By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Waiakea played relatively efficient football and limited mistakes, doing more than enough to overcome Honokaa, which was its own worst enemy on a sleepy Saturday in the third week of preseason action.
The Warriors capitalized on seven turnovers, turned three of those gifts into touchdowns and thumped the Dragons 39-15 in a smash-mouth battle before a crowd of about 1,000 at Wong Stadium.
Waiakea (1-1) worked on its balance, throwing the ball 30 times and running 34 attempts, mostly behind its sizable offensive line of Brant Shiroma (6 feet, 288 pounds), Zach Devela (6-2, 317) and Keith Willocks (6, 279).
Devin Preston pounded through the tackle gaps for 112 yards on 12 carries, including 88 yards on 10 carries in the second half, when the Warriors had a healthy 19-0 lead. He mostly caught a good view of the action from the bench in the final 24 minutes.
Waiakea quarterback Kayed Rodrigues completed 9 of 21 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. A few passes went through receivers’ hands, but he did a great job of maintaining ball security, not turning the ball over or taking a sack.
Rodrigues’ favorite target of the day was Austin Ah Nee-Medeiros, who snagged four receptions for 80 yards, including touchdown catches of 20 and 19 yards.
The home team had two pain-free turnovers. The visitors from Honokaa finished with seven giveaways, including four in the first quarter, and saw three of those gifts turn into Waiakea touchdowns.
The Dragons just couldn’t get their passing game going. Sione Epenesa went 2 of 6 for 12 yards and a pick. Nainoa Falk, who entered in relief, was 5 of 14 for 49 yards.
Then Honokaa (0-1) threw balance out the window and handed the ball off, running 46 times to just 20 passing plays. Waiakea’s Joe Dietz and Ryder Oshiro recorded first-half sacks, which unloaded more frustration on Honokaa’s blocking schemes.
With the aerial attack somewhat grounded, Honokaa decided to ram right through Waiakea’s defense, operating a wishbone (and also back to its spread) that produced positive yards in the second half. Epenesa, who moved to running back, finished with 78 yards on nine carries. Wayne Vaoga added 75 yards on 15 carries.
Later in the second half, the Warriors rested their starters and gave their second stringers a chance to shine. Several did, including running back Pono Auwae, who ran for 47 yards on three carries, including a 45-yard TD.
In the first quarter, after Shiroma grabbed the second of his two fumble recoveries, on the ensuing play Preston scored on an 8-yard run.
Later, in the second quarter Alan Sekona recovered a fumble to set up Rodrigues’ 20-yard scoring strike to Ah Nee-Medeiros for a 19-0 lead.
Zac Correa scored Waiakea first’s touchdown when he jumped the Dragons wide receiver’s route, and raced 17 yards for a pick-six.
Jericho Chun-Lai had Waiakea’s other fumble recover in the first half.
Honokaa 0 0 2 13 — 15
Waiakea 13 6 6 14 — 39
Wai — 17 interception return Zac Correa (PAT failed), 4:52
Wai — Devin Preston 8 run (Tyler Kerr kick), 3:01
Wai — Kayed Rodrigues 20 pass to Austin Ah Nee-Medeiros (PAT failed), 8:35
Hon — Safety, snap into end zone, 7:34
Wai — Rodrigues 19 pass to Ah Nee-Medeiros (PAT failed), 2:34
Wai — Pono Auwae 45 run(Kerr kick), 9:00
Hon —Wayne Vaoga 1 run (run failed), 6:44
Wai — Joe Alvarez 19 run (Kerr kick), 1:06
Hon — Vaoga run 1 run (Nainoa Falk kick), 7.5