Warriors ride air attack to slay Dragons
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Two weapons are better than one, especially when a multidimensional attack is being directed by Kamehameha quarterback Micah Kanehailua, a gunslinger not afraid to launch deep rockets.
Kanehailua threw four touchdown passes, including three to David Lopez, and the Warriors handcuffed Honokaa’s passing attack, pulling away for a 40-30 victory in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation game Saturday at Pai‘ea Stadium.
The sophomore quarterback completed 14 of 23 passes for 336 ya rds, with one interception. Kanehailua fired touchdown passes of 80, 48 and 29 yards to Lopez, and a 38-yard scoring strike to Shaun Kagawa.
“I wanted to see us move the ball a little bit on offense and we did that,” Kamehameha coach Dan Lyons said. “We didn’t run the ball as well as I would have liked, but we had that dynamic of challenging it downfield.”
Kamehameha’s defense contributed two touchdow ns: Paele Kiakona’s 4-yard fumble return in the second quarter and Jairah Chun-Lai’s 16-yard interception return in the third quarter.
The ground game didn’t do much, but provided a bit of balance, gaining 127 yards on 39 attempts, a 3.26 yard per carry average. Ina Teofilo led the way with 63 yards on 20 carries. Kagawa added 33 yards on seven attempts and Chun-Lai had 17 yards on six attempts, all in the second half.
Honokaa (1-2 BIIF Division II second round, 6-4) just couldn’t help itself when it was time to throw the ball. Sione Epensesa went 1 of 3 for 10 yards, with one pick, and Shayne Chun-Haslam completed 1 of 12 passes for three yards, with one interception.
The Warriors focused on the run and keyed on Honokaa senior Justen Kawamoto, who piled up 107 hard-earned yards on 13 carries, including just three yards on two carries in the second half. Michael Higaki added 53 yards on eight attempts.
However, it was not all roses for the Warriors (2-0, 9-1), who committed 11 penalties for over 100 yards and suffered another special teams’ breakdown — a season-long Achilles’ heel — with Makana Ibanez’ 94-yard TD kickoff return to start the third quarter.
“We’ve got to fix that,” Lyons said. “We’ve been giving up way too much points and yards.”
Honokaa’s wedge pushed Kamehameha’s coverage team on its back, and blew open a sizable hole, allowing Ibanez to truck it to the end zone, giving the Dragons a short-lived 22-20 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Makalii Perreira snagged an interception, but the visitors went three-and-out.
The Warriors took over at their 19 and needed just four plays to score. On the first play, Kanehailua fired a 51-yard pass to Kagawa. On the last, they connected for a 38-yard touchdown, a slant over the middle where Kagawa outraced the secondary.
“That was my favorite touchdown pass,” Kanehailua said. “We’ve been working on that a lot. We went with a drag route to let the corners and linebackers flow over to give Shaun space to run.”
Kagawa caught seven passes for 162 yards while Lopez had four receptions for 163 yards, including an 80-yard catch-and-run on the game’s opening drive.
Chun-Lai picked off Chun-Haslam on the next series and raced in from 16 yards out for a 33-22 lead, closing the scoring in the third quarter.
Kanehailua got a clean pocket, again, and found Lopez for a 29-yard touchdown strike to start the fourth quarter.
“I got sacked once and that was my fault,” said Kanehailua, who not only had space to step up and throw, but also enough time to survey the field. “I’ve got a hell of a line. Every game they tell me they’ve got my back. They put up a wall for me and I wouldn’t be able to do anything and the running backs wouldn’t go anywhere without them.”
Kawamoto returned an interception 27 yards to get Honokaa within 40-30 with 3:28 left, capping a strong performance for the senior running back/middle linebacker, who had a fumble recovery and played a vital role plugging holes on defense.
“We’re a young team but weren’t playing as a team,” Kawamoto said. “Kamehameha was ready. They knew who to cover and played good man defense. We just have to play as a team. That’s all it takes.”
In the first quarter, Eric Fune blocked Kamuela Kawamoto’s punt, caught the ball in midair, and scored from 13 yards out for a 7-7 tie.
The two teams exchanged fumbles in the second quarter. Kainoa Lyman got one for Honokaa, and Paele Kiakona got one for Kamehameha, but his came in red-zone territory and he stayed on his feet and rumbled in for a 4-yard score.
Then Kanehailua fired a 48-yard scoring strike to Lopez to hand the Warriors a 20-14 halftime lead that was briefly lost then recaptured in a second half of dominance that saw the Dragons gain just 21 yards.
The Warriors next visit Hawaii Prep, a team they beat 24-6 in the first meeting.
“That’s forefront on our mind,” Lyons said. “The last time we played them we trailed 6-3 at halftime. We’re just trying to get better every day for the teams we play.”
Honokaa 7 7 8 8 — 30
Kamehameha 7 13 13 7 — 40
Kam — David Lopez 80 pass from Micah Kanehailua (Logan Uyetake kick), 10:09
Hon — Eric Fune 13 fumble return (Justin Warren kick), 1:12
Kam — Paele Kiakona 4 fumble return (kick blocked), 8:39
Hon — Michael Higaki 19 run (Warren kick), 4:02
Kam — Lopez 48 pass from Kanehailua (Uyetake kick), 2:10
Hon — Makana Ibanez 94 kickoff return (Kawamoto pass from Warren), 11:47
Kam — Shaun Kagawa 38 pass from Kanehailua (Uyetake kick), 7:40
Kam — Jairah Chun-Lai 16 interception return (pass failed), 7:06
Kam — Lopez 29 pass from Kanehailua (Uyetake kick), 9:28
Hon — Justen Kawamoto 27 interception return (Kawamoto run), 3:28
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