KAILUA-KONA — To play or not to play — that’s been the primary question posed to BIIF football squads on the island this week.
After days of equal parts uncertainty and confusion there is an answer: Kealakehe will visit Konawaena on Saturday, while Kamehameha will forfeit their game against Hilo — a decision that comes with unprecedented consequence.
To set the stage, this week featured two weather-delayed makeup games between the league’s four playoff teams with no postseason implications on the line.
It turned out to be a perfect storm of sorts.
The threat of Hurricane Lane delayed the season-opener between Kealakehe and Konawaena, originally slated for Aug. 24, moving it to this week. Tropical Storm Olivia soon did the same for Kamehameha and Hilo, which were set to play a short-week Thursday game on Sept. 13, but opted instead to move it to the open week at the end of the season as well.
But with playoff seeding seemingly wrapped up, speculation started swirling as early as last weekend if the games would be played. Kamehameha was the first to act, informing the league on Monday that it would forfeit its game against the undefeated Division I Vikings.
Heading into the final week, Kamehameha had home field for the Division II playoffs locked up, having beat Konawaena 28-20 on Oct. 6 for the head-to-head tiebreaker in the event that the Wildcats beat the Waveriders and both teams finished with 5-2 records.
But what Kamehameha was not completely aware of was a BIIF procedure/bylaw that takes away the tiebreaker advantage in the event of a forfeit. BIIF President Dean Cevallos said there was a possibility for reconsideration, but Kamehameha ultimately ended up standing by the decision to go forward with the forfeit, making it official Wednesday night.
The move means that if Konawaena beats Kealakehe on Saturday night, Kamehameha will lose the home-field edge it earned during the season.
“They stuck by their word, and I saw that as an honorable decision,” Cevallos said. “For the most part everybody did the right thing, the decision was made and we will see how it plays out.”
Kamehameha head coach Dan Lyons said the original idea behind not playing the game was player safety, not wanting to put his team in harm’s way for a game that carried no real significance. That logic took precedent early in the week and later, even knowing the consequences.
“It’s been confusing,” Lyons said on Thursday. “As a head coach, my desire is to teach the game and play it as safely as possible. To be honest, with everything that has come out with the risks of football, I could not be involved in the game if we weren’t making an effort to protect our young men … That really was the only motivation that we had in the decision making process.
“What everybody else is doing, I haven’t paid attention. We are trying to be responsible in our program on how we do things.”
Lyons did mention that he felt the bylaw needed a bit more clarity.
Things were equally complicated on the west side, and as of Wednesday night, there was still uncertainty that Konawaena and Kealakehe would meet up.
“I think the hardest thing was talking to the players, fans and parents, trying to let them know what was going on,” Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto said. “The questions were coming to me and I didn’t have a direct answer.”
At one point earlier in the week, Kealakehe and Konawaena had agreed to mutually cancel the contest — with no team forfeiting. But that never became official and there’s a high chance the league would not have approved it regardless.
Uemoto said he went back and forth, but ultimately decided with his staff and administration that playing the game was in the program’s best interest.
Konawaena and Kealakehe will meet up at 7 p.m. at Julian Yates Field on Saturday. There is no JV contest.
“There were a lot of emotions and thoughts. But at the end of the day, we pride ourselves on doing things the right way,” Uemoto said. “The word forfeit seems so negative. It’s something I never want to associate with our program and what we preach to our kids.”
With a win over their west side rival, Konawaena will host the D-II title game for a fourth consecutive year — something that was unfathomable just a few days ago.
“We love playing in front of our home crowd and obviously it would be great play here. But that’s not promised. We still have to work for it,” Uemoto said. “The most important part about this week is getting better for next Saturday — no matter where the game ends up being played.”
Other than pride, Kealakehe doesn’t have anything to play for in the game. The Waveriders will be looking to break a five-game losing streak against their rival.
“I expect a competitive game, and at this point in the season a good matchup against a team like Kealakehe will only help us,” Uemoto said. “It really couldn’t have worked out better for us.”
Kealakehe will play Hilo on Friday, Oct. 26 for the BIIF D-I title.
Konawaena and Kamehameha will link up on Saturday, Oct. 27, with the site TBD.