Tuesday | January 16, 2018
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HHSAA football: Vikings get the message loud and clear

Hilo football coach Kaeo Drummondo has spent the better part of the past three seasons preaching to his players about the powers of perseverance, sacrifice and hard work, as well as the benefits of embracing the grind and enjoying the process.

It’s a repetitive message, and he sometimes wonders if his teenage audience is tuning him out.

Only now can he rest easy.

“They were listening,” Drummondo said. “They were listening.”

He was holding the HHSAA Division I championship trophy to prove it.

The Vikings received the conquering hero’s welcome that goes with becoming the first Big Island school to win a state football title when they were greeted Sunday morning by family, friends, fans and dignitaries at Hilo International Airport.

“I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m just happy,” junior offensive lineman Tilini Livai said. “We did this for all the Big Island schools, not just us.”

Forgive the champs if they were a bit weary-eyed.

“It’s been a blur,” Drummondo said.

Hilo was front and center during a memorable, long-lasting, championship tripleheader Saturday at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium, earning their place in history along the way.

“The atmosphere was electric,” Drummondo said.

The Vikings watched Lahainaluna outlast Konawaena in an epic Division II final that went seven overtimes and lasted more than four hours, they went out and beat Damien 35-19, then they elected to stay and watch the Open division final, where Saint Louis beat Kahuku 31-28 in a game that ended Sunday morning.

The announced attendance for the Open final was 22,436.

For Livai, one moment stood above the rest.

“Toward the end of (our) game, the clock reached zero, everyone was cheering,” he said. “Even Kahuku fans cheered for us.”

Hilo didn’t get back to its Waikiki hotel between 2-3 a.m. Sunday, and it’s wake-up call to start its trip home came at 6:30 a.m.

Linebacker Isaac Liu nodded in appreciation at the assembled blue-clad crowd at the airport as he came down the escalator, them he calmy walked to grab his luggage.

The senior’s place in BIIF football lore complete, Liu’s basketball season with the Vikings starts Monday.

“I just want to go home and sleep,” he said.

Liu said Hilo watched in its locker room as the Wildcats and Lunas went on and on, delaying the start of the D-I final by about two hours.

“It was fun watching Kona go back and forth, back and forth, we were amped up,” he said. “We just got on the field and got warmed up again.”

Hilo, however, would have to get heated up again after an ice-cold start against Damien. The Viks allowed a touchdown return on the opening kickoff and fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter.

The moment never got too big for the Vikings, Livai and Liu said, because they were prepared for this scenario.

Their coach likes to talk, a lot, about sticking to the game plan, staring down adversity and executing.

“We got punched in the mouth, but the kids responded,” Drummondo said. “In that atmosphere, Damien easily could have kept rolling, but we took the momentum.”

Kahale Huddleston rushed for two touchdowns, quarterback Kaleo Apao accounted for three scores and the celebration was on.

It will continue Monday at school. An 8 a.m. rally will be held before classes begin and the players will receive their state medals.

“Celebrate wisely,” Livai cautioned. “Don’t go out and do anything stupid. Keep it clean.”

Among the well-wishers at the airport were Big Island Mayor Harry Kim and state Sen. Kai Kahele, who wore a shirt with the school motto printed on the back: Once a Viking. Always a Viking.

“That’s the message we send to (the team),” Drummondo said. “You don’t just represent yourself, you represent those that came before you and those that will come after you and the community as well.”

He met with the mayor and the senator and received countless congratulations and lei.

He we was probably the most popular man in Hilo on Sunday.

“The kids did it, not me,” Drummondo said.

Message received.

 

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