BIIF football: Konawaena expects challenge from ‘different’ Waiakea team

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald
    Waiakea’s Noah Eblacas tries to evade a tackle Sept. 1 during the Warriors’ 21-19 victory against Honokaa. On Friday night, resurgent Waiakea visits Konawaena looking to improve to 3-0 in the BIIF.

KEALAKEKUA— It was back to the BIIF and back to business for Konawaena against Keaau last week.

Behind five touchdowns from freshman quarterback Sheynen Nahale, the Wildcats shook off any kind of rust early from a nearly month layoff and cruised to a win in the team’s BIIF opener, extending a league winning streak that stretches back to 2016.

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Now the Wildcats (1-0 BIIF D-II, 1-2 overall) get the challenge of facing Waiakea for their home opener in what is expected to be a raucous environment for homecoming night in Kealakekua.

“It’s very much a sideshow,” Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto said with a laugh. “There’s a lot going on during the week. We just have to focus on winning the game. That’s the homecoming theme for us.”

Waiakea (2-0 BIIF D-I) enters the jungle fresh off its most impressive victory in quite some time, shutting out and shutting down Hawaii Preparatory Academy 39-0. The Warriors — winless in the BIIF a year ago — made big plays and showed off a bevy of capable playmakers in all three phases of the game.

It didn’t go unnoticed by the Wildcats.

“When we watched the tape they looked like a different team. The execution was cleaner and they were disciplined,” Uemoto said. “I keep saying it — I like the challenge to pick up the film and see things that we have to scheme for. It makes us better. We are not leaving any stone unturned and are treating this like it was a championship.”

The biggest bright spot for Konawaena was having Nahale healthy, back taking snaps at QB. The freshman got a little banged up in the preseason, but turned in a strong showing against the Cougars, completing 24 of his 39 passes for 335 yards.

“Sheynen is starting to develop into the offense,” Uemoto said. “I’m happy where he is at. It looks good and our receivers are staying active, helping him out.”

On defense, the debut of AJ Alani on the line and emergence of free safety Noah Bredeson gave the Wildcats a spark.

“It was AJ’s first game in uniform for us and we were impressed with him,” Uemoto said. “He gave our defense some identity up front.”

Bredeson had been battling for a corner spot in the preseason, but seems to have found a home at safety.

“Noah is starting to play with some swagger,” Uemoto said of Bredeson, who had a pick-6 against Keaau. “He’s a great athlete to have back there.”

Uemoto said it’s usually around the fourth game of the season where the Wildcats have traditionally gained their head of steam for the longhaul. Will that pattern prove true against Waiakea?

“Every year you feel that you have the pieces to put up numbers, but it’s a shot in the dark,” Uemoto said. “You don’t know the potential of the group until the season gets going.”

HPA (0-2 BIIF D-II) at Keaau (0-2 BIIF D-I), 7 p.m.

At the end of this game, one team will have their first victory of the season.

Keaau came close in Week 1 against Kamehameha-Hawaii, losing by a touchdown, but never threatened the Wildcats.

Hawaii Prep is still in search of not only its first win of the season, but also its first points, having been outscore 71-0 in two games. Against Waiakea the offense showed small flashes, but couldn’t keep the constant pressure from the Warriors out of the backfield.

Honokaa (0-2 BIIF D-II) at Kealakehe (1-0 BIIF D-I), 7 p.m.

The last time Honokaa ventured into Waverider Stadium, the Dragons stormed the Field of Dreams and shocked the ‘Riders with a 12-7 victory.

That was the BIIF opener, however, and this time around Kealakehe is riding some major momentum after an offensive outburst on the road was enough to hold off Kamehameha, 49-42.

Kealakehe amassed 525 yards against the Warriors, with QB Jorden Himalaya accounting for 405 yards.

Honokaa is 0-2, but had a tall task facing defending D-I state champs Hilo last weekend. If there’s a path to victory for the Dragons, it usually shows up in the form of a heavy workload for running back Klayton Gascon. One of Honokaa’s strengths is its offensive line, but running against Kealakehe’s stacked front seven will be a challenge.

Eight-man: Ka’u (1-0) at Kohala (0-1), 1 p.m. Saturday

First-year Cowboys head coach Chad Atkins told West Hawaii Today before the season that he thought he had a defensive unit that could slow the Trojans’ rushing attack, and now he has a chance to prove it.

Ka’u again looked the part of eight-man favorite in a 20-6 victory against Pahoa on Sept. 6. The only thing that fully slowed Izaiah Pilanca-Emmsley (150 yards rushing, one touchdown), Shesley Martinez (two TDs) and crew was a power outage that cut the game short.

Manu-Kalau Keliikoa leads the Trojans defensively, and he also is in their game plan to run the ball.

Defense wasn’t Atkins’ primary concern in their opener, a 40-6 loss to Pahoa at home on Sept. 1. The Cowboys played hot potato. Atkins estimated Kohala fumbled 13-14 times.

“It was a domino effect, and every other play we made a mistake,” Atkins told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “I still have full confidence in our defense.

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“We just have to stay disciplined.”

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald contributed to this report