Honokaa dominated the battle in the trenches, ran to its heart’s delight and watched its defense and special teams suffocate Waiakea, a youthful squad still in the stages of a rebuild.
The Dragons don’t have their triple-option offense down to a science just yet but still did enough to power past the Warriors 39-0 in a BIIF Division I game Saturday at Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium.
Richard Reinbolt rushed for 84 yards on 19 carries to lead Honokaa’s ground attack, which produced 256 yards on a healthy 4.3-yard average.
The 6-0, 225-pound junior is a bruising runner, who lowered his shoulders and bulldozed his ways for yards after contract, scoring on an 8-yard run in the third quarter.
The lopsided play-calling (60 runs to 10 passes) was by strategic design. Honokaa coach Fred Lau wanted to win time of possession, too. His team won that department by a landslide.
“We know we can run and move the ball. We have to maintain out blocks,” said Lau, delighted with the win but still looking for ways to improve. “The reason we had so many runs is we didn’t’ want to give up the ball and prevent turnovers.”
While Reinbolt ran between the tackles, slotbacks Kalaijah Salazar (50 yards, nine carries) and Micah Hanohano (60 yards, four attempts) found running room on the edges because of solid blocking from the wideouts.
Senior Kaialii Nakamoto, in his second year playing quarterback, was an effective dual-threat. He ran for 34 yards on 10 carries and went 5 of 10 for 45 yards, throwing two picks.
“We played pretty good,” he said. “We came out firing. The whole game we wanted to go hard. That should be our mindset. We played hard to the end. Everybody did their jobs and their assignments.
“I’m getting more comfortable in the offense. It’s a work-in-progress.”
The Dragons also won the turnover battle with three to Waiakea’s four giveaways.
Honokaa’s best takeaway came in the fourth quarter on kickoff coverage, something the Dragons focus on at practice. Diesel Martinez had a karate-chop strip, and teammate Elijah Mundon was in the right place at the right time to recover the fumble.
Two plays later, Hanohano scored his second touchdown on a 21-yard perimeter run to close the scoring.
The game actually started on a good note for the Warriors, who received the opening kickoff.
On the second play of the game, Justin Nakamoto-Baltzar (no relation to Honokaa’s Nakamoto), ran for 14 yards on an RPO (run-pass option). Waiakea punted three plays later then things turned sour.
Honokaa meticulously ran down the field (nine straight plays on the ground) to Waiakea’s 5-yard line. On fourth-and-5, Honokaa threw incomplete.
But a yellow flag flew on the field. Pass interference on Waiakea, new life for the Dragons. On the next play, Nakamoto scored on a 3-yard run.
In the second quarter, Kamaha’o Ka’ilipaka intercepted Honokaa’s Nakamoto, and Waiakea took over at Honokaa’s 17. On third-and-10, Waiakea’s Nakamoto-Baltzar threw a touchdown pass. (Tyler Brown had Waiakea’s other pick.)
But a yellow flag negated that score. Waiakea got stuffed on a run, and the Dragons scored six plays later on Salazar’s 30-yard scamper.
The Dragons had a fantastic day on defense, holding Waiakea’s ground game to 12 yards on 24 attempts and producing four sacks. Trey Gomes, Warren Tabucbuc, Mana O’Neil, and Jason Ponausuia each got a sack. Tabucbuc had a nose for the ball all day. He also had a fumble recovery.
In the secondary, Jahsaiah Yoshizumi drew the assignment of covering Waiakea’s top threat, Ka’ilipaka, who’s 5-10, athletic and fast. He was held to two receptions for 15 yards. Yoshizumi also caught two balls for 20 yards.
In the second half, Nakamoto-Baltzar was lost to a hand injury and Vance Kamau filled in. Nakamoto-Baltzar ran for 16 yards on 10 carries and went 3 of 14 for 42 yards and two picks.
Waiakea coach Neil Azevedo pointed out the obvious concerning his team’s issues.
“We have to rebuild,” he said “We have to move the ball more consistently on offense. Our defense was out on the field a lot. They got tired. We have to build and build and have a positive attitude.”
Of Honokaa’s six scoring drives, five started on Waiakea’s side of the field. The Dragons consistently won field position battles. The Dragons’ first scoring march started at their 32.
The Dragons special teams coverage didn’t let the Warriors break any long runs on kickoffs or punts. Outside of Ka’ilipaka red-zone interception, Waiakea usually had a long field to navigate.
For the most part, Honokaa’s secondary played terrific assignment football. Whenever a Waiakea pass was fired, there were Dragons close to the ball.
Honokaa gave up only one explosive pass play (20 yards or more). In the first quarter, Matt McBraun got open in the middle of the field, and Nakamoto-Baltazar hit him for a 27-yard pass.
But outside of that, Honokaa collapsed the pocket on pass plays, clogged the running lanes and shut down any aerial attacks.
After Reinbolt’s third-quarter TD, the Dragons closed with three scores in final 12 minutes.
Nakamoto scored on a 3-yard run, Hanohano ran in for 13 yards on a brilliant counter. The Dragons were lined up on the right hash, put a man in motion on the short side, and Salazar ran the other way for a 33-0 cushion.
On the kickoff, Martinez forced a turnover, and Hanohano scored two plays later on the same play design from 21 yards out.
That had Lau happy and smiling.
“We’re working really hard on our running game,” he said. “We’ve got a big fullback, a heady QB, and three scatbacks who can run.”
There was a moment of silence for former Honokaa coach Bobby Embernate, who recently passed away.
“When I first starting coaching, he was a player, so he was like a son,” Lau said. “Then when he started coaching, he was like a brother. We were two peas in a pod. We were football fanatics. I’ll miss him dearly.”
Honokaa 7 6 8 18 — 39
Waiakea 0 0 0 0 — 0
Hon — Kaialii Nakamoto 3 run (Kaneala Hiilei kick)
Hon — Kalaijah Salazar 30 run (kick no good)
Hon — Richard Reinbolt 8 run (Nakamoto run)
Hon — Nakamoto 3 run (kick no good)
Hon — Micah Hanohano 13 run (kick no good)
Hon — Hanohano 21 run (kick no good)