Saturday | September 23, 2017
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BIIF football preview: Kamehameha carries no shortage of options into title chase

Kamehameha was down but not out, still in the infancy stages of absorbing and correcting a three-touchdown loss at Konawaena to end the regular season, one that meant the Warriors would have to trek back to Kealakekua for the BIIF Division II championship game.

Coach Dan Lyons greeted his players as they exited the locker room. He praised their efforts, told them to be safe as they walked into the crisp October night and he set the tone for the title game preparations.

“Hey, let’s get better,” he said.

Two weeks later, Kamehameha was. The Warriors were better by a mile, only to fall a half a yard short.

“I don’t think about it anymore,” senior Israel Bowden said of the championship game.

Bowden would rather look forward than back, but “when it comes time for motivation, I don’t want that to happen again. We need to get our stuff together.”

Trailing 27-23 late in the fourth quarter, Bowden hauled in a miraculous long pass from Kaimi Like and was marked down 18 inches from the goal line. With the clocking winding down, Like threw an interception, and when the Wildcats kneeled down on the ensuing play, they had their fifth BIIF title in six seasons.

“I think about that game a lot,” senior free safety Justin Kenoi said. “There is a lot more I could of done for the team to change the outcome of the game.”

If Kenoi sounds like a leader, it’s because he’s the player that helps set the tone on the defensive side.

“I never knew that stat (Konawaena’s five titles in a six seasons), ” he said, “but it kind of does bother me.”

Not much bothers Lyons other than the need to be accountable to his players, who in turn are expected to honor the game. Considering all the familiar faces the Warriors welcome back in his seventh season at the helm, he joked: “The pressure is on me. Kind of a crappy coach if you can’t win with a bunch of returning players.”

Lyons freely admits he can’t pinpoint Kamehameha’s offensive philosophy. There are spread elements and an inside zone emphasis – although the Warriors only ran three such plays Saturday in a 23-0 preseason win against Maui – and a run/pass option exists on most plays.

Above all, Kamehameha wants to be dynamic and diverse with multiple schemes.

For the first time since 2014 (the year of the Warriors’ last BIIF title), Kamehameha isn’t breaking in a new No. 1 quarterback, though as a new wrinkle this season at least four players could take snaps. Like is the starter, but Bowden, an all-BIIF receiver in 2016, could line up just about anywhere on offense besides the line, and Lyons feels sophomore Kilohana Hassenritter is big play waiting to happen.

“We have a bunch of different athletes that we want to figure out how to get the ball, and that has been a struggle in the past,” Lyons said. “One way is a direct snap to them, another way is to put them in position where they are the primary option.

“All these guys can throw.”

That includes senior Michael Jumalon, who will start at defensive back along with taking snaps.

Hassenritter is a former Pop Warner game-breaker who was hampered as a freshman because of a broken hand.

“The guy is a freak,” Lyons said.

As far as defined roles, senior Bryce Furuli and junior Paniau Lindsay will line up at running back, junior Noah Carvalho and sophomore Izayah Chartrand-Penera will be at wide receiver, and Bowden and Hassenritter could be in the slot, while just about anybody could take a handoff, or a snap, for that matter.

When Kamehameha practices seven on seven, the Warriors are as sight to see, Bowden said.

“When there is not a sense of urgency of someone coming to take your head off, we’re more relaxed and we put up numbers and we put up plays,” he said. “When it’s game time and time for contact, that throws us off.

“It about execution and I think we need to relax more.”

Four starters return on the offensive line, and Kamehameha is already building depth, starting two freshman, Keanu Klask-Hoopii and Kuahiwi Glendon, in the win against Maui.

Junior Teva Reynolds was all-BIIF last season and will play right guard next to senior center Grayson Cosier and senior right tackle Charles Mortensen, and senior Aukea Hooper is the left guard.

Kamehameha hasn’t allowed a sack in two preseason games, and its defense has yielded only 10 points.

EthanJames Ramos, the BIIF Division II defensive player of the year, will be nearly impossible to replace because he had a nose for the ball like few others, scoring an amazing six touchdowns as a linebacker.

The linebacking unit should be just as fast this season with two former starters in the defensive backfield, seniors Kea Kekuawela and Isaac Ysaguirre, moving into the front seven to play alongside senior Jashen Mathieu, who was a playmaker last season.

“Our linebackers are probably one our most vicious units,” Kenoi said. ‘Two of them were corners last year, but they are some of the hardest hitters on the team.

“They are going to be great and very fast. They are already killing it.”

Sophomore Wilde Germano and junior Thaze Gomes are also in the mix in the front seven, and senior Kekoa Viernes will slide to nose tackle and replace Nainoa Rosehill, who offered a big two-gap presense.

In the backfield, seniors Ayston Motta and Kekona Naipo-Arsiga will contribute after playing on the other side of the ball in 2016, and Jumalon and Richard Lindsey return along with Kenoi.

“Everyone on the defense can be a leader or is a leader,” said Kenoi, an all-BIIF kicker last season, “and everyone wants to take charge and stay composed and get their jobs done.

“Everyone is on the same page.”

On Monday at Kamehameha’s practice, that meant everyone gathered around for yoga day. Players took off their cleats on their new field as trainer Amy Shirk led the exercise.

Lyons considered having a juggling coach come to practice to help players improve their hand-eye coordination, but in its place the Warriors were striving toward the healing properties of yoga during an otherwise light work day.

“This is football in the Lyons zen,” the coach said with a laugh.

He’ll be laughing even harder if Kamehameha once again gets better between now and the end of the season.

 

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