needed the defense to make a play and shift the game’s momentum.
Kell fired a quick out to Kamu Patnaude, who worked hard for six yards. On fourth-and-1, the Warriors needed another stop. Kell ran for 20 yards and he eventually threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Genegabuas for a 27-14 lead.
On the ensuing series, Kayed Rodrigues, filling in at quarterback for Kean Wong, connected with Dayton Kiko on a 60-yard scoring strike on the second play, cutting the lead to 27-21 before Hilo added another Kell-Genegabuas TD reception, Isi Holani’s safety and Keola Miller’s 24-yard field goal.
Waiakea made plays, but just not enough, especially against Kell. He threw two TD strikes to Genegabuas and had a five-yard touchdown run. The Warriors went after him, but Kell kept hitting home runs.
He’s not Hilo’s only weapon either. Running back Tristan Spikes ran for 67 yards on 11 attempts, including a 30-yard TD run. Genegabuas had six receptions for 96 yards. Defensively, Tyler Mahoe had two interceptions, Patnaude had one and Holani made life uncomfortable for those in the backfield.
For the Warriors, at least there’s comfort in knowing those numbers go out the window. It’s single-elimination in the BIIF semifinals; the winner advances while the loser goes home. And Wong will be back at quarterback, after attending the Arizona Fall Senior Classic, a high-profile baseball showcase.
The Viks, who finished 0-7 last season, not only face the challenge of stopping the athletic Wong, but also figuring a way to beat the Warriors for a third straight time.
“Familiarity becomes evident,” Hilo coach Dave Baldwin said. “It’s not only a task for just preparing, but playing, executing and winning.
“Kean Wong give me nightmares. He’s an athlete that plays quarterback and he plays that position with a passion. What Fred has done is establish a system where different guys can step in. Having Wong back only adds to the firepower.”
Hilo has its own share of firepower, starting with Kell, a junior who also plays basketball and baseball, but enjoys football best. That’s because it’s also the sport of his older brother, Devon Kell, a junior defensive lineman at Oregon State.
“Drew’s a high school kid who prepares for the game like he’s at the college level, his dedication to film, openness to correction, his ability to own up to mistakes,” Baldwin said. “He’ll turn those things into learning moments. His true weapon isn’t his arm or feet. It’s his character and heart. That shows up in his decision-making. He’s unselfish and tries to get his teammates involved.”
Kell doesn’t expect Waiakea to constantly blitz on first down like the last time. If the pressure comes, there’s less coverage on his receiving targets and an opportunity to make plays. It all starts with practice, Kell noted.
“I always practice footwork,” he said. “That’s very important and having repetitions in practice helps. We do this 9-on-9 drill where different guys blitz. I have to move around in the pocket and all that reps help.
“We had good intensity in that game. We worked hard the whole week and the whole year. We want to keep that momentum going in the playoffs.”
There’s no doubt that intensity for both teams will be running high in an elimination game. Turnovers will play a part, too. The last time, Waiakea had four turnovers and Hilo converted two mistakes into a touchdown and field goal
The best way to stop Kell from producing touchdowns is to keep him off the field. The best way to do that is to convert third downs. Waiakea went 3 of 7 in the last meeting. Like Kell, Wong is a dangerous pass-run weapon.
“We’ve got the option to run the ball at quarterback, and he’ll look downfield. He can make the big play,” Lau said of Wong, but also meaning to include Kell, too.
Keaau at Kealakehe, 7 p.m. Saturday
Since falling to Waiakea 14-0 in their 2009 regular season finale, the Waveriders have won their past 22 league games, including the past two BIIF Division I titles.
Meanwhile, Keaau (0-6, 0-8) hasn’t won a game since knocking off Waiakea in last year’s BIIF semifinals, which makes beating Kealakehe (6-0, 8-1) a tall order for the Cougars.
In two regular season meetings between the teams this year, Kealakehe has run the ball at will against the Cougars, piling up 392 yards in a 34-22 road victory on Sept. 22 and 336 in last week’s 53-0 home win.
Throughout the season, Kealakehe has leaned on the versatility of senior slotback Lennox Jones (695 rushing yards, 465 receiving yards) and senior quarterback Jordan Cristobal (811 passing yards, 426 rushing yards), and power running from senior fullback David Fangupo (469 rushing yards).
However, senior Giuseppi Zapataoliva served as the Waveriders’ most potent weapon against the Cougars, rushing for 197 yards in the first of the two games and 144 in the second.
Zapataoliva (three interceptions), junior defensive lineman Travis Lualemaga (4 1/2 sacks), and senior linebackers Kyler O’Halloran (81 tackles) and Manase Hungalu (53 tackles) lead a Kealakehe defense that has allowed just 18 points in its past three games.
The Waveriders face a Keaau team that has averaged just 4.7 points per game in its past three regular season games after averaging 24.6 points in its first three league contests.
Senior quarterback Keha Wong, who threw for 512 yards through the
Cougars first three games, has not played in the team’s past three contests because of undisclosed reasons.
— Joe Ferraro, Stephens Media
Kamehameha at Hawaii Prep, 2 p.m. Saturday
A Warriors team known for keeping the ball on the ground comes off a 40-30 win over Honokaa in which Kamehameha flourished through the air behind sophomore quarterback Micah Kanehailua.
Junior Brandon Howes had started the past two games for the Warriors (6-1, 9-1), but Kanehailua stepped in under center and torched the Dragons last Saturday, throwing for 336 yards and four touchdowns.
Throughout the season, Kamehameha has leaned heavily on junior running Ina Teofilo, who has rushed for 691 yards and four touchdowns. Senior running back Shaun Kagawa has contributed 370 rushing yards and four scores.
In the last meeting between the teams, Kamehameha trailed 6-0 before scoring 24 unanswered points in a 24-6 victory. Teofilo and Kagawa both scored rushing touchdowns in the contest, running for 114 and 97 yards respectively.
The Ka Makani (4-3, 4-5), coming off a bye week, also features a formidable ground game, with junior Bobby Lum having rushed for 616 yards and seven touchdowns on 81 carries.
HPA has thrown the ball more over the past two games, with Koa Ellis having completed 38 of 67 passes for 321 yards and six touchdowns this season.
— Joe Ferraro, Stephens Media
Honokaa at Ka‘u,
7 p.m. today
The Dragons (5-3, 6-4) come off a 40-30 loss in which Honokaa scored two defensive touchdowns and a special teams score.
Senior Justen Kawamoto, who recorded his second 100-yard rushing game in the past three weeks against the Warriors, also returned an interception for a touchdown for the second time in as many weeks.
The Trojans come off a 91-8 loss at Konawaena in which Royden Esperon caught a 70-yard touchdown pass against a Wildcat defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown since Sept. 1
In the last meeting between the teams, Honokaa beat Ka‘u 54-0 at home on Sept. 14.
— Joe Ferraro, Stephens Media
The T-H Top 10
Rankings after Week 7, with BIIF, overall records and previous ranking
1. Konawaena (6-1, 6-4, 1)
2. Kealakehe (6-0, 8-1, 2)
3. Kamehameha (6-1, 9-1, 3)
4. Hilo (4-2, 6-2, 4)
5. Honokaa (5-3, 6-4, 5)
6. Waiakea (2-4, 3-6, 6)
7. Hawaii Prep: (4-3, 4-5, 7)
8. Keaau: (0-6, 0-8, 8)
9. Ka’u (2-5, 2-5, 9)
10. Kohala (0-10, 0-10, 10)