By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Maybe Hilo doesn't need to throw the football to win, at least when it comes to Big Island Interscholastic Federation competition.
Behind a ground game that produced 341 yards and four rushing touchdowns, the Vikings trounced Waiakea 45-20 in a BIIF Crosstown Rivalry game on Saturday at Wong Stadium.
It also helped that Hilo's defense can score, too. Senior linebacker Sione Holika produced a pair of touchdowns, one on a 25-yard fumble return and another on a 57-yard pick-six.
Hilo (8-1 overall, 7-0 BIIF) hosts Keaau (1-6, 1-6) in the BIIF Division I semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wong Stadium.
Waiakea (2-7, 2-5) plays at Kealakehe (3-5, 3-4) in the other BIIF Division I semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Waverider Stadium.
In the first half filled with mistakes, but awesome excitement for fans, Holika capitalized on a pair of Waiakea turnovers to contribute to a 25-7 halftime lead. The Warriors finished with six turnovers; the Vikings had three giveaways.
"He's one of our hardest workers," Hilo coach Dave Baldwin said. "He's our best student on and off the field. He's got a lot of defensive responsibilities as our middle linebacker, making the play calls, adjusting and checks.
"He's a high-level character kid. It's no accident he was in the right place at the right time."
Scoring two defensive touchdowns was a first for Holika, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior.
"That was the first time," he said. "It made me more humble, actually. Waiakea's a tough team and put up a good fight."
From the opening kickoff, the fun times started. The Vikings fumbled and on the very next play Waiakea quarterback Bryce Felipe threw a sideline pass to Shane Picanco. The ball was tipped by a defender and deflected into the hands of Picanco, who raced in for a 40-yard touchdown.
Then on the ensuing kickoff, Hilo's Hunter Macabio scored on a 95-yard return, putting a charge in the Viking faithful. But a holding penalty canceled that long score and the Vikings eventually punted.
The Warriors fumbled two plays later and Holika scooped up the ball and returned it for a 25-yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie late in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Tristin Spikes scored on a 1-yard run to cap a six-play, 60-yard drive that started when his Hilo teammate Donovan Kelley touched the ball the first time and ripped off a 23-yard run. (The two-point pass attempt failed.)
Hilo quarterback Sione Atuekaho was 2 of 4 for 35 yards; Kelley was 0 of 2. But each got big gains on the ground. Atuekaho rushed for 89 yards on five carries, getting 79 yards on a mad dash in the fourth quarter. Kelley added 57 yards on eight attempts while Spikes led the way with 115 yards on 14 attempts.
Meanwhile, Waiakea senior Devin Preston cracked the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. He finished with 104 yards on 15 carries, pushing his total at 1,049 yards. Preston was held to just 22 yards on four carries in the first half; his second half was much better: 11 carries for 82 yards and a 19-yard TD run.
"He's one of the best," Baldwin said of Preston, the only BIIF runner to rush for 100 yards against Hilo. "I can't remember the last time someone went over 100 yards against us."
Felipe was 5 of 15 for 85 yards with two touchdowns and three picks, firing a 40-yard scoring strike to Shane Picanco in the first quarter, and an 11-yard dart to George Hanohano in the fourth quarter.
Ofa Fahiua ran for a 19-yard touchdown to increase Hilo's lead to 19-7. Then it was Waiakea's turn to do something with the ball and two plays later things went sideways when Holika intercepted a pass and went 57 yards for his pick-six.
Hilo's Haili Mahoe and Suwaiter Poch had the other interceptions.
Hilo 7 18 6 14 — 45
Waiakea 7 0 0 13 — 20
Wai — Shane Picanco 40 pass from Bryce Felipe (Tyler Kerr kick), 11:42
Hilo —Sione Holika 25 fumble return (Rayce Takayesu), 5:16
Hilo — Tristin Spikes 1 run (pass failed), 11:03
Hilo — Ofa Fahiua 19 run (run failed), 1:43
Hilo — Sione Holika 57 interception return (run failed), 1:07
Hilo —Donovan Kelley 27 pass from Sione Atuekaho (pass failed), 4:41
Wai — George Hanohano 11 pass from Felipe (Hanohano kick), 11:48
Hilo — Aven Kualii 24 run (Rayce Takayesu kick), 9:05
Hilo — Atuekaho 3 run (Takayesu kick), 3:25
Wai — Devin Preston 19 run (kick failed), 1:06