KAILUA-KONA — Kealakehe is hoping a trip to Pearl City will prove to be a valuable experience as a new era of Waverider football gets underway.
First-year Kealakehe head coach Wyatt Nahale and his squad are island-hopping for their first action of the season against the Chargers of the OIA. Kickoff for the non-league matchup is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday on Oahu tonight.
“It’s an exciting up here. The team has been working really hard in the offseason and have been putting in some good reps. The atmosphere has been great,” Nahale said. “We are looking forward to the bonding experience of this trip. We are trying to get them to think and work as a family.”
The Waveriders hosted Pearl City last year, winning convincingly 33-20 while racking up more than 400 yards of total offense.
“We have been trying to take what we can from that film last season and what they did at the end of the season, but really, there’s not too much info,” Nahale said, noting the changes from year to year in high school football. “We’ll see how things go and will make the adjustments where we have to.
“Being that it’s a new system for us, I’m just looking for us to execute. That’s a big thing for me, especially on offense. On defense, I want to see how well we do the little things — tackling, understanding our coverages. It’s a process for us to bring in something new and different, but we want to be able to review this film after the game and see some of the things we have been working on the last few weeks.”
There has been plenty of change around the Waverider program this offseason and it starts at the top with Nahale, who took over the program after spending the last four years as the head man for the JV squad at Konawaena. Previous to that, he spent some time coaching with the Leeward Steelers Pop Warner program. His full-time gig is as a community police officer with the Hawaii Police Department.
Nahale has been loving what he’s seen so far through the spring and summer workouts and is looking forward to seeing the product on the field in live game action.
“Coming in, I wasn’t too sure what the response would be. But it’s been really awesome,” Nahale said. “I can see the kids here feel energized. They have that hunger in their eyes, are working really hard and pushing each other. They are giving me everything they’ve got and so far it’s been really great to see.”
Some familar faces in new places also came with Nahale once he got the job.
Sophomore Sheynen Nahale, Wyatt’s son, will get the start at quarterback after transferring from Konawaena. He threw for 2,068 yards, 17 touchdowns and 24 interceptions as a freshman with the Wildcats last season, leading the BIIF with 372 passes attempted.
“It will be a great test for him,” Nahele said. “We’ll see what happens from there.”
One of Sheynen’s favorite targets at Konawaena, senior wide receiver Hunter Wehrsig, also swapped his Wildcat Green for Waverider Blue, giving the progrma a nice base to build on offensively. In the backfield, Kealakehe returns it’s thunder and lightning combo with Raymond Skillern and Elijah Kahele. Skillern was an All-BIIF honorable mention last season, while Kahele garnered first team honors.
Other Waveriders of note to keep track of in the opener will be California transfer Jesse Neza (DB/WR), Hailama Anakalea (OL/DL) and Zane Martin (S).
A player to watch on the Pearl City side is defensive lineman Brady Fa’auliuli. The 5-11, 250-pound senior plays a key role in the Chargers defense and was named to Cover 2’s Olin Kreutz award watch list as one of the best lineman in the state.