By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
WAIMEA — Hawaii Prep’s ground game looks to be in good shape with running back Bobby Lum resuming his productive, plow-for-positive yardage workhorse role, and his blockers blowing open big holes on seemingly every other play.
Lum rushed for two touchdowns and Koa Ellis fired three touchdown passes in HPA’s 34-0 victory over Waiakea on Saturday under windy weather that included mauka light showers that put a slickness on the ball, and gave ball-handlers a tough time securing the old pigskin.
The ball used in Big Island Interscholastic Federation play this season is different than last year’s leather one. Both teams claimed it’s a lot more slippery than the old one. There was a total of 15 turnovers (five interceptions and 10 lost fumbles) as hard evidence. HPA had seven turnovers; Waiakea suffered eight.
At first glance, maybe 15 turnovers is no big deal, considering it’s a preseason game that doesn’t count in the league standings, but for glory’s sake shows up in the overall record. There were about seven or eight more additional fumbles that the offensive team recovered.
First-year Waiakea coach Moku Pita didn’t have a happy ending in his debut. He’s also no fan of the new ball.
“It was a rough game. We had plenty of mistakes, 13 fumbles and two interceptions,” he said. “HPA’s pretty good too. The new ball is a lot more slippery. We made mistakes. At least it’s preseason. We need to improve in everything: blocking, ball security, running.
“I liked that we never gave up. That’s the main thing. We get them back in four weeks. We’ll fix our mistakes.”
At least there was one highlight for a Warrior fan base that made the 65-mile drive to Waimea. In the third quarter, Devin Preston had a 62-yard pick-six return. Alas, his touchdown was called back by on a blocking-to-the back penalty.
Lum was mistake-free and consistently solid. He had zero lost fumbles on 26 carries. He powered forward for 178 yards, including 103 yards on 18 attempts in the first half.
“Our whole team contributed and did what we’re supposed to,” said Lum, also a linebacker. “We had great blocks and made the right reads on defense to get those tackles. I had great holes and good blocks, and got outside. I had a lot of support from my offensive line.”
Lum also noticed the difference with the new ball.
“When it’s wet, it’s really slippery,” he said.
Sione Moniati, HPA’s center, spearheaded the home team’s line play, leading the blocking brigade and protecting Ellis, who’s first three completions went for touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Ellis received nice pocket protection, and fired touchdown strikes to Kellen Gillins for 10 yards, Justin Perry for 23 yards and 31 yards to Nicky Palleschi. Overall, Ellis completed 5 of 15 passes for 86 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We ran the ball well and played good defense,” HPA coach Jordan Hayslip said. “Our offensive line did a good job blocking, and Bobby ran well and Mike Nakahara blocked well for him.”
Both teams have something in common, suffering from a BIIF title drought. HPA last won the league’s Division II crown in 2009. Waiakea’s chase for the championship has been much longer; the Warriors last won the BIIF title in 2001, when there wasn’t statewide classification.
HPA returns several All-BIIF first team players, including offensive lineman Keenan Greenbaum, and wide receiver Nakahara (now a blocking fullback). Lum, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, landed on the second team along with Ellis, receiver Palleschi and defensive back Gillins.
All are seniors, except for Ellis and Palleschi, a pair of juniors, providing the Ka Makani veteran leadership and a solid talent base in several key positions on both sides of the ball.
Greenbaum, also a BIIF wrestling standout, sat out the game, but his linemates, Alex Magoon, Alexandro Siordia, Moniati, Ob Cordero and Colin Renfrom, listed from left tackle to right tackle, more than filled in.
Waiakea returns only two All-BIIF first team players in running back Preston and defensive lineman Alan Sekona, a pair of seniors. As the backup last season, senior Kayed Rodrigues is at the controls as the team’s quarterback, picking up valuable playing time over the years.
Preston rushed for 50 yards on 18 carries while Rodrigues went 6 of 15 for 44 yards with two picks.
“We played a pretty complete game,” Hayslip said. “Our defense did a good job stopping the run.”
Waiakea 0 0 0 0 — 0
HPA 21 6 0 7 — 34
HPA — Koa Ellis to Kellen Gillins 10 pass (Justin Perry kick), 8:34
HPA — Ellis to Perry 23 pass (Perry kick), 4:22
HPA — Ellis to Nicky Palleschi 31 pass (Perry kick), 0:00
HPA — Bobby Lum 2 run (kick blocked), 3:35
HPA — Lum 10 run (Perry kick), 11:47