In last week’s Big Island Interscholastic Federation football season opener, the main thing for Hilo was neutralizing Hawaii Prep’s defensive pressure, especially the force of nature that is Nicky Palleschi, a 6-foot-5 senior end.
Palleschi weighs only 205 pounds, but bears a striking resemblance to Devon Kell, a former Viking and Oregon State standout. The 2009 Hilo graduate was 209 pounds when he arrived at the Corvallis, Ore., campus. He later turned himself into a 6-4, 250-pound D-line starter.
Junior left tackle Seth Fukushima, along with senior right tackle Kacey Hall, pitched a shutout and allowed no sacks, tackles for loss or solo tackles against Palleschi. It was a display of sound line play against a potential Division I college recruit, and set the tone for Hilo’s 45-15 win over HPA on Saturday at Wong Stadium.
Fukushima is the season’s first recipient of the BIIF Player of the Week honor with an honorable mention nod to Hall, who also walled off numerous Ka Makani pass rushes and plowed holes for the Viking ground game.
According to Hilo’s verified stats, senior running back Tristin Spikes ran for 152 yards on 10 carries, and the team had 268 yards on 22 attempts, a whopping 12.2-yard average, while quarterback Sione Atuekaho was 4 of 12 for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
The only black eye and it’s a rather minor one was Palleschi was pretty much unstoppable at tight end or wide receiver. He caught 13 balls for 117 yards and two TDs, often blocking someone on the line then settling to a soft spot underneath coverage.
Palleschi isn’t the fastest Ka Makani, but he hauled in a pair of 25-yard receptions, the latter a last-second touchdown against Hilo’s second stringers. No other HPA receiver was a significant threat or showed the ability to stretch the field.
That’s Kamehameha’s strength, especially with quarterback Micah Kanehailua, one of the best deep-ball throwers not only in the BIIF, but also the state. It’s one reason he’s been a three-year starter, beating out older, more experienced competition at QB.
Unfortunately, the Warriors last qualified for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament in 2010 – when he was in eighth grade, so he hasn’t been able to showcase his skill-set outside of the league in the postseason.
The seni0r Warrior’s best asset isn’t velocity, but anticipation. Kanehailua has impeccable touch and timing on deep throws, able to lead a receiver, who can catch and keep running – without braking for the ball.
When Hilo (1-0 Division I) hosts Kamehameha (1-0 Division II) on Friday, that’s the matchup to watch: Kanehailua’s well-placed rainbows against a Viking secondary with a few playmakers patrolling center field.
Haili Mahoe jumped Ka Makani quarterback Koa Ellis’ sideline pass in the third quarter for a 99-yard pick six. Mahoe’s partner, junior Dallas Mata, had the other interception to help Hilo win the turnover battle: 5-0.
It’s a bit of a different deal defending a waiting or floating ball to a receiver than chasing down an aerial strike.
It’s also no big deal for Kamehameha returning starters Alapaki Iaea and James Sloan to run a streak or post pattern, catch the ball at 25 yards, then turn the play into a long touchdown.
A defense’s best friend is always upfront pressure: Win the battle in the trenches, disrupt timing, and set a nice tempo. Fukushima was a presence at D-line, too, getting one of Hilo’s two sacks against HPA.
Kamehameha defeated Konawaena 20-6 on the road. Kanehailua accounted for three scores: a 37-yard strike to Kalai Preston, a 6-yard pass to Bayley Manliguis (set up by the QB’s 65-yard run) and a 2-yard run.
Kona (0-1 BIIF Division II, 1-1) at Keaau (0-1 Division I, 0-2), after 5 p.m JV Friday
The Wildcats struggled to pass the ball in their loss to the Warriors. Cameron Howes was 10 of 26 for 73 yards. Shelton Grace went 1 of 6 for 15 yards.
Ideally, coaches prefer their QBs to complete at least 60 percent of their passes. Neither Kona QB was close to that benchmark. Maybe that won’t matter much against the young and rebuilding Cougars, who fell hard to Waiakea 33-8.
Keaau couldn’t contain Pono Auwae, who rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns – all in the first half.
Honokaa (0-1 Division II) at Waiakea (1-0 Division I, 1-2), after 1 p.m. JV Saturday
At least coach Moku Pita’s pass rush works, too. The Warriors sacked Keaau quarterback Richard Hatori-Kanakaole seven times.
The Dragons ran a Wing T offense for most of the first quarter in their 28-6 road loss to Kealakehe.
The Wing T is a misdirection offense and forces a defense to read and react, particularly if a quarterback can run and throw. Nainoa Falk went 10 of 20 for 164 yards against the Waveriders.
Falk started as a sophomore last season, so he’s experienced. He’s also athletic and can scamper, presenting a ground threat if the Warriors don’t plug all their gaps on the line.
But seven sacks was pretty wonderful. It obviously meant that the Warriors controlled the line of scrimmage, the most efficient and effective way to win football games.
Kealakehe (1-0 Division I, 1-1) at HPA (0-1 Division II, 1-2), 2 p.m. Saturday
The young Ka Makani lost an ugly one against Hilo, turning the ball over five times and getting scored on each time.
HPA’s running game against eight new Viking starters produced 80 yards on 30 carries, a 2.7-yard average. Ka Makani quarterback Ellis kept a cool head, and worked around a lot of third-and-long situations. He went 16 of 25 for 156 yards with two TDs and two picks.
On defense, HPA didn’t play with patience or discipline against the run, lost the perimeter, and got gashed by Spikes, adding to its fix-it list: ball security, ground game and run defense.
The last part will be tested, especially by Kealakehe running back Riggs Kurashige, who had only eight attempts for 67 yards against Honokaa, an 8.4-yard average.
Eight man: Pahoa (0-0, 0-1 at Kohala (0-1 eight-man, 0-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
The winners scores the program’s first eight-man BIIF victory.
The Cowboys will be glad not to see Cy Tamura, a Ka’u senior who scored three touchdowns in the Trojans’ 34-12 victory against Kohala last Saturday.
The Daggers will get a break from the size they faced last Saturday in a 5o-6 loss to Hilo’s junior varsity.