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BIIF football preview: Heightened ambitions at Waiakea

Kingsly Kalili and Isaiah K-Aloha like what they see when they watch their Waiakea teammates go to work against opponents with better resumes.

Last season, the Warriors lived the life of a Division I underdog, which has been the case for quite a while.

They won just enough, three BIIF games to be exact, to earn an HHSAA state spot, their first appearance since 2001. Campbell came on a mission and walked away 48-0.

Iolani pulled the plug on the Sabers 35-6 in the semifinals, and Mililani beat the Raiders 31-20 for the Division I title, putting a pecking order on display.

Another season later, Waiakea opened its preseason against Waialua, the defending OIA Division II champion and game favorite.

The Warriors defeated the Bulldogs 16-6 in the nonconference game last Saturday at Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium.

The biggest takeaway was Waiakea’s marked improvement on pass defense, a problem area last year. Waialua went 18 of 51 in passing.

Kalili (practice time) and K-Aloha (muscle cramps) didn’t play against Waialua but enjoyed the show. Kalili, a wide receiver, and K-Aloha, an offensive lineman, are Waiakea’s only All-BIIF first team returning picks.

“Our team is looking pretty good. I’m surprised how we played against Waialua,” Kalili said. “Everybody was doubting us, saying we were going to get smashed. But we pulled out the win. We were executing, and the whole team was running our plays clean.”

K-Aloha, who will see time at defensive end, highlighted his team’s energy and talked about what it’s like to get full-body muscle cramps.

“We showed our passion, and our defense was doing really good holding the ball down most of the time,” he said. “It’s like the worst cramp in every muscle. You can’t move and have a hard time breathing. You become exhausted and it lasts pretty long, about an hour.

“This past one, I had four IVs. It happened three times before. Most of the time, I’m dehydrated, and my body starts overheating.”

Last season, Waiakea relied on a full-house backfield, powered by speedster Gehrig Octavio and bulldozer Makoa Andres, who both alternated at quarterback. They both graduated.

Ka‘io Kon takes over at QB, and he’s not the only new guy.

Kalei Young, who was a Waiakea assistant last year and coached at Keaau, takes over as head coach.

“He’s worked hard all offseason and learned how to be a leader,” Young said of Kon. “We’re developing the run-and-shoot. He’s spent a lot of time with offensive coordinator Kai Akeo.

“I love his attitude. The first thing you think about a quarterback is how’s his head. He just moves on to the next play and is always positive. He’s a very motivated kid. He’s getting better with more reps.”

Young counts about a half-dozen starters each on offense and defense, where returning starters on one side of the ball flip to the other side.

Sean Icari started at safety last year, but he’ll be at running back or slotback. Cody Alvaro-Thomas is a returning slot starter and will get carries at RB, too.

“Sean has quick feet and gets to the seam really quick,” Young said. “Cody never gets down on himself. He’s one to lighten up the bunch. If the team is getting scolded, he’s the guy who gets everyone together and says, ‘Hey guys, let’s go.’”

The other pass-catchers are Ryden Quitoriano, Noah Eblacas, Magnus Namohala-Roloos, Daryl Sampaga, and Kalili, who’s burning with inspirational fire.

“I’m hoping to get All-BIIF again and make it to states and lead the offense as much as I can,” Kalili said. “I never thought I’d be on the All-BIIF team. People were coming up to me and saying, “Hey, I saw you in the paper.’ When I got that, I was really happy. I really want to go to college with any scholarship I can get.”

TJ Higashita will start at center and bark out the line calls, making sure his fellow big guys account for the defensive front.

“He’s a rock. Nothing shakes him,” Young said. “He’s never too high or too low. That’s how you love your offensive linemen to be.”

Shannon Torres, Skylar Pacheco, Joey Sakamoto, and PJ Matsuura, a returning starter at linebacker, round out the O-line.

One area the Warriors worked on is their run-blocking, hoping their speed firing off the ball can produce a few holes.

“It’s a challenge for us to find offensive linemen,” Young said. “This year we converted linebackers to play offensive line.”

K-Aloha will anchor the D-line, which also includes Able Pacatang, Kobe Toledo, and Joseph Pakani.

“I want to stop the QB and get him out of the pocket,” K-Aloha said. “I try to use my thinking and beat the other person before he knows it. I’m watching them and soon as they make a motion I’m getting around them. I’m firing off the ball before them. My goal for the season is just to start every game.”

Matsuura is part of a strong senior linebacking corps with Hunter Parks and Reese Mondina, who engages with Red Bull enthusiasm and reads plays well.

“PJ is smart and tenacious,” Young said. “Hunter is athletic, respectful, and quiet. He’s our chill guy. Reese is our fire and emotional leader.”

Icari, Alvaro-Thomas, and Isaiah Pagay are returning starters in the secondary, a position of depth. Xavier Toyfoya, Layne DePeralta, Cheyn Tam-Switzer, Isaac Sumera, and Rylan Evangelista are pegged for playing time, too.

“Isaiah struggled with injuries last year and was not at his best,” Young said. “This year, he’s in top shape. Tam-Switzer is very competitive. He’s slim, and we want to get him in the weight room. But he’s fast, his heart is big, and the sky is the limit for him.

“If we had a Heart award, we’d give it to Rylan. He worked his butt off. He lost weight and made such a transformation. He’s getting in the weight room and learning to watch video. He wanted to start so badly.”

Toyfoya and Quitoriano will share the kicking and punting duties.

The team’s kicker of the future is down on the farm, playing junior varsity ball. Sophomore Jon Grover, a soccer standout, can easily blast 40-yard field goals. He’s also learning the trade of being a wide receiver.

Last year, Kon and Tam-Switzer were JV call-up who got playing time in Waiakea’s loss to Campbell. Tam-Switzer snagged an interception.

Maybe, Grover will follow their lead and make a mark as well. If he does, Kalili and K-Aloha will be waiting with open arms.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of 11 BIIF football preview


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