BIIF football: Friday night foes Hilo and Konawaena reload like no one else on island

  • TIM WRIGHT/Tribune-Herald
    Hilo’s Kaleo Ramos breaks away from the Waiakea for a touchdown Sept. 30, a 40-0 win for the Vikings (5-0, host Konawaena at Wong Stadium on Friday night.

Hilo High already had drawn football coach Kaeo Drummondo’s ire once by jumping offsides.

So for the next play he put his hands on his knees and beared down, as if to will his defense to watch the ball.

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When another flag flew, Drummondo flung his hands in the air and made a half turn away from the field.

“It’s frustrating, ” he said afterward, “we went offsides two plays in a row. It happens in practice, that’s 10 free yards.

“It’s just the way I operate. I don’t want to see those mistakes and I’m sure they don’t want to make them.”

It could be noted that the Vikings were leading Waiakea 40-0 and the second-half clock was running unabated during those back-to-back plays, but that’s not the point.

What is the point?

“Discipline,” said junior receiver Guyson Ogata, trying to put his finger on the one sustainable element that keeps the Vikings on top.

Reloading – not rebuilding in the face of heavy losses to graduation – has become Hilo’s hallmark during its reign atop BIIF Division I since 2013.

That might not be a term the Vikings necessarily use, but “if there was one (instance of reloading) in the past seven years, I would think this would be it,” Drummondo said. “Just cause the simple fact of the rawness of players that are in.”

Hilo lost its two most important offensive players, Kaleo Apao and Kahale Huddleston, and 12 all-BIIF selections in all, and it had to rebuild its lines on both sides of the ball.

Yet, lock and load, the Vikings (5-0) own the longest winning streak in the league at nine games heading into their contest against Konawaena (4-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wong Stadium, a cross-divisional contest that now annually marks the BIIF game of the year in terms of quality of teams.

The Wildcats relinquished the BIIF’s longest winning streak (19 games) last week with a 28-20 home loss to Kamehameha, but with six Division II titles in seven years, Konawaena’s knack for reloading takes a back seat to no one on the island.

Discipline and reloading also go hand in hand in Kealakekua.

“It’s our (junior varsity) program,” coach Brad Uemoto said. “They’re running the same system. We’ve just been blessed with good athletes, just kind of molding them and that discipline level from when they’re at JV. Once we get them, (JV) coach Wyatt (Nahale) does a good job of preparing them. Just kind of continuing our systems.”

In winning the HHSAA D-I title last season, Hilo and Huddleston were shut down but once – at the hands of a Wildcats defense led by D-II defensive player of the year Paka Cacoulidis.

Cacoulidis is gone as are five other starters, but – lock and load – Alex Muti and his teammates have yet to allow more than one offensive score in a BIIF game this season.

“When someone like Paka leaves, the players kind of know they have to step up themselves,” said Muti, a defensive lineman/linebacker. “They know the have to fill the plays.”

No one was just going to step in and replace decorated quarterback Austin Ewing, a three-time offensive player of the year and one of the state’s all-time leading passers. But freshman quarterback Sheynen Nahale, though struggling with interceptions, has taken the reins, distributed the ball and allowed Konawaena to continue to pressure opponents.

“We have a really good coaching staff and really good discipline,” receiver Jesse Canda said. “The coaches make us work.”

Few units have worked harder to click this season than Hilo’s offensive line.

The Vikings’ big bruisers up front were a strength last season, but when Tilini Livai – designated by his coaches as the Viks best college prospect – decided to transfer to a mainland school for his senior season, a quick reload didn’t appear to be in the plans.

“They don’t get any credit,” Drummondo said. “The talk in the program was that (we have) to rebuild it.

“For for the most part, they’ve done their jobs really well.”

New starters – from left to right – Lawaia Enos, Sione Holani, Kason Abadilla, Storm Kapeliela and Kaz Kua might not be as big as their predecessors, but Enos said, “I think our offensive line execution is good. We just have to keep eating. One day it will come to us.”

Defensively, underclassmen have helped fill the void for the Vikings, who have received encouraging efforts from freshmen Tysen Kaniaupio, a defensive lineman, and Lyle Silva Jr., a linebacker, as well as sophomores Mana Price (linebacker), Isaiah Toki (linebacker) and Klyson Kaiwi (defensive back).

Drummondo lauded them for their ability to “step up, learn on the fly and contribute.”

The Wildcats-Vikings series has tilted in the favor of the home team since 2014, with each team winning twice.

The game means more to Konawaena, which is tied atop D-II with Kamehameha, though the Warriors own the tiebreaker in the race for home field in the title game in two weeks.

Hilo can wrap home field against Kealakehe with a win Friday night – or next week against Kamehameha.

Keaau (1-5) at Honokaa (1-5), 7:30 p.m. Friday

One team has a chance to finish on a high note – 2-5 looks a lot better than 1-6 – and add one to the win column after previously beating Hawaii Prep.

The Cougars have won two straight in the series, including a 13-12 victory two years ago on the Dragons’ field.

Keaau has gotten off to strong starts of late before fading against Kealakehe and Hilo, while the Dragons finished strong last week in beating Ka Makani 14-9.

Kealakehe (4-1) at Hawaii Prep (0-6), 3 p.m.

Barring a Hilo collapse that would cost it home-field advantage, this is a tuneup for the Waveriders before a rivalry game against Konawaena and the Division I championship game the next two weeks.

Ka Makani is trying to avoid its second winless BIIF campaign since 2016.

A strong Waimea wind in the face of Kealakehe quarterback Jorden Himalaya wouldn’t hurt HPA’s upset chances, though the Waveriders have proven equally adept at running the ball in recent weeks.

Waiakea (3-3) at Kamehameha (4-1), 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Finally, the rival Warriors meet after a nonconference matchup in August was twice washed away by inclement weather.

Waiakea can lock down a winning season – it was winless in 2017 – while Kamehameha needs a win to bolsters its chances of hosting the D-II title game.

Eight-man semifinal: Kohala (0-4) vs. Pahoa (2-2), 2 p.m. at Kamehameha

The Daggers had their way in the first two meetings, outscoring the Cowboys 80-6.

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The winner gets Ka’u (4-0) next Saturday in Pahala.

Editor’s note: This story has been modified to correct that Guyson Ogata is a junior.