By JOHN DeGROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
The road to the BIIF Division I crown goes through Kealakehe.
The Waveriders have dominated BIIF competition over the last decade, winning seven of the last nine BIIF championships.
“We expect to win, and we expect to work hard,” head coach Sam Papalii said. “We don’t just show up and win. We have to prepare to win and push to take us to where we have not been.”
Last year, with Papalii returning to the helm, Kealakehe went unscathed en route to the title with a team that Papalii described as “one of the most talented he has coached.”
However, Kealakehe graduated 22 talented seniors from that squad — 17 of which went to play football at the next level.
Remaining for the ‘Riders is big, veteran offensive and defensive lines and uncertainty at most of the skill positions.
“This is a whole new season,” Papalii said. “Anytime you are tough in the trenches you have a chance to win. We just have to find a way to fit the new pieces in.
“Both our offensive and defensive lines are our strength.”
While winning the BIIF is always Kealakehe’s first priority, recording a victory at the state level has become the proverbial monkey on the program’s back.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about winning at the state level,” Papalii said. “We have been there so many times without a win. It is something this program is not proud of. I’m always thinking of way to take our team to the next level.”
Kaimi Wilson will take the snaps in the Waveriders’ spread offense.
“We will mostly run the football, but I look forward to see what we can do in the passing game,” Papalii said. “We have worked hard on it and if teams come out and crowd the box we will pass. If we manage to spread out teams and they don’t cover us, we will take advantage.”
The Waveriders averaged 193 rushing yards a game last year, but lost the top five rushers, including University of Hawaii-bound Internet sensation David Fangupo and co-offensive player of the year Lennox Jones.
Senior Keanu Tilfas and sophomore transfer Kobe Antolin, a transfer from Mililani, are looking to fill the void at running back.
Many roles have not yet been determined, and Papalii is looking for players to separate themselves from the pack in the early-going.
“There’s a youth movement going on at our skill positions,” Papalii said. “We have talent, but most of the guys are untested. They have to learn how to play Waverider football under the lights. Last year I had to find out about Lennox Jones. When I saw him play against Kailua in the first game of the season I found out that’s who my tailback would be. Right now I don’t know who that guy will be.”
The Waveriders boast a pair of sophomores in Blaine Bromberg and Keaho Kaakimaka who are over 6-feet. Open-field threat Louie Garcia will play as a slot receiver.
Kealakehe averages over 300-pounds on the offensive line, headlined by first-team All-BIIF selections Feke Sopoaga-Kioa and Tui Eli. Hoku Kamaka, Jordan Giddens-Paio and Travis Lualemaga round out the hogs up front.
“Behind that line, I could strap on the pads again and run through those holes,” Papalii said.
Lualemaga, a first-team defense selection in 2012, will anchor the defensive line as well. Accompanying him in the trenches will be Peni Kalavi, Joesph Kaopua and Winton Palik.
Tilfas and Antolin headline a group that Papalii calls “very athletic.”
Much like they will at receiver, cornerbacks Kaakimaka and Garcia will figure prominently along with safeties Shaden Lewi and Daniel Weber.
No. Pos. Name
3 QB Kaimi Wilson
11 RB Keanu Tilfas
27 WR Blaine Bromberg
21 WR Keaho Kaakimaka
2 SB Louie Garcia
5 SB Jeffrey Lewi
75 LT Feke Sopoaga-Kioa
65 LG Tui Eli
70 C Hoku Kamaka
55 RG Travis Lualemaga
73 RT Jordan Giddens-Paio
63 DE Peni Kalavi
55 DT Travis Lualemaga
65 DT Tui Eli
56 DE Joesph Kaopua
11 LB Keanu Tilfas
23 LB Kobe Antolin
27 LB Blaine Bromberg
2 CB Louie Garcia
21 CB Keaho Kaakimaka
6 S Shaden Lewi
9 S Daniel Weber
8/31 at Keaau, 4:30 p.m.
9/7 Hawaii Prep, 7 p.m.
9/14 Kamehameha, 7:30 p.m.
9/21 at Honokaa, 7 p.m.
9/28 at Hilo, 6:30 p.m.
10/5 Waiakea, 7:30 p.m.
10/12 Konawaena, 7:30 p.m.