Online Extra: What Waverider ball-security issue?
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
HONOKAA — Kealakehe executed with the efficiency of an offensive juggernaut like back in the good, old days, but more importantly, passed around a bottle of glue, and featured much better ball security than last week, when eight fumbles played a major role in a two-game losing streak.
The Waveriders limited turnovers (one harmless fumble and no picks) and rolled over Honokaa 67-0 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation football game at the Dragons field, playing with that old championship mentality that makes their next matchup at Hilo a monster affair.
However, it should be noted that the game's biggest significance is for seeding in the four-team BIIF Division I playoffs. Basically, the last two games — the semifinals and championship — are the most important of the season. Hilo, Kealakehe, Keaau and Waiakea are guaranteed spots in the playoffs.
Kealakehe has officially captured seven of the last nine league Division I titles; the 2008 championship was stripped because of an ineligible player. Hilo last won a BIIF Division I crown in 2003 when Al Kawelu was the coach, and statewide classification was in its first year.
The Waveriders (2-3 overall, 2-2 BIIF), the three-time defending champion, showed that when it isn't raining cats and dogs, and gauntlet drills are put to proper use then good things happen.
Like stopping an uncomfortable two-game losing streak, the longest in Waverider history since the 2009 season, when they finished 5-3 under then-coach Gary Clark. (He was also the coach in 2008.)
That was the year the Dragons upset a bigger and faster Waverider team filled with more talent. Four Honokaa players landed on the All-BIIF first team in 2009, compared to nine for Kealakehe, which has Peni Vea still playing at UNLV.
Another monumental upset didn't happen for the Dragons (0-5, 0-4), who are rebuilding after suffering a serious talent drain. They lost 11 players who received All-BIIF recognition last season.
After Kealakehe's 27-6 home loss to Kamehameha last week, coach Sam Papalii was perplexed and the two-game losing skid left him unsettled.
What's the antonym of perplexed and unsettled? How about confidant and calm, respectively?
That's how the Waveriders, their sixth-year coach included, looked and played.
"We executed. That's No. 1. It's always about execution," Papalii said. "It was a beautiful night, and we had no ball security issues. Players make plays and they did that tonight."
It only seemed that every time the Waveriders touched the football they scored. Nine touchdowns will make the night a scoring spree blur. It also gives attending Kealakehe fans a water cooler debate: What was the best score?
One highlight candidate was not a touchdown but a kick. Keoni Yates booted a 35-yard field goal that entertained the patrons. It had so much drama, for all of two suspenseful seconds, and a good fortune ending for the visitors.
After Louie Garcia scored on a 49-yard run and Riggs Kurashige followed with a 14-yard jaunt into the end zone, Yates lined up for his kick, put a mighty leg swing on the ball, and airborne it went, falling, falling, falling … and landing on the crossbar.
From there, the ball appeared to be indecisive: Should I fall into the home team's side with wind in my pigskin face or wobble to the other side for an 18-0 cushion?
Well, the ball went the way of the Waveriders, who took advantage of Honokaa's misfortune (eight turnovers; six converted into touchdowns) and enjoyed a menu of scoring touchdown choices to build a 39-0 halftime cushion.
For a quick second quarter scoring recap: Kaimi Wilson fired a 50-yard pass to Yates, kicker/slotback/part-time quarterback Yates rushed for 16 yards, and Wilson threw a 32-yard score to Kuikanoa Kaawa.
The start of the second half was particularly painful for the Dragons, who out of the gate had three straight turnovers and watched in agony as Kealakehe scored three straight times: Wilson's 1-yard run, Keanu Tilfas' fumble recovery in the end zone after a bad snap, and Kobe Antolin's 1-yard run.
It was suddenly 60-0 and Honokaa didn't have enough time to catch its breath or cross the 30-yard line.
Then in the fourth quarter, the Waveriders saw a glimpse of their future when sophomore Maurcell Melton, who played on the junior varsity last season, zipped into the end zone for a 27-yard score.
Wilson was highly efficient: 2 of 3 for 82 yards with his 50-yard scoring strike to Yates, and a 32-yard TD dart to Kaawa.
Kurashige finished with 63 yards on seven carries, Garcia 72 yards on six attempts and Yates ended with 16 yards on five carries — all in the first half. Melton had 50 yards on seven attempts.
Garcia, Kaawa and Luliano Liufau had interceptions. Tui Eli had 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss. Liufau had a sack and Travis Lualemaga shared a sack with Eli.
Honokaa generated little through the air. Nainoa Falk went 2 of 9 for 9 yards with two interceptions, and Makana Ibanez was 0 of 2 with a pick. Ibanez led the ground attack with 36 yards on 10 carries.
Kealakehe 18 21 21 7 — 67
Honokaa 0 0 0 0 — 0
Keala — Louie Garcia 49 run (Blaine Broberg run), 10:30
Keala — Riggs Kurashige 14 run (Keoni Yates kick), 7:34
Keala — Yates 35 FG, 3:06
Keala — Yates 50 pass from Kaimi Wilson (Yates kick), 10:08
Keala — Yates 16 run (Yates kick), 3:38
Keala — Kuikanoa Kaawa 32 pass from Wilson (Yates kick), 3:23
Keala — Wilson 1 run (Yates kick), 10:53
Keala — Keanu Tilfas fumble recovery end zone (Yates kick), 8:11
Keala — Kobe Antolin 1 run (Yates kick), 3:49
Keala — Maurcell Melton 27 run (Yates kick), 55.4
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