KEAAU – Not only were large portions of Konawaena’s 36-0 victory against Keaau not up to snuff in coach Brad Uemoto’s eyes, they were downright sloppy and undisciplined. He wasn’t going to let it rest until after the weekend.
The BIIF Division I football teams sang their respective alma maters Friday night, then the Wildcats supporters’ went to the bottom of the stands at the Cougars’ stadium and waited to greet the players when Konawaena’s postgame meeting ended.
And they waited.
And they waited a little more.
In the meantime, Uemoto had something to get off his chest.
“Usually it’s 30 seconds,” Uemoto said of the postgame wrap. “I’m just disappointed with our group. No disrespect to Keaau. I think our potential and our goals, they’re high.”
A disjointed offensive effort for the Wildcats (3-1, 3-0 BIIF) was buoyed by two defensive touchdowns and another via special teams, but Konawaena couldn’t get out of its own way at times, committing 16 penalties. The Wildcats looked like they may go without an offensive touchdown until Kaden Baptiste’s catch-and-run produced a 96-yard scoring play late in the third quarter.
“I mean it was everything, in all those phases it was lack of discipline,” Uemoto said, “and postgame we talked about discipline and we talked about challenging these kids to become better and sharper.”
With rampant downpours and a “trashed field” in Kealakekua, Uemoto said Konawaena had an uneven week of practice.
“We kind of took this week off, but that’s what happens,” said senior Samson Iona, who helped spearhead a stout defensive effort and scored a touchdown after the opening series when he scooped up a punt blocked by Elisha Martin. “We didn’t try. We thought we had it down. Our potential is way up here, and we’re still working on it.”
It wasn’t the type of BIIF performance Uemoto had in mind when he put powerhouse Mission Viejo (Calif.) on the schedule. The Diablos beat the Wildcats 38-14 on Aug. 23 in Kealakekua, but the loss was supposed to raise Konawaena’s level of play.
“I guess a lot of it is on me, but we’ve been complacent since the Mission Viejo game,” Uemoto said. “We’ve seen a caliber of football that we’ve never seen before, and then we just sort of hover back down to our level of opponent and just sort of hang out and play that level of football.”
Still, Konawaena is dealing with first-world problems compared to its BIIF D-I brethren not named Hilo High.
The Wildcats’ defense stifled the Cougars (1-2), holding them to just 61 yards of offense when 17 negative running plays were figured in, and it collected four turnovers, including pick-sixes by Joseph Roback and Marc Basa.
The devil is in the details – a favorite Konawaena talking point – according to Baptista.
“Details count,” he said. “It’s all the little things. If you get the little things down, big things will happen.”
Quarterback Kainoa “Boo” Jones shrugged off two interceptions and threw for 298 yards – 223 in the second half — and two scoring tosses to Baptista, finishing 17 of 30. Basa hauled in seven catches, though his biggest contribution came when he stepped in front of a Bryant Mercado-Respicio and waltzed into the end zone midway through the third quarter to put Konawaena ahead 22-0.
Freshman running back Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio gained 52 yards on just eight carries and caught four passes.
Keaau threatened to make it a one-score game at halftime when Mercado-Respicio (7 of 22, three interceptions) rushed for three yards on fourth down to give the Cougars a first-and-goal at the 5. A touchdown was called back by a holding penalty and Konawaena stiffened, with Iona recovering a fumble on fourth down.
“We stopped some pretty good drives, some plays shouldn’t have happened,” Iona said. “Their QB draw as a big play for them.
“We just have to be more disciplined and take everything serious. Just being the Konawaena football team that we have to be.”
Keaau’s other scoring threat was snuffed out by a James Kapela interception at the Wildcats’ 4, and on the next play Baptista collected a short pass from Jones, picked up a few good blocks and used a nifty stutter step inside the Keaau 20 to juke a defender to make in 29-0.
“We just have to work harder and stick to the grind,” Baptista said of the practice week ahead.
The Wildcats welcome Waiakea for homecoming Friday, then looming on the horizon is the first of two showdowns against the Vikings, this one in Kealakekua.
“We have to progressively get better to get to the level of Hilo,” Uemoto said. “We need to get to the level of efficient they are playing at in all three phases”
Konawaena 13 0 16 7 – 36
Keaau 0 0 0 0 –0
Konawaena – Samson Iona 22 punt return (run failed)
Konawaena – Joseph Roback 61 interception return (Roback kick)
Konawaena – Safety, punt snap goes out of end zone
Konawaena – Marc Basa 22 interception return (Roback kick)
Konawaena – Kaden Baptista 96 pass from Kainoa “Boo” Jones (Roback kick)
Konawaena – Kaden Baptista 8 pass from Jones (Roback kick)