KAILUA-KONA – Elijah Kahele jogged to the Kealakehe sideline and engaged in a mini-touchdown dance before rolling to the ground and lying down on his back.
Quickly, a coach and then a teammate came over to fan him.
“I was tired,” Kahele said Friday night. “I was dead.”
Not to mention, he was on fire.
During a BIIF football season in which some teams have lit up the scoreboard at a dizzying pace – 40 points, 50 points, 60 and more – Kahele was the first player to score five touchdowns. The highlight was a kickoff return that the junior seemed to be on the verge of all game long as the Waveriders were always one or two steps ahead of Keaau, winning 55-29 at Waverider Stadium.
“I felt it coming, for sure,” Kahele said, “but it wouldn’t have happened without my blockers, my teammates, my support, my coaches. We all executed and it was nice.”
Hunter Wehrsig also brought a big-play component, coming through with the other three three scores for Kealakehe (2-2 BIIF Division I, 3-2 overall), a pick-six and touchdown catches from two different passers, one on a trick play.
But Kahele was the man of the hour in a game that dragged on through a few of them, running for 130 yards on 14 carries and finding the end zone four times.
“He’s starting to come around, starting to peak,” coach Wyatt Nahele said. “He looked like the dominating running back that we expect him to be. He can do special things, he’s a threat.”
Setting his team up with good field position in the return game, Kahele scored three times in the first half, and his 28-yard run in the third quarter was his largest gain from scrimmage, putting the Waveriders ahead 49-22.
“We knew that he brought it tonight,” Nahele said, “and we wanted to go ahead and ride that wave with him.”
Kealakehe won its second consecutive game in what was its delayed home opener, holding the Cougars (1-3 BIIF D-I) to just 95 yards on 33 running plays. There were enough mistakes – 13 penalties, a special teams breakdown and two turnovers leading to touchdowns for Keaau – that Nahele will be able to nit-pick next week in practice if he chooses.
He said he would.
“There are a lot of things we have to fix, expecially with blocking and tackling, simple things we need to tighten up,” Nahele said. “Execution would be the other big thing.”
Kealakehe scored on its first three possessions and the game looked headed toward a running first-half clock. However, after an interception, Keaau’s Shaden Abejon caught a deflected pass from Bryant Respicio-Mercado and scored on a 77-yard play.
Duncan Castro ran for 77 yards and a second-quarter score after the Cougars recovered a fumble.
It was 30-15 and nearing halftime when Kealakehe quarterback Sheynan-Wyatt Nahele threw a lateral to receiver Malachi Lehmann, who found a wide-open Wehrsig for a 6o-yard touchdown.
“We went over that play (Thursday),” said Wehrsig, who had four catches. “We noticed that when teams ran the bubble (screen), (the Cougars) were aggressive. No one was helping over the top, so that’s what made it so open.”
Sheynan-Wyatt Nahele connected on 9 of 15 passes for 111 yards, including a touchdown pass to Wehrsig, and the sophomore added 48 yards on the ground as the Waveriders almost reached 400 total.
Respicio-Mercado was 11 of 32 for 189 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Respicio-Mercado and Abejon hooked up for a 45-yard play, setting up Justin Kasai’s touchdown catch.
Masen Silva took a kickoff return back for Keaau, but the third-quarter momentum was short-lived.
Kahele veered to his left on his return before looping around to the right and outrunning his pursuit to the end zone.
Heading into a game at Waiakea to close out the first half of the season, the Waveriders have taken several positive steps since road losses to Konawaena and Hilo, but Kahele said, “The next step is to be the best.
“We want to be the best, but we have to work hard at everything. It will take everybody.”
Keaau 0 15 14 0 – 29
Kealakehe 22 15 18 –55
Kealakehe – Elijah Kahele 8 run (Kakei Robins kick)
Kealakehe – Kahele 3 run (Jesse Meza run)
Kealakehe – Hunter Wehrsig 8 pass from Sheynan-Wyatt Nahale (Robins kick)
Keaau – Shaden Abejon 77 pass from Bryant Respicio-Mercado (kick good)
Kealakehe – Kahele 8 run (run good)
Keaau – Duncan Castro 20 run (Respicio-Mercado run)
Kealakehe – Wehrsig 60 pass from Malachi Lehmann (Robins kick)
Kealakehe – Wehrsig 59 interception return (kick failed)
Keaau – Justin Kasai 15 pass from Respicio-Mercado (kick good)
Kealakehe – Kahele 28 run (kick blocked)
Keaau – Masen Silva 83 kickoff return (kick good)
Kealakehe – Kahele 81 kickoff return (kick failed), 3:52