By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
When Micah Kanehailua gets a good grip on the football and throws scoring strikes, Kamehameha doesn’t necessarily need that air-ground balance to get into the win column, even when his defense has a slight case of the hiccups.
During his team’s two-game Big Island Interscholastic Federation winning streak, the junior quarterback has put up brilliant numbers: 27 of 39 for 368 yards with seven touchdowns.
That’s a 69 percent completion rate in a 27-6 road win over Kealakehe and another 27-25 away victory over Waiakea. That’s a nice little roll after Kamehameha’s defense showed all sorts of warts in a 37-3 BIIF season-opening loss to Konawaena.
The subsequent wins were aided by opposition miscues. Kealakehe had eight fumbles. Waiakea missed two PAT attempts. But good teams pounce on mistakes, build off that momentum and follow the lead of the guy in charge.
That’s been Kanehailua, whose work against the Waveriders was quite impressive, considering top running back Ina Teofilo finished with only 41 yards on 17 carries.
Kanehailua, who was snubbed in the All-BIIF Division II voting last season, carried the offense. He threw three touchdown passes to Logan Uyetake and fed Alapaki Iaea for 153 yards on eight receptions.
“I think for us, we just have to perfect now,” Kanehailua told the Tribune-Herald last Saturday at Waverider Stadium. “Our coaches instill that into our brains. We have to play as perfect as we can. That’s how we’re going to win games.
“I have faith in our coaches. If they want me to put the ball in the running back’s hands, I’ll put it there. If we need to make throws, I’ll do that. I have faith in the coaches to make the right game plan.”
A 69 percent completion rate would be helpful again at 7:30 p.m. today at Paiea Stadium when Kamehameha (3-2 overall, 2-1 BIIF) hosts Hilo (4-1, 3-0), at the moment, the league’s best blocking and tackling team.
In a 43-0 win over Honokaa last Saturday, the Vikings put on a tackling clinic and held the Dragons to 34 yards on 24 carries. Hilo’s Isi Holani had a starring pass-rushing role with three sacks, and Faa Fuiava shared the defensive spotlight with two picks.
On the opposite side of the ball, Hilo’s offensive line blocked with leverage, and blew open holes for slippery, speedy slotback Donavan Kelley, who rushed for 107 yards on only four attempts, scoring touchdown runs of 42 and 51 yards.
Don’t forget his running back Tristin Spikes. He’s dangerous, too. Spikes ran for 75 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns.
The only weapon the Vikings haven’t hit an opponent over the head with is the deep ball, something of a problem area for Kamehameha, which surrendered five passes of 25 yards or more to Waiakea quarterback Bryce Felipe.
A matchup to watch is Kamehameha’s defense on Kelley, whether he’s at quarterback or in the slot with Sione Atuekaho as the signal-caller.
Kaua Aganus, an All-BIIF Division II first team pick last year, is the Warriors’ top cover man. Last season, Shaun Kagawa (now at Army) was his partner in the secondary, and other teams had great difficulty passing, especially in big games.
Last year is a perfect example. In Kona’s 32-28 win over Kamehameha for the BIIF Division II championship, the duo shackled quarterback Lii Karratti (now at Kaiser High) to 6 of 18 for 89 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
The problem was Kamehameha’s run defense wasn’t working. John Kamoku (now at Ventura College) went off for 231 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. But that was then.
A season later, the Warriors have a different pressing issue: Kelley, who’s smaller than Kamoku, but, at 5 feet 7 and 170 pounds, faster and blessed with field vision to see the second-level tackler. That’s when he’s a home-run threat — shifting into another gear to outrace the tackler’s angle or turning his hips to suddenly change direction.
Will the Warriors play their pressure package and bring everybody in the box? They did that against Kona in the league opener and on three straight possessions the Wildcats toasted them for big-play touchdowns.
Uyetake had a pretty good take on his team’s maturation since that loss to the far more inexperienced Wildcats.
“We’ve made a big improvement in two weeks,” he said. “We’ve been practicing really hard and everybody has been doing their assignments, and getting everything they need to get it done. We just need to take care of the little things and everything comes together.”
Hilo 4-1 3-0
Kealakehe 1-3 1-2
Waiakea 1-4 1-2
Keaau 0-3 0-3
Konawaena 4-1 3-0
Hawaii Prep 4-1 2-1
Kamehameha 3-2 2-1
Honokaa 0-4 0-3
Kealakehe at Honokaa, 7 p.m.
Hilo at Kamehameha, after 5 p.m. JV
8-man: Kealakehe JV at Ka’u, 6 p.m.
Konawaena at Hawaii Prep, 2 p.m.
Waiakea at Keaau, after 2 p.m. JV