By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
WAIMEA — Alex Brost, who transferred over the summer to Hawaii Prep, is an unlikely defensive tackle, at just 5 feet, 7 inches and 145 pounds, standing on a football field where almost everyone else is much bigger.
Brost looks more fit for soccer, a sport he played growing up in Oregon along with football. Back on the mainland, he was a kicker, strong safety and running back. He plans to play soccer for HPA this season.
But it’s his handiwork at defensive tackle and kicker that propelled HPA over Kamehameha 28-24 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II semifinals on Saturday in a game that was in doubt until the dying minutes.
HPA (8-2 overall, 6-2 BIIF) next plays at two-time defending Division II champion Konawaena (8-2, 7-1) on Nov. 1 for the BIIF title. HPA last won the league crown in 2009.
In the other semifinal, Honokaa (0-9, 0-8) forfeited against the Wildcats, citing a diminished roster and mounting injury concerns.
The season is over for the Warriors (5-5, 4-4), who lost to HPA 41-24 during the regular season in a game that Bobby Lum rumbled for 235 yards on 31 carries.
Kamehameha also loses 20 seniors, including key starters in running back Ina Teofilo, kicker/receiver Logan Uyetake, cornerback Kaua Aganus, linebacker Timmy Burke, and lineman Paka Davis.
Down 24-14 with 10 minutes remaining, Lum scored on a 38-yard screen pass from quarterback Koa Ellis to cap an eight-play, 77-yard drive.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brost put his soccer skills to good use, blasting a low squib kick that bounced of a Warrior and rolled right into teammate Kanai Gaughen’s hands.
“It was supposed to be a squib kick, low on the ground,” said Brost, who estimated he’s done about 10 onside kicks in his young career with only one being recovered. “Luck was on my side. I saw the ball come up, and ran for it, but my teammate was there first and I let him have it.”
That was Kamehameha’s fourth turnover and the most painful one. Two of the giveaways were turned into Ka Makani touchdowns, including that last mistake. (HPA had three turnovers with one recycled into a Warrior touchdown.)
Six plays later, including a 44-yard Ellis pass to Kellen Gillins to set up HPA deep in Warrior territory, Lum ran in for a 2-yard touchdown for a leap-frogging 28-24 advantage with 4:42 to go.
HPA’s Lii Pury intercepted a Micah Kanehailua pass, but after a three-and-out Kamehameha got the ball back with 2:41 on the clock right at midfield — pretty much the ultimate 2-minute drill.
Nicky Palleschi sacked Kanehailua on first down. Then on the junior quarterback’s second pass attempt he threw a dart that would have been a 55-yard touchdown. But his receiver dropped the ball; one of four Warrior drops on the day.
On fourth-and-15 from the Kamehameha 45, Kanehailua dropped back to pass with 1:58 left in the game. Brost, one of the smallest guys on the field, made one of the biggest plays, sacking Kanehailua to give his team the ball back to run out the clock.
Brost became an undersized defensive tackle during the first meeting between the two teams two weeks ago.
“I’ve been playing football since the first grade,” he said. “I’ve never been a defensive tackle. They moved me there when our starter got hurt. I got past my blocker and chased him (Kanehailua) down.
“It was my first of everything, onside recovered kick and sack. It was a tie for what was best. Both were really exciting.”
In the third quarter, Kanehailua zipped a 24-yard touchdown pass to Alapaki Iaea to give Kamehameha a 21-14 lead, after HPA fumbled the ball on its first possession.
Then in the fourth quarter, Uyetake kicked a 22-yard field goal to increase the lead to 24-14, gathering the lion’s share of the momentum, before HPA's comeback.
Kamehameha 0 14 7 3 — 24
HPA 14 0 0 14 — 28
HPA — Bobby Lum 1 run (Alex Brost kick), 4:58
HPA — Lii Purdy 13 pass from Koa Ellis (Brost kick), 2:44
Kam — Alapaki Iaea 20 pass from Micah Kanehailua (Logan Uyetake kick), 8:16
Kam — Kamuela Kawamoto 3 pass from Kanehailua (Uyetake kick), 45.5
Kam — Iaea 24 pass from Kanehailua (Uyetake kick), 8:54
Kam — Uyetake FG 22, 10:14
HPA — Lum 38 pass from Ellis (Brost kick), 7:15
HPA — Lum 2 run (Brost kick), 4:42