By JOE FERRARO
KEALAKEKUA — Swing passes to running backs. Intermediate throws on hook routes. Deep throws down the field.
Whatever Konawaena quarterback Lii Karratti turned to Saturday at Julian Yates Field, he found a way to consistently get the Wildcats down the field.
Karratti completed 17 of 26 passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns, leading defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II champion Konawaena to a 49-13 win over Honokaa in the league opener for both teams.
Karratti spread the ball around effectively, completing passes to six different receivers, with four of them — Domonic Morris, Kenan Gaspar, John Kamoku and Austin Denis — each catching one touchdown pass.
Denis’ TD catch, a 5-yarder with 10 minutes, 9 seconds left in the game gave Konawaena a 29-6 lead and essentially put the game out of reach.
“We have some good receivers, and (Honokaa) can’t stop our receivers,’’ Karratti said. “And the line blocked well.”
The Wildcats (1-0 BIIF, 3-1 overall) also gained 98 yards on the ground, with Kamoku rushing 11 times for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
“This is the best game we’ve had for balance on both the short and long passes, and the run,’’ Konawaena coach Cliff Walters said. “And the credit goes to Lii for orchestrating (the offense).’’
Walters emphasized the strong chemistry Karratti has with his receivers, and it was apparent while he operated against the Dragons (0-1, 1-2).
Twice, Honokaa defensive back Damien Kaluhimoku-Dela Cruz had tight coverage on Morris on jump balls Karratti threw up near the goal line. Twice, Morris came down with catches.
The first was a 27-yard touchdown that gave Konawaena its first lead with 7:07 remaining in the second quarter. The second, a 34-yard completion that gave the Wildcats a first-and-goal at the Dragons’ 2-yard line, set up a Bubba Ellis-Noa 1-yard touchdown run that gave Konawaena a 15-6 lead with 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
“He just trusts me to come down with the ball,’’ Morris said of Karratti, who threw his lone interception in the third quarter on another jump ball that involved Morris and Kaluhimoku-Dela Cruz.
Morris (71 receiving yards) and Gaspar (111 yards) each had three receptions, while junior running back Dishon Cho caught five passes for 78 yards — many of them came after the catch.
Also, seeing that a Honokaa defender had a step on Gaspar, Karratti made completions by allowing Gaspar to come back to the football.
“He’s learned how to read the defense, and he can find open players,’’ Morris said of Karratti.
Honokaa enjoyed some success on the ground, rushing 39 times for 169 yards.
Sophomore Sione Epenesa capped a 10-play drive with a 25-yard touchdown run with 3:05 left in the second quarter, bringing Honokaa within 8-6.
The Dragons also finished a 15-play march in the third quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior running back Justen Kawamoto, who finished with 53 yards on 14 carries.
But the Wildcats made a key stop on another long Honokaa march down the field in the third quarter when senior lineman Kevin Haleamau stopped junior quarterback Makana Ibanez inches short of a first down on a fourth-and-2 play from the Konawaena 36.
Junior linebacker Evyn Yamaguchi recorded a team-high nine tackles, while junior Chase Takaki and Morris each picked off Ibanez, who finished 5-of-19 for 58 yards passing.
Honokaa 0 6 0 7 — 13
Konawaena 0 15 7 27 — 49
Kon — Domonic Morris 27 pass from Lii Karratti (Dishon Cho run), 7:07
Hon — Sione Epenesa 25 run (kick failed), 3:05
Kon — Bubba Ellis-Noa 1 run (John Reglogle kick), 0:12
Kon — Kenan Gaspar 69 pass from Karratti (Replogle kick), 7:14
Kon — Austin Denis 5 pass from Karratti (Replogle kick), 10:09
Kon — John Kamoku 5 run (kick failed), 8:16
Hon — Kawamoto 2 run (Justin Warren kick), 4:31
Kon — Kamoku 64 pass from Karratti (Replogle kick), 4:10
Kon — Kamoku 6 run (Repogle kick), 2:11
Hawaii Prep 41, Ka’u 0: The Ka Makani won in Pahala in the league opener for both teams.