KEAAU – Well, that was an interesting two weeks in the annals of Kamehameha football.
The Warriors never played a game, yet they were as talked about as any team in the state.
Come Saturday night, the attention turns back to the field. The BIIF Division II championship will be determined between the lines, just not the ones Kamehameha had hoped.
“We’re definitely going to give more than last time, just because we have to go back there,” senior Thaze Gomes said. “Last time we played, I said I never want to go back there. It played out like it played it, we just got to go do it.”
The Warriors (5-2) return to Kealakekua’s Julian Yates Field – site of Kamehameha’s 28-20 win in Week 5 – to take on Konawaena (5-2) and will look to end a three-game slide in the D2 finals and reach the state tournament for the time since 2014, back when the current seniors were in the eighth-grade. By now, many already know that a Week 7 forfeit – which coach Dan Lyons said was made in the name if player safety – afforded the Warriors a two-week break but also cost them home field.
If the Warriors have their way, the last two weeks will end up being but a interesting footnote lost to history.
“Our focus right now is taking care of us,” Lyons said. “I like what we have, their personality, their sticktoitiveness, even how they handle adversity. Every one of them, they want to play the championship game on their field, and if you asked them they’d say they earned it on the field of play.
“But life is different.”
So to, the Warriors say, is this tight-knit 2018 team.
At a practice earlier in the week, they exuded confidence, ebullience, even boastfulness.
Yes, they’re making an unwanted trip Saturday, but Kamehameha likes the players it’s bringing along for the ride.
“My past four years, this is honestly our most balanced team,” said senior Teva Reynolds, a two-way lineman and four-year starter. “My sophomore year, it was strictly defense and everybody praised our defense. It was the same way junior year.
“With our small numbers and having our players go both ways and work hard on both sides of the ball, it’s really leveling out the playing field.”
Before the forfeit, Kamehameha had won four games in a row behind a shored-up defense and a balanced offense fueled by the return of senior quarterback Kaimi Like.
“We go in knowing that both sides of the ball are going to hold up and play well,” Lyons said. ‘We haven’t always had that.”
Many championship games are decided by the team that makes the least amount of mistakes, and Saturday night’s contest could be a case steady.
It’s somewhat remarkable that Kamehameha ended Konawaena’s 19-game win streak Oct. 6 despite making eight turnovers, but the Warriors forced six of their own and returned three pick-sixes to stun the Wildcats in the second half amid slippery conditions.
“We really let the field and weather determine how we were going to secure the ball and how we were going to move the ball,” Reynolds said. “This week, and especially last week, we’ve been working on ball security and ball-handling.”
Konawaena freshman quarterback Sheynan Nahale is the BIIF’s passing leader, but he’s been susceptible to interceptions, and worse yet, picks-sixes. He threw at least two picks in each BIIF game until only being only intercepted once last week against Kealakehe. The Warriors picked him off four times in the first meeting, including two interception returns for touchdown by Noah Carvalho and another by Kilohana Haasenritter.
“We have to get penetration, the defensive line, the end and the nose,” Gomes said. “We’ve got to make Sheynen uncomfortable, and just get him to make sketchy passes and hope our LBs and DB are in the right position.”
What the Warriors also would like to do this time is get Haasenritter (six touchdowns) and Carvalho (five) more involved offensively.
The Wildcats have been stingy on defense all season. They kept the Warriors to only just 141 yards of offense in the first meeting and only allowed more than a touchdown once all BIIF season, Week 6 at Hilo.
“We just have to look out for ourselves, really,” Reynolds said of the battle in the trenches. “There is nothing that anybody can do on this island that we can’t notice and pick up. We just need to be able to move our feet better and set our feet.”
Senior tight end Kalama Anahu could be an X-factor. Haasenritter is Kamehameha’s most dynamic playmaker and running back Bryce Furuli overcame an early season injury and has notched five rushing touchdowns, but Anahu was responsible for the only offensive score Oct. 6, hauling in a 67-yard pass from Like.
The Warriors like to isolate Anahu on a linebacker and have Like either hand off or toss the ball to his tight end based on the defense – it’s a mismatch waiting to happen – but Anahu said the Wildcats were ready for him last time.
“The conditions kind of stopped that and there was also a defender down on me trying to jam me on the line,” he said. “The play is meant for me to go to the middle, not the outside.
“I’m going to try and be more disciplined this time, because I didn’t play as disciplined as I should have played.”
Amid the confusion of last week – who would play, who wouldn’t – the Warriors treated the preparation period as they would during most off weeks. The Warriors didn’t put all their focus on the Wildcats until this week.
“It’s coming to an end,” Anahu said. “This is my last season playing high school football, so I’m just trying to make it count to make it last. Hopefully, for a couple more weeks.”
5-2 BIIF, 5-2 overall
The highest scoring offense in the BIIF belonged to Kamehameha, despite having forfeited the final game of the season. The Warriors eclipsed 50 points twice and averaged just under 40 points per game in six league contests.
After allowing 49 points to Kealakehe in the second week of the season, Kamehameha changed up its defensive scheme, which proved to be a difference maker. The Warriors allowed just over 10 points per game from that point on.
Players to watch
On offense, Kilohana Haasenritter: As electric as any player on the island, the Wildcats will be sure to take note where the junior is lined up on every play. Konawaena’s defense bottled up Haasenritter in the first meeting, but he found the end zone on a pick-six.
On defense, Wilde Germano: The Warriors want to win the battle in the trenches, allowing the disruptive Germano and his fellow linebackers to clean up and make plays.
History on the line
The Warriors are gunning for their sixth D-II title in school history and first since 2014.