KEALAKEKUA — Julian Yates Field will see at least one more game this season.
Behind a pair of touchdown runs from Cyrus Jumalon, Konawaena held off west side rival Kealakehe 16-3 in a low-scoring affair, locking up home field for the BIIF Division II championship next weekend.
“I think we found something. Something needed to trigger us and I felt that old vibe come out in this game,” Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto said. “We did enough. We limited mistakes offensively, found different things and just tried to have fun. At the end of the day, we got what we wanted. We get to play in front of this crowd for a title.”
Jumalon finished with 53 yards on the ground to lead the Wildcats’ rushing attack.
Jumalon has been playing on both sides of the ball, doubling up as a linebacker. But he picked his spots well on offense with the two scores.
“It has just been a lot of hard work. I’ve been waiting for my moment and it finally came,” Jumalon said. “I can barely keep up, but it’s a ton of fun. This was a big win for us.”
Freshman quarterback Sheynan Nahale was 15 of 35 passing the ball for 229 yards and one interception.
Nahale’s favorite target was Hunter Wehrsig, who caught five balls for 119 yards. Marc Basa was not far behind, collecting 82 yards.
Nahale’s poise and ability to bounce back from a few tough outings as a freshman has impressed Jumalon.
“I think Sheynen stepped up” Jumalon said. “He’s growing and really getting better out there.”
Kahai Navas-Loa and Noah Bredeson had interceptions for the Konawaena defense.
The opportunity for the Wildcats to gain home field arose this week, when Kamehamehap announced it would forfeit its final game to Division I defending champion, Hilo. The BIIF bylaws/procedures state that any team that forfeits would give up their home field edge in the event of a tie in standings.
Both Kamehameha and Konawaena finished the regular season with 5-2 records, with Kamehameha having the head to head advantage thanks to a 28-20 victory in Kealakekua earlier this month. However, the forfeit voided that edge, putting the game at Konawaena next Saturday for the BIIF Division II title. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“The community is really strong over here and we can feel the support,” Jumalon said of the ‘Cats home-field edge. “Even people who don’t have kids playing come out and it helps us out a lot. We can feel it and there’s nothing really like it.”
The matchup between the BIIF Division II rivals has become a familiar one, with the Wildcats and Warriors clashing for the championship every season since 2014.
Kealakehe (5-2) had nothing to gain or lose in the contest against Konawaena, and will travel to Wong Stadium next Friday to battle Hilo (7-0) for the Division I title. The Waveriders are seeking to break a BIIF title drought that dates back to 2012.
The Waveriders had their lowest offensive output of the BIIF season by far, but still managed nearly 200 yards rushing as a team. They were led by an 83-yard effort from Elijah Kahele and a 55-yard night from Raymond Skillern.
Quarterback Jorden Himalaya totaled 113 yards passing with a pair of interceptions.
The Wildcats have dominated the rivalry since the game returned to the regular season schedule in 2013. Konawaena is 6-0, outscoring the D-I Waveriders 195-64 in those games.
The last time Kealakehe beat Konawaena was a 44-0 preseason romp in 2010.
The rivalry took a backseat to the narrative heading into the game, but it still was a big part of the contest between the west side schools.
“I think the message was clear that (Kealakehe) wanted this one and that fueled us,” Uemoto said. “Coming off of two losses and getting a win in front of our home crowd was something this team needed.”
Kealakehe ate up most of the first quarter with a concerted effort to run the ball. The Wildcats ran just nine plays in the first quarter, but the game remained scoreless after the Waveriders missed on a field goal attempt.
Big catches from Basa and Whersig put Konawaena at the 1-yard line, but a holding call looked to stymie the drive. However, the yellow hankies came out again, this time to help the Wildcats with a pass interference call. Jumalon scored on the next play, scampering in from 9 yards out before being leveled at the goal line on a hit that drew a personal foul.
Konawaena looked like it would add to its lead after recovering a fumble on the ensuing drive, but flags pushed the Wildcats back to a third and goal from the 30-yard line. The usually sure-footed Harry Hill — who missed an earlier extra point — atoned for his mistake, nailing a no-doubt field goal from 31 yards out for the 9-0 lead.
The teams entered the break with that score after what was a fairly neat first half. Kealakehe had two turnovers that helped Konawaena gain the lead, but the teams were almost equal in yardage — Konawaena with 151 and the Waveriders with 139.
The squads combined for more punts than points for the most part of a stagnant second half until Kahele ripped off a 56-yard run to start the fourth quarter.
Looking to avoid the program’s first shutout since 2015 — a 37-0 preseason loss to Iolani — Kealakehe ended up opting for a field goal in the tight game. Kean Schutte converted a 29-yard kick to make it a one possession game at 9-3.
Konawaena then embarked on a clock-eating drive after receiving the kickoff. The trek eventually ended with Jumalon sprinting in from 6 yards out, making it a two-possession game with just over two minutes left.
Kealakehe got close, but with less than a minute to go, the Wildcats defense stuffed a pair of QB sneaks from the 1-yard line to keep the Waveriders out of the end zone.