Editor’s note: This story has been modified to update with quotes.
KAILUA-KONA — Not 10 minutes after handily defeating Kealakehe 45-23 in a highly anticipated BIIF Division I clash on Friday night, Hilo head coach Kaeo Drummondo was already breaking down the game in his head.
“We played the counter lousy tonight,” Drummondo said. “We know they love to run that and we need to figure out how to stop it more effectively.”
That hunger to constantly improve and the ability maximize the potential of Vikings teams has helped Drummondo and his staff push the program to new heights — most notably a HHSAA Division I title last season.
The Viks (3-0 BIIF D-I) are still trending upward.
“We just want to work hard,” Drummondo said. “No matter where we go or who we play, we have our scheme and we have to execute.”
It’s a mentality that’s been inherited by the Hilo players, who have only know BIIF titles during their prep careers, with the Vikings winning the last five D-I championships.
“We can always get better,” Hilo wide receiver Fiki Aguiar said. “You are never going to have a perfect game. Whether it’s less penalties or making an extra block on a play, there’s always something.”
Flawless? No, but what the Vikings did against the Waveriders (2-1 BIIF D-I) was impressive nonetheless, which Drummondo did not fail to mention.
“It’s a good victory against a quality opponent at their place,” he said. “But we need to stay hungry. This win was just gas in the tank. We need to string it together now.”
The Vikings still have plenty of work to do to lock up home field for the BIIF D-I championship, but a win over the Waveriders puts them in the driver’s seat to play at Wong Stadium for a sixth straight title.
Helping Hilo’s cause against Kealakehe was having a roster that was the closest to 100 percent it has been this season. Quarterback Kyan Miyasato was premier among the returning players and was a key cog in the victory.
Miyasato accounted for four touchdowns — three passing, one rushing — in the first half. The junior QB finished his night 19 of 31 through the air for 254 yards.
“Kyan can get the ball out and we know what kind of weapon he can be for us,” Drummondo said. “For us, this was the first game where we had everybody going. We need all our players to stay eligible to get reps in practice. Then we can start to mesh and get that timing down.”
Miyasato’s return moved Aguiar — a stellar athlete who was previously filling in at QB — back to his natural position of wide receiver, where he has thrived in two games this season. With crisp route running and terrific top end speed, Aguiar racked up six catches for 102 yards. It was his second 100-yard-plus receiving game this season.
“They covered me pretty tight,” Aguiar said. “Once I get the ball, I just do my thing.”
Kalae Akui also had a hand in the win, reeling in seven catches for 109 yards and a pair of TD grabs. Running back Kaleo Ramos found some holes in Kealakehe’s stout front, rumbling for 124 yards on the ground.
Seeing that kind of balanced production on offense pleased the veteran Hilo skipper.
“That’s where we want to get it to, week after week,” Drummondo said. “The defense is going to dictate where the ball goes sometimes, but we just have to give it to our playmakers and hopefully they make something happen.”
And sometimes the Hilo defensive playmakers force their hands on the ball. Against the Waveriders, it was Klyson Kaiwi and Elijah Apao who picked off passes, returning them for momentum shifting scores during a crucial third quarter.
“Seeing those guys step up is huge,” Aguiar said. “We have a young team so those are the kinds of plays we need.”
Apao provided the longest play of the season, landing in the end zone after jumping a route and sprinting down the sideline 101 yards for the score.
“It felt like a blessing, honestly,” Apao said with a smile. “I just saw that short out coming to me and jumped it. I love those routes.”
“He’s a playmaker,” Drummondo said of Apao. “He had that sideline and he took it. That was a huge turning point in the game and we were very fortunate.”
The Viks also had an interception late, and two fumble recoveries in the first half that were flipped into scores, setting the tone for the contest.
But the 23 points the Waveriders tallied were the first of the season against the Hilo defense. Kealakehe collected 377 yards of total offense, and found success with some acrobatic downfield catches by Kalani Piltz (83 yards) and Ikaika Pali (71 yards, 2 TDs).
Which takes Drummondo back to his initial point, that there’s always room for improvement.
“We knew their offense could put up points and I think we gave up a little too much, letting them drive into our red zone,” Drummondo said. “We have to put on the film and see where the breakdowns happened.”
Hilo 21 7 14 3 –45
Kealakehe 7 10 0 6 –23
HILO — Guyson Ogata 14 pass from Kyan Miyasato (kick good)
KEAL — Ikaika Pali 35 pass from Jorden Himalaya (kick good)
HILO — Kalae Akui 6 pass from Miyasato (kick good)
HILO — Miyasato 1 run (kick good)
KEAL — Pali 9 pass from Himalaya (kick good)
HILO — Akui 1 pass Miyasato (kick good)
KEAL — Kean Shutte 39 FG
HILO — Klyson Kaiwi 39 interception return (kick good)
HILO — Elijah Apao 101 interception return (kick good)
KEAL — Tyler Jactino 6 run (2-pt failed)
HILO — Joshua Rosario 23 FG