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Kamehameha graduate will be on display today


Tribune-Herald sports writer

If you’re an Oceanic Time Warner digital subscriber and have nothing to do at 1 p.m. today, turn on the tube to ESPNU channel 217 or 1217 HD to watch a Chief take on a Golden Hurricane.

Bowling Green is playing Tulsa at Doyt Perry Stadium in Ohio, home of the host Falcons and 2010 Kamehameha graduate Keli‘i “Chief” Kekuewa, in his second and senior season as the starting center.

After the game between the Falcons (8-5 last season) and Golden Hurricane (11-3), a pair of bowl teams last season, there’s enough time to mow the lawn before the University of Hawaii-USC reunion at 5 p.m.

That battle is sort of a farewell Aloha Stadium trilogy, after back-to-back blowouts when the Trojans visited in 2005 (64-17 rout) and 2010 (49-36 romp) and the uncertainty of scheduling future dates due to the shifting landscape of power conferences.

USC is from the Pac-12, one of the six power conferences in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I, whose champion receives an automatic berth in one of the five Bowl Championship Series bowl games. UH is in the Mountain West Conference, which is not among the five top-tier leagues.

The BCS and its computer rankings and polls of pitting the supposedly two best teams for the national championship rides off into the sunset after this season. The much-anticipated four-team College Football Playoff system will determine the national champ in 2015.

There will still be bowl games, and at least Kekuewa played in a Division I or FBS bowl as a junior on Dec. 27, 2012. The Falcons lost to No. 24 San Jose State 29-20 before 17,835 fans at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

For a fun fact, Bowling Green has recently taken on former Western Athletic Conference opponents. San Jose State ditched the WAC to join the MWC in July; Tulsa was a WAC member from 1996-2004.

Tulsa pummeled Iowa State 31-17 in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31, 2012 in front of 53,687 in Memphis, Tenn.

The Golden Hurricane, now in Conference USA, return eight starters on offense, including all of the skill positions, and eight on defense. They’re the defending C-USA champions, and have been to eight bowls in the last 10 years.

The Falcons are in the Mid-American Conference, and they last captured a league title in 1992. In the last decade, they’ve been to been to five bowls, losing three in a row.

The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Kekuewa started all 13 games at center last season. He was part of an offensive line that averaged 153 rushing yards per game, and allowed just 15 sacks in 13 games.

Kekuewa’s first name, Keli‘i, is Hawaiian for “the chief.” He’s on the Dave Rimington Award watch list, which honors the best center in the nation. There are 44 candidates, including UH sophomore Ben Clarke, and no one from USC or Tulsa.

Northwest good-bye

Kelson Kawai, a 2010 Kohala graduate, is also in his last year playing football. He’s a 5-7, 160-pound wide receiver at Pacific University, a Division III school in Forest Grove, Ore. He’s also a member of the track team.

He started seven of eight games last year for the Boxers (3-6 overall, 2-4 Northwest Conference). Kawai led Pacific and ranked seventh in the NWC with six touchdowns, and finished with 442 receiving yards and 14.7 yards per catch as a kick returner, ranked eighth in the league.

Kawai is one of 34 players from Hawaii on the roster, including four other Big Islanders: sophomore Warner Shaw (Kamehameha), freshmen Laimana Grace (Konawaena), Loto Mareko (Kealakehe) and Kennon Quiocho (Kamehameha).

The only other former Big Island Interscholastic Federation football player in the NWC is Keanu Yamamoto (Hawaii Prep), a freshman cornerback at Linfield.

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