HONOKAA — If there were any kind of offensive fireworks planned for Friday night in Honokaa, the rain decided to put a damper on it.
The Hilo defense had something to do with it, too.
The Vikings (2-0 BIIF Division I) vaunted unit recorded its second consecutive shutout to start the season, riding six turnovers and a sprinkle of strong special teams play to down the Dragons 24-0.
“I’m proud of that defense. We were missing a couple of bodies but guys stepped up,” Hilo head coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “I still feel we can be better. They read and get to their assignments, and we are tackling OK, but I don’t want them to be complacent. It doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Honokaa (0-2 BIIF Division II) managed just 72 total yards in the game. Quarterback Malu Kanekoa was 5 of 20 for just 32 yards and two interceptions and did a lot of scrambling trying to avoid the Vikings powerful pass rush.
Honokaa averaged just 1.7 yards per rush. Usual workhorse Klayton Gascon was the most successful, totaling 43 yards on 11 carries.
Drummondo will admit, Hilo didn’t do much better, and could have won by a larger margin if not for some costly miscues inside the red zone. The Vikings totaled 153 yards of offense, but did enough in all three phases of the game to pull out the victory.
Early in the second quarter, Hilo held a narrow 3-0 lead, but turned the tide with a simple but effective mantra on the sideline — stay hungry.
“We are such a young team, these guy can stray easily, so we try to stay on them,” Drummondo said. “We tell them it doesn’t matter what the score is. Guys have to stay focused, know there job and make plays.”
Fiki Aguiar got the start at quarterback, with junior Kyan Miyasato not available due to what Drummondo referred to as “personnel issues.” Last week in a 32-0 victory over Hawaii Prep, Aguiar totaled 166 yards and two touchdowns as a wide receiver.
“It was a next man up situation,” Drummondo said. “We wanted to get him comfortable in a package where he could run.”
Aguiar showed off similar explosiveness at QB, and found the end zone on a pair of strong red zone runs. He finished the night with 63 rushing yards. Running back Kaleo Ramos added 33 yards on the ground and Guyson Ogata (32 yards) did some damage in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
It was nothing fancy through the air for the Viks, who rarely looked five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Aguiar was 7 of 11 for the night for just 19 yards.
“It’s still a little sloppy on offense and we can’t keep saying that week after week,” Drummondo said. “We got to get it cleaned up, got to get it fixed. No matter who is at quarterback or what scheme we are running, we have to execute.”
Hilo got on the board on its first drive of the game, with Joshua Rosario nailing a 29-yard field goal on a possession that ate up more than half of the first quarter.
Aguiar was nearly flawless in control of the offense, hitting on both of his passes while adding 26 yards with his legs on the scoring drive, including a clutch fourth down pickup.
But while the Viks came out hot, they had their hiccups. A pair of improvised fake punts in the first half failed and a roughing the punter penalty gave Honokaa its only chance on the Vikings side of the field.
The magic eraser, however, was a stingy defense that held Honokaa to 12 total yards and forced three turnovers in the first half. Kainalu Lewis and Keola Balga notched interceptions, and Balga added a fumble recovery late in the second quarter. Kayden Alameda also had a lengthy sack to stymie the Dragons’ best chance for points.
The halftime break made the Vikings a bit hungrier for points. On the opening kickoff, Hilo returned the ball to the Honokaa 3-yard line, allowing Aguiar to score one play later on a QB keeper right up the gut of the Dragons’ defense.
Less than 10 seconds later, the Vikings were back in the end zone. The ensuing kickoff was dribbled to a empty part of the field and fumbled by the Honokaa return man after a jarring hit. Kalen White emerged from a battle in the end zone to make it 24-0 just 34 seconds into the second half. White also had a fourth quarter fumble recovery.
The back-to-back touchdowns proved to be haymakers and enough for Hilo to cruise to its second win of the season.