KEAAU – Hawaii Prep’s Justin Lina jumped in front of a Pahoa pass and returned it for a touchdown like he knew it was coming.
Lina scored four touchdowns, including three on the ground Thursday night, and Ka Makani’s seniors doubled their BIIF career win total by quickly spoiling mistake-prone Pahoa’s return to 11-man with a 51-14 victory in the Division II season-opener at Keaau High.
“We we’re watching film all week, we were preparing for this,” Lina said. “I saw them run that pass play in film and I just jumped it.”
Ka Makani have worked so hard the past month-plus, first-year coach Kaluka Maiava said, that they earned the day off and a three-day weekend.
“Coming from college and pros, hard work is rewarded,” said Maiava, who played in college at USC and in the NFL with the Browns and Raiders. “So they win like that they get the day off. So Aloha Friday, no work until Monday.”
Maiava inherited a team that went 1-7 last season and hadn’t won a BIIF contest since early in the 2017 season at Waiakea. Ka Makani went winless in 2016. Merely winning, however, isn’t the only matter on Maiava’s agenda this season.
“Trying to dominate everyone we play, that’s what we’re here for,” he said. “We practice all week long, we’re here to score points and reap the benefits of hard work.
“We’re always pursuing perfection. It’s not realistic, but we’re always pursuing perfection.”
Actually, right out of he gates, perfection did seem attainable.
It’s a positive sign when you’re kicking off for the fourth time and the game isn’t even 5 minutes old.
The Daggers looked uncomfortable playing their first 11-man game since 2001, turning the ball over on their first three possessions and five times in all in the first half. HPA turned each one into a touchdown, including pick-sixes by Lina and Jaysen Bragado.
“Now we know what we have to work on,” said Daggers coach Chris Midel, who led the transition after five seasons at 8-man. “The blocking on the line wasn’t there.”
“It’s not the same as scrimmages.”
HPA can worry about sustaining drives and piling up yards the next time out.
It’s four scoring marches in the first half averaged just 23.5 yards, and Ka Makani needed only 184 total yards and two completed passes by Umi Kealoha to put up their highest point total since a 70-point onslaught against Ka’u in 2012.
Lina ran for 79 yards on eight carries, including touchdown runs 7, 17 yards and 20 yards.
“That’s a slow night for Lina,” Maiava said. “Just the raw talent that he has, when he really puts his mind to it, that guy is dangerous.”
“The league needs to watch out for him.”
Defending a wider field than what they’d become accustomed to since 2014, Pahoa had three more players on defense, but time and again the Daggers couldn’t keep contain on Lina and HPA’s running backs. Zachary Machold and Jordan Hanano also had touchdown runs.
“I just read my blocks and took what they gave me,“ Lina said.
Midel said the Daggers would be back in the film room Friday – the outcome was part of the process to making the leap to 11-man with a freshman-laden team.
“They were ready against the run,” Midel said. “We’ll just point out our mistakes and missed assignments.”
Duke Palma scored both of the Daggers’ touchdowns on catches, including a screen pass that he cut back and used his speed to turn into a 83-yard play. Quarterback Jayden Broad-Melander was 5 of 12 for 134 yards – 119 to to Palma – but Pahoa was held to 18 yards rushing.
It’d be too simple, HPA senior two-way lineman Kukila Lincoln said, to assume Ka Makani simply overpowered the Daggers.
“We were very well prepared, like Justin said, we’ve been watching film, the past few weeks, learning their blocks and plays and key players,” Lincoln said. “We came in prepared.”
Maiava made sure of it, drilling his players with technical know-how and building their confidence with hard, fast practices.
HPA dressed just 20 players, but its roster listed 27 and Ka Makani is hoping to gain reinforcements as more players get enough practices under their belts to become eligible.
“I feel like our team is young, short in numbers, but were dogs,” Lincoln said. “We’re not going to give up, (Kaluka) teaches us to not give up.
“We believe in each other and that’s all we need.”
Maiava made no bones about the fact he wanted his seniors to start to taste the success that had alluded them the past three years. But he also took time to herald one of his freshman, outside linebacker Jakob Honda.
“He had a really good night, it was his birthday and just a great debut,” Maiava said. “I really want to put a shout-out at him after yelling at him all week.”
Hawaii Prep 20 21 7 3 – 51
Pahoa 0 6 0 8– 14
HPA: Justin Lina 10 run (kick blocked)
HPA: Lina 42 interception return (Conor Hunt kick)
HPA: Zachary Machold 3 run (Hunt kick)
HPA: Lina 17 run (Hunt kick)
HPA: Jordan Hanano 2 run (Hunt kick)
HPA: Jaysen Bragado 34 interception return (Hunt kick)
Pahoa: Isaiah Palma 83 pass from Jayden Broad-Melander (run failed)
HPA: Lina 20 run (Hunt kick)
Pahoa: Isaiah Palma 33 pass from Broad-Melander (Keanu Muck pass from Broad-Melander)
HPA: FG Hunt 27