Hilo wins defensive battle against Kealakehe

BY J.R. De GROOTE

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BY J.R. De GROOTE

Stephens Media Hawaii

KAILUA-KONA — Uneventful, muddled and boring may have been some words used to describe Saturday’s Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I matchup between Hilo and Kealakehe, but for fans of hard-hitting and sound defensive football, it might have been the game of the year thus far.

Hilo topped Kealakehe 7-0 at Waverider Stadium in a game that featured just 234 yards of offense — 137 for Hilo and 97 for Kealakehe.

Predictably, the only score of the night belonged to Hilo’s defensive unit. On the first play from scrimmage, Ofa Fahiua returned a Kealakehe fumble 10 yards for the score.

Hilo (4-0 Division I, 5-0) did not make itself available for comment after the game.

The loss is the second straight for Kealakehe (2-2 BIIF, 2-3), but the team remained optimistic.

“It was a great game — a real battle,” Kealakehe head coach Sam Kekuaokalani said. “We learned a lot about our team, and about each other in this game. I think tonight, our boys showed that they could make adjustments and execute.”

Fahiua’s touchdown was the only highlight of an otherwise uneventful first half. Kealakehe managed just 24 total yards in the half — minus-4 rushing. Hilo (4-0, 5-0) didn’t fare much better, recording a season-low 48 yards.

Kealakehe was prepared for the potent Hilo offense that had averaged 41 points in BIIF contests entering Saturday.

Hilo quarterback Sione Atuekaho was 7 of 21 for 104 yards. Electric Hilo running back Tristin Spikes was corralled by the Kealakehe defense, and the Vikings finished with just 33 total rushing yards.

It was a bounce-back performance for Kealakehe’s defense. Last week, the Waveriders allowed nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-21 loss at Kamehameha.

“We went back to the basics. That’s all it was. Fundamental, physical football,” Kealakehe defensive coordinator Steve Cox said. “The preparation during the week was key and learning where Spikes was going to line up. Don’t get me wrong, they have other weapons, but we keyed on him.”

The Waveriders offense has struggled to move the ball this season, but found some success running the hefty full house formation.

Kealakehe’s first sustained drive came as the game entered the fourth quarter. The offense changed personnel from the spread to the full house set and Kealakehe pounded away with Riggs Kurashige, Kobe Antolin and Louie Garcia.

For Garcia, Antolin and a few others, it was the first time seeing action on offense this season.

“The coaches were informed that we were going to have to pull our best to play where they were needed,” Kekuaokalani said. “I certainly think it was one of those games that showed these boys have heart and are willing to play both ways and do whatever it takes to win games.”

The Waveriders’ drive took 17 plays and included two fourth-down conversions. Kealakehe drove to inside the Hilo 25-yard line, but the drive stalled when the ’Riders could not convert on a fourth-and-6.

Hilo’s best chance in the second half came after a 51-yard completion on third-and-23 from Atuekaho to Shelton Lerma, who was tripped up at the 1-yard line.

Kealakehe stuffed Hilo on three plays from the 1, and Hilo opted for the chip-shot field goal. The kick went off the right upright.

The Vikings did not have a rush for positive yardage in the second half until the 3:33 mark in the fourth quarter.

“I have to give the kids an A-grade on defense,” Cox said. “We were missing six starters for most of the game, so we had a lot of new faces out there. They fought all the way, and even had that big goal-line stand.”

Kealakehe had a chance to run a two-minute drill late, but did not have the luxury of being able to pound away in the time-consuming full house set. On the first play of the drive, Markus Degrate went deep downfield, but Donavan Kelley picked off the pass to effectively end the game.

Kanen Longakit and Haili Mahoe also had interceptions for Hilo.

Hilo 7 0 0 0 — 7

Kealakehe 0 0 0 0 — 0

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First quarter

Hil — Ofa Fahiua 10-yard fumble recovery (Rayce Takayesu kick), 11:50

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