By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
With a potent offense and solid defense, Kamehameha coach Dan Lyons is confident his team has enough firepower to challenge two-time league champion Konawaena for the Division II title this season.
“As two-time defending champion, the road goes through Konawaena for the championship,” Lyons said. “We have a young team but still feel we have the potential to make a run this year. We know Konawaena and Hawaii Prep will be tough again, but if we can keep getting better each week, we think we’ll be in the hunt for the title.”
The Warriors return five starters on offense and six on defense to lead the chase for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation crown. The team’s top goal is to win the league and represent the BIIF in the state tournament.
“On offense, we think we’re going to score a lot of points,” Lyons said. “We have junior Micah Kanehailua at quarterback and he’s got a year of experience under his belt. He’s a smart quarterback and fits well into running our spread offense. We just need him to make the right reads and take what the defense is giving us.
“Our running backs and wide receivers are really solid, and although we have a young O-line, it can be very good.”
When Kamehameha does give up the football, Lyons believes his defense can make plays and contain their opponents, without allowing too many points.
“If we can play with a lot of intensity and play together as a team, we have pretty good potential. I like our D-line, our linebackers, and we cover well in the secondary. But for us, with so many young players, it’s going to come down to how well we progress each game and peak at the right time.
“We’re confident with this group. We think we have enough athletes and overall team experience to be really competitive on the D-II level this year.”
The slender Kanehailua is stronger physically and more confident going into his junior year. Although he doesn’t possess a canon of an arm, he is still accurate and his pinpoint passing can irritate the defense into making mistakes. If the defense tries to put too much pressure on him in the pocket, Kanehailua can easily rifle a pass to an open receiver or hand off to one of the Warriors’ powerful running backs.
Kanehailua is backed up by junior Grant Shiroma, who’ll play running back and safety on defense when not calling plays in the huddle.
Kamehameha has a bullish power attack when senior Ina Teofilo (6-1, 200) and junior Chase Peneku (5-8, 190) carry the ball. Both are punishing runners and it often takes two tacklers to bring down either one. If the Warriors get deep into the red zone, it’ll be hard to stop them from scoring.
Teofilo, who was hampered by a hamstring injury during the preseason, ran for almost 900 yards as a junior.
“With those guys, we think we have two of the best running backs in the league,” Lyons said.
Shiroma (5-11, 162) will also get some time at running back.
Lyons said his receiving corps will be done “by committee.”
“We have a handful of quality receivers,” the Warriors coach said, “and we’re going to play a lot of guys. They give us a lot of options.”
Alapaki Iaea (6-0, 175, Jr.) has terrific hands and leads the talented receiving crew. Also expected to see catch-and-run time are Caleb Baptiste (5-10, 160, Jr.), James Sloan (5-10, 185, Jr.), Logan Uyetake (5-9, 155, Sr.) and even the versatile Shiroma.
Lyons said the O-line is young but has some experience.
“I feel we’ll have a strong offensive line and we have some good backups,” he said.
Sophomore Joyden Madriaga (5-9, 240) will start at center and be surrounded by guards Paka Davis (6-1, 201, Sr.) and Kamaka Akiona (6-1, 265, Jr.) as well as tackles Pono Davis (6-1, 235, Jr.) and Kelii Montibon (6-1, 220, So.). Ryan Chun (6-0, 240, Sr.) is another thick blocker expected to play valuable minutes.
The Warriors will have some two-way starters on the D-line. The defensive ends are Paka Davis and Malcom Baptiste (6-2, 190, Sr.); the tackles, Madriaga and Chun. Also expected to play on the line at times are Pono Davis and Kamalani Crum (5-4, 215, Sr.).
“We’ll look to use a four-man front,” Lyons said. “And we plan to use whoever we need to get the job done.”
Timothy Burke (6-0, 215, Sr.) leads the aggressive linebackers’ pack. He will be joined by Sean Lukela Chin (5-9, 165, So.) and Sean Miday (5-10, 190, Jr.).
“We’re still working on the starters and there are a couple of other guys who could see time here,” Lyons said.
Iaea will anchor the secondary and be counted on to provide leadership.
“Alapaki is one of the top corners in the state,” Lyons said. “We’ll need him to play well and be a leader back there.”
Also slotted to play in the secondary are Kekolu Ramos (5-10, 160, Sr.), Conrad Salazar (5-8, 155, Sr.) and Kaua Aganus (6-2, 165, Sr.).
Uyetake is a returning All-BIIF first team selection as a kicker and will handle the majority of kicking duties.
“We’re very confident in Logan,” Lyons said. “He’s money (on field goals) from 42 yards and in.”
Lyons also said Kamuela Kawamoto (5-10, 165, Sr.) will be the team’s punter.