Thursday | December 14, 2017
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BIIF football preview: Honokaa’s line play will be key to title contention

Tucker Giltner anchors Honokaa’s offensive line, which returns all its starters from a year ago, providing stability and leadership skills to a team looking for an upgrade.

The Dragons captured the BIIF Division I championship in 2009, dropped to D-II the next year and searched for so long to find the right blueprint for their next title.

Konawaena and Kamehameha have been the teams to beat in Division II. The two have combined to win every league crown since 2010.

One good way to slow those opposing offenses is to limit possessions. Giltner and his fellow O-line starters — Makaio Liftee, Jason Yadao, Keenan Pierson, and CJ Tablit — will be counted on to help extend drives in Honokaa’s Pistol set offense.

“It helps tremendously to have all of them back,” coach Noeau Lindsey said. “They’re the rock of the offense.”

Everyone is a senior, except for Liftee, who’s a junior. They all have a personal carrot to chase. No one was named to the All-BIIF team last year.

Last season offered a good roadmap on what it takes to earn a seat in the BIIF championship.

The Dragons struggled in pass coverage and fell to Konawaena 49-7 and committed 10 turnovers in a 43-21 loss to Kamehameha. The kicker was a 13-12 upset defeat to Keaau.

Giltner (knee) didn’t play in Honokaa’s 28-6 preseason victory over Waiakea. But he was there at prior practices, helping his teammates.

“He was teaching them to be leaders, getting everybody ready before practice,” Lindsey said. “He’s ready to work, even if he’s not on the field. He does what a good leader does.”

Giltner is the team’s center, and one overlooked aspect of the position is snapping the ball to the quarterback, who is five yards away in a Pistol set.

Lindsey is friends with Chris Crespe, the offensive line coach for national powerhouse De La Salle High. Crespe gave pointers to Giltner, emphasizing consistency, a buzzword for the Dragons.

Senior quarterback Ocean Guerpo-Beamer returns as the starter and has a nice menu of weapons, including junior running back Klayton Gascon, a mindful slasher and receiver Kamuela Spencer-Herring, a big 6-foot-3 target.

Kainalu Swift, a hard-running junior, will alternate at RB, and receivers Gene Ansagay and Kilipaki Akau are returning starters.

“Ocean is super athletic, and he’s making good plays,” Lindsey said. “I like that Gascon is patient, has burst and vision. Swift is tenacious. He hits the hole hard and runs hard.”

Isaac Aguilar, who’s the kicker and Honokaa’s soccer goalie, has inserted himself into the pass-catching rotation, showing a good pair of hands.

Defensively, Kelvin Vallente returns on the line, Sheltyn Carvalho and Maikai Kunishige-Aikau at linebacker, and Swift and Akau in the secondary.

“Paki Akau is a quick closer,” Lindsey said. “He can close to the ball really quick, and I’ve not seen one like him in a long time. When he makes the right read, he’s got top-end speed to the ball.”

Andrew Booth, Destin Hokama, Gjim Patrick, Gancinia, Oshen Nobriga, and Jordan Sacayanan will rotate on the D-line.

Cody Loo will also start at linebacker, and Keahou Kaholoa’a Aguilar will spend time there, too.

Trey Gomes and Kamuela Boneza are the starting cornerbacks. One sleeper is senior Kekoa Paio, a rugby player.

When Honokaa runs a 3-4 front, either Vallente or Hokama will be at nose guard. Both are less than 200 pounds, so they’ll rely on their quickness and leverage to hold the point.

Since Lindsey took over last season, the Dragons have played with P.R.I.D.E., the school’s acronym for perseverance, respect, integrity, determination, and enthusiasm, which is on the back of their jerseys.

“We wanted that to be a cohesive thing with the school and the football team,” he said. “When the students go to school, they see that every day painted on the walls. It’s about making good choices, and we remind them of that daily.”

Lindsey noted that it’s consistency of character, not only as a student but also as a Dragon football player.

To jump to the level of title contender, Honokaa can’t afford a letdown, like the one against Keaau from a year ago.

The Dragons open their BIIF season with a rematch against Waiakea. In the preseason game, Honokaa looked disciplined on both sides of the ball.

Lindsey’s squad will need that type of consistent approach because after Waiakea, Hilo and Konawaena are on the on-deck circle.

The last game of the regular season is against Kamehameha at home. Maybe, it’s for a spot to the BIIF championship.

“I expect to play for the championship,” Lindsey said. “The key is to win games. When we play every game, we have to think about gaining yards on every play.”

That’s a good blueprint as any for a Honokaa team, with five returning offensive linemen, built to move the ball.

BIIF football preview: Honokaa

2016 record: 4-4 overall, 3-4 BIIF

Coach: Noeau Lindsey (second season)

Returning starters: 9 offense; 5 defense

Players to watch: OL Tucker Glitner, QB Ocean Guerpo-Beamer, WR/DB Kilipaki Akau, RB Klayton Gascon, RB/DB Kainalu Swift

 

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