By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Last Friday in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation football game, Kamehameha defensive end Paka Davis had an inviting target in Keaau quarterback George Lucas-Tadeo, who dropped back 35 times for pass attempts.
Before being draped with farewell lei in his last game at Koaia Stadium, the Warrior senior played an endless game of tag with Lucas-Tadeo, and recorded zero sacks. But that didn’t mean the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Davis failed to have an impact in the 16-0 shutout over the Cougars.
Davis brought pass-rush heat from the right end, made the mobile Lucas-Tadeo’s life uncomfortable and kicked open a door to allow teammates Timmy Burke, Zaric Binyan and Malcolm Baptiste to register sacks.
That type of production and determination will be vital when Kamehameha (5-4 overall, 4-3 BIIF) visits Hawaii Prep (7-2, 5-2) at 3 p.m. today in the BIIF semifinals.
In the last meeting, HPA walloped the Warriors 41-24 behind Bobby Lum’s 235 yards on the ground, a lot of extra gains added to his total because of missed tackles.
That’s something Kamehameha coach Dan Lyons noticed when he and his staff watched the game film.
“We’ve got to tackle. It seems we were in the right spot,” he said. “They scored three touchdowns in the second quarter. We had mistakes and turnovers. But I thought we moved the ball on them.
“We need to tackle, bring our legs and get in the right spot. We have to try to limit yards after contact. After we hit him, we have to bring him down. We need to play mistake-free and execute.”
Easier said than done. That’s because Lum is not the only problem. Toughness comes in big packages, too.
When Lum takes a left turn, he’s got a big blocker in Keenan Greenbaum, who’s 6 feet 3 inches, 275 pounds, clearing the way. It’s not surprising that Greenbaum, a BIIF wrestling champion, landed on the All-BIIF first team last year at O-Line.
HPA’s left tackle will be matched up often against Davis, who was a second-team pick at offensive line. The Kamehameha ironman’s favorite job is at D-line.
“I like facing him,” Davis said. “He’s a great football player. He plays hard and doesn’t hold back. Our defense doesn’t give up on plays.”
Davis also had great preparation for Lum with Keaau running back Kiliona Pomroy, who had 60 yards on 11 carries last Friday.
“The best thing you can do is control the gap and make sure everybody follows their assignment, wraps up and makes the tackle,” Davis said. “Pomroy is a great runner and he’s strong. He doesn’t go down like Lum. We’ve got great runners in our league.”
Whether it’s playing the run or rushing HPA quarterback Koa Ellis, one assignment for Davis is the same: seal the perimeter.
“You just have to stay with your technique and force everything back inside to the teeth of the defense,” said Davis, also a first baseman on the baseball team. “We have to stop the run and limit their passing. HPA’s got talented receivers.”
One main ingredient in a wrestling champion is flexibility, basically, leveraging an opponent into an uncomfortable position in either direction. That’s the same game plan of an offensive lineman to pancake block someone to the ground.
Obviously, Greenbaum, also a two-way lineman, holds a significant size advantage over Davis, who gives up 65 pounds.
But sometimes determination can turn into a trump card. Davis didn’t get any sacks against Keaau. But stats don’t always tell the whole story.
Davis drew praise from Lyons for not only his work against the Cougars, but also the way he helps his fellow Warriors.
“He’s a leader on the team and a team captain,” Lyons said. “He’s always positive and working hard. He opened a lot of holes for the other guys and made the quarterback get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted to.
“He’s an example for our team and one of our MVPs. He makes a difference on our team regardless where he plays.”
Waiakea (2-7, 2-5) at Kealakehe (3-5, 3-4), 7:20 p.m. today
The three-time defending Division I champion Waveriders enter the postseason with an uncharacteristic losing record, but coach Sam Papalii can take heart in the fact that their semifinal against the Warriors comes exactly two weeks after Kealakehe beat Waiakea 31-14 at Waverider Stadium.
“We have familiarity with the opponent we’re going to play, and we’ve had success against them,” Papalii said. “We need to do what we do well.”
On offense, that means running the ball, and on defense that means stopping the run.
On Oct. 5, Kealakehe’s full-house back field accounted for 318 yards on the ground. Slotback/quarterback Keoni Yates led the way with 153 yards and two touchdowns.
While Kealakehe’s defense has been susceptible to giving up big plays through the air, it matches up well against a Waiakea team that is intent on establishing its ground game behind 1,000-yard rusher Devin Preston.
Backed by their stout defensive line, the Waveriders held Preston to 52 yards in the earlier meeting.
Both defenses will try to make the opposing team pass. The first time around, Kealakehe’s Kaimi Wilson and Waiakea’s Bryce Felipe combined to complete seven passes.