By JOE FERRARO
Kamehameha football coach Dan Lyons maintains he doesn’t judge his team’s performance by its record, saying he just wants his Warriors to improve from week to week in all areas ranging from players’ individual skills to coaches’ personnel changes and adjustments.
“This is going to be a great test to see how far we come,’’ Lyons said of a game that will determine the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II first-half regular-season title.
The unbeaten Warriors (4-0 BIIF Division II, 8-0 overall) will face defending league champion Konawaena (4-1, 4-4) on the road Saturday, with the contest following a 5 p.m. JV game between the schools.
In the last meeting between the teams on Oct. 15, 2011, the Wildcats beat the Warriors 21-11 in a game featuring two high-powered passing offenses.
Many of the same key players who sparked Konawaena in that game have returned this season.
Junior quarterback Lii Karratti has thrown for 1,705 yards and 26 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His two main targets, seniors Domonic Morris and Kenan Gaspar, have caught 10 and six touchdown passes, respectively.
Karratti has received more help from a Kamehameha transfer in Chase Takaki, who has caught 17 passes for 268 yards and three scores.
Another transfer, explosive senior John Kamoku, has rushed for 468 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 42 carries.
After the Wildcats’ 43-0 win over Hawaii Prep last Saturday, Kamoku said he played the second half on two sprained ankles but said he’d be ready to play against the Warriors.
“I don’t know how different they are,’’ Lyons said of Konawaena.
“They’ve got a year under their belt, so they’re more efficient and more effective. I know they’re a formidable and good team and well-coached. We’re going to have to be well-prepared.”
While the Wildcats have resumed their air attack this season, the Warriors have turned to power football.
Junior Ina Teofilo, who entered last week’s 43-0 win at Ka‘u with 432 rushing yards in his past three games, gives the team hard running between the tackles, while senior Shaun Kagawa, who has received a handful of Division I scholarship offers, contributes big-play capability.
The Warriors like to use Kagawa in a formation similar to the wildcat.
“They have a big, strong running back that’s very talented (in Teofilo), then they have a speedster (in Kagawa), and (Jairah Chun-Lai) has some quick feet and good movement, good eyes,’’
Konawaena coach Cliff Walters said. “All three, they can trouble us. We have to be very alert.’’
At quarterback, junior Brandon Howes started last week against Ka‘u, giving the Warriors the ability to take shots down the field.
Two more Kamehameha offensive threats, wide receiver Kama Vincent (ankle) and Paele Kiakona (appendicitis) won’t be ready to play against Konawaena, Lyons said.
Throughout the season, Konawaena has applied pressure with some aggressive blitzes. Defensive ends Chayne Bohol and Laimana Grace, and defensive back Ryan Torres-Torioka have regularly applied pressure on the quarterback.
But Kamehameha’s running attack, which features several formations, demands discipline from the Wildcats on defense, Walters said.
“If you blitz the run, and you blitz the wrong spot, they’re sitting in the end zone,’’ Walters said. “You have to play position football. You have to make sure the defense is sound and they understand their assignments.”
Kamehameha’s defense, led by junior lineman Timmy Burke, has played fundamentally sound this season, giving up just 6.6 points per game.
Lyons said his team will have an opportunity to win if it limits big plays and eliminates turnovers.
“If we do that, we’re going to feel like we have a chance,’’ Lyons said. “We love the team that we’ve got.”