By CLINT ZAVODNY
Stephens Media Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA — Senior quarterback Keoni Yates ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns to lead Kealakehe to a 31-14 victory over Waiakea in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II semifinals Saturday night at Waverider Stadium.
Yates did any and everything, completing an efficient 9-of-11 passing for 142 yards, and he also booted a 45-yard field goal.
“I told him to go out there and give me his best impression of Johnny Manziel,” Kealakehe head coach Sam Papalii said. “He didn’t let us down. I told him to just be an athlete. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
“And he made great plays only great players can make.”
The three-time defending league champion Waveriders (4-5, 4-4 BIIF) will play Hilo (9-1, 8-0) on Nov. 2 at Wong Stadium in the title game.
Waiakea’s offense was mostly all generated by elusive speedster Devin Preston, who rushed for 149 yards on 19 carries. Other than that, the Kealakehe defense was solid, forcing with five turnovers on the night. The Waveriders got interceptions from Rylen McCumber, Daniel Weber and Kalani Lewi; Winton Palik and Howard Cosare each recovered fumbles.
Kealakehe wasn’t mistake-free, either, fumbling the game’s first play from scrimmage and allowing Waiakea to take over deep in Waverider territory. But the Kealakehe defense pushed the Warriors back with a pair of sacks, and after going three and out Waiakea was forced to punt.
The Waveriders then had a couple of long drives stall – one on a turnover on downs and the other when Yates threw an interception in the end zone after Kealakehe had a first and goal from the three.
Waiakea struck first and took the early 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Shane Picanco blocked a Kealakehe punt and ran the ball 35 yards for a touchdown.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Yates tied the game less than a minute later on an electrifying 58-yard quarterback scramble. Yates dropped back to pass, but saw no open receivers downfield and tucked the ball to run. He was hit at the line of scrimmage where he broke three tackles, then spun around another two defenders after crossing midfield and sprinted the rest of the way to the goal line.
That spark seemed to be all the Waverider offense needed. Keanu Tilfas and Riggs Kurashige added touchdown runs of 6 and 20 yards, respectively, to take a 21-7 lead at half.
“We played as a team out there,” Yates said. “It was a team effort all the way. The line came out and really created some opportunities for me. We are looking forward to the next one.”
Waiakea’s lone offensive touchdown came late in the fourth quarter. Following a 45-yard punt return by Tysen Pasco-Brown, Preston had a 15 yard run to give the Warriors first and goal. Two plays later, Preston scored on a 1-yard touchdown dive.
Waiakea 0 7 0 7 – 14
Kealakehe 0 21 10 0 – 31
WAI – Shane Picanco 35 blocked punt return (George Hanohano kick), 6:19
KEAL — Keoni Yates 58 run (Yates kick), 6:01
KEAL — Keanu Tilfas 6 run (Yates kick), 2:56
KEAL — Riggs Kurashige 20 run (Yates kick), 2:44
KEAL — Yates 22 run (Yates kick), 8:07
KEAL — Yates 45 FG, 1:58
WAI — Devin Preston 2 run (Hanohano kick), 0:37