A year ago, Konawaena quarterback Brandon Howes had never started a high school football game, and while his aspirations were always to play the game at the next level, his hopes were dwindling.
A lot can happen in a year.
This week, Howes signed his letter of intent to play at Pacific University — a private university in Forest Grove, Ore., that serves 3,400 students, 1,700 of those undergraduates. Howes plans to major in engineering and his academic scholarship will cover approximately two-thirds of his tuition.
“I’m really glad to get the opportunity to continue playing football,” Howes said. “I want to thank the coaches at Konawaena for giving me a chance to shine and my parents for always having my back, even during the tough times.”
Pacific plays in NCAA Division III in the Northwest Conference. Last season, the Boxers finished 7-3. Head coach Keith Buckley is entering his fourth year, with last season being by far the best result of his tenure.
Howes was the backup quarterback at Kamehameha-Hawaii his junior year before transferring to Konawaena, but he didn’t miss a beat at his first starting gig. In his first two games as a starter, Howes threw for 778 yards and six touchdowns.
“He took our entire offense on his shoulders,” Konawaena head coach Cliff Walters said. “We run a no-huddle offense that is very difficult if you have never played in it before, but he stepped right in. He had not been a high school starter to that point, but when he was out there it was like having another coach on the field.”
The Wildcats’ first team All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation quarterback racked up 2,737 yards through the air and found the end zone 25 times during his senior campaign, leading the Wildcats to a third consecutive BIIF title.
Howes also proved to be a weapon with his legs, tacking on 393 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
His style is projected to fit in perfectly with the Boxers’ pro style offense, and while Walters agreed Howes’ great skill-set is what attracted college scouts, he said what what could make his former QB successful at the next level are his level-headed approach to the game and a great set of intangibles.
“The thing that separates Brandon from a lot of players is his outstanding character,” Walters said. “He never quits or gets flustered. If he needs to take a hit to make a pass, he will, and never complains about it. He is an outstanding leader on the field and exactly the type of guy you need at that position.”
The majority of Howes completions went to Chase Takaki — who will play at Whitworth University this fall — but his second favorite target last season was brother Cameron Howes. The brothers hooked up 24 times for 404 yards and five touchdowns.
“It was great playing with my brother and sharing the experience,” Brandon Howes said. “We had a great connection, and I knew where he was going to be.”
Howes will likely feel right at home at Pacific. More than 30 players on the Boxers’ roster have Hawaii ties, including some former BIIF players. Kamehameha quarterback and former BIIF offensive player of the year Warner Shaw, Kamehameha offensive lineman Kennon Quiocho, Kealakehe defensive lineman Loto Mareko and fellow Wildcat Laimana Grace are all on Pacific squad.
“They really like the Hawaii kids up there,” Howes said. “It will be nice to be around the Hawaii culture. It will keep me from getting homesick.”