Hilo made it look so easy against Honokaa on Saturday night at Wong Stadium, almost as if the Vikings knew what was coming.
In a way, the Vikings did know what the Dragons would run, and the six-time BIIF Division I defending champion anticipated what running gaps and receiving routes to cover and made plays.
Hilo scored nine touchdowns, each in its own entertaining way, to smother Honokaa 66-0, taking a step forward in the process coach Kaeo Drummondo takes great care to cultivate.
“We improved in areas we always talk about, communicate better, to have more discipline and execute better,” he said. “Those are the three things we focus on and took a step forward. It doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says, we want to see an improvement on execution, and we took a step forward.”
That’s all good and nice. But here are something interesting stats: Honokaa was held to 10 rushing yards on 25 carries, and quarterback Kaialii Nakamoto went 3 of 8 for 29 yards and two interceptions.
Far too often, Hilo’s linebackers walked up near the line of scrimmage and plugged holes on running plays. The guys in the secondary played as if they read Honokaa’s playbook and knew where the ball was going.
All that wasn’t by accident.
“The biggest thing is this team is experienced,” Drummondo said. “For them, that’s the main thing. When we’re disciplined and have the ability to communicate and check our plays on alignment and assignment, we can play fast and physical. That’s when we play our best.”
Experience is invaluable but so is anticipation, the ability to see a play about to develop presnap, instead of post-snap and reacting to it.
A perfect example is Hilo freshman Ricky Mamone 60-yard touchdown interception in the fourth quarter.
The previous two plays, Nakamoto completed a pair of passes on wheel routes. Mamone knew what was coming, didn’t get beat deep and made a play. That’s what alignment (being in the right spot) and assignment (executing) are all about.
“That felt good as a freshman,” said Mamone, who also scored earlier on a third-quarter option run. “It’s great to be with all the Panaewa boys I grew up with. I love to play with them.
“I worked on that (23-yard TD run) with my dad. He’s the one who taught me to do that.”
His dad, Sergio Mamone, a coach of the Panaewa Alii Pop Warner team, also made sure playing both ways became second nature.
“I like how versatile he is,” Drummondo said. “When we put him in at quarterback, we expect him to be ready to run the zone-read system. That’s his strength.
“When we put him in at cornerback, Honokaa ran the wheel route and got over the top on us two times. He observed it and expected it and executed the play.”
Mamone came in at quarterback in the second half after a nearly flawless performance from starter Kyan Miyasato, who was 9 of 11 for 178 yards and three touchdowns.
Miyasato commanded the pocket well, made the right read and got of the ball quickly, throwing scoring strikes to Fiki Aguiar (15 yards), Kilohana Haasenritter (50 yards), and Kaimi Tiogangco (64 yards).
Haasenritter had a routine dual threat productive day. He caught two passes for 60 yards and had three rushes for 79 yards, including 35 yards on a fake punt.
Lyle Silva, listed as a sophomore linebacker, campaigned hard for a job change. He had three carries for 34 yards and scored a pair of TDs.
Hilo senior cornerback Elijah Apao got the scoring started in the first quarter when he picked up a fumble and scored on a 32-yard return.
He was on the 2017 HHSAA championship team with his brother Kaleo Apao, a dual-threat quarterback, who’s now in the Navy.
Apao, with more muscle, is much different version of the player who was a sophomore and made a momentum-shifting interception in a 35-18 win over Damien for the state championship.
That 2017 team’s success was built by sweat equity. Apao believes the latest version shares a lot of the same qualities.
“It starts in the weight room,” he said. “It’s executing and finishing our reps and even our conditioning helps. Coach makes us run every Tuesday and Thursday and that’s what has made our defense where it is today.
“That 2017 team started the legacy, and we’ve got to continue that legacy. We have that same talent and heart. We’ve got a lot of speed on both sides of the ball and a really good running back in Don Moody. Kilohana transferring to us is a big opportunity.”
That 2017 team was a run-based operation, behind Kahale Huddleston, who scored 35 touchdowns as a senior. The latest edition is a quick-strike aerial attack with game-breakers like Haasenritter, Aguiar, Guyson Ogata (43 yards, three catches) and Tiogangco.
When Damien sold out on the run against Huddleston, Kaleo Apao burned the Monarchs with QB option runs. It’s the same baseball concept two years later: Opponent expects a fastball, throw a changeup.
“We’ve got four speedy playmakers, and when someone overcompensates on one or two players, we’ll go to the other one or two,” Drummondo said. “We want to get the ball out in space to them, and let them to do their thing. They’re fast and elusive.”
The Vikings quietly go about their business and sometimes standouts fly under the radar, like senior corner Keola Balga, who had an interception in the first quarter.
“He’s played a bunch of good games,” Drummondo said. “He’s not flashy. Teams go opposite of Apao, and he’s held up. He’s got five interceptions on the year. That consistency has been good for us.”
Here’s a head’s up for Hilo opponents: The special teams are deadly too. In the third quarter, Haasenritter had a 35-yard run on a fake punt. In the fourth quarter, linebacker Kalen White blocked a punt and scored on a 31-yard fumble return. That’s hitting for the cycle: scoring TDs on offense, defense, and special teams.
It’s all in a week’s work for the Vikings, who next gear up for Konawaena, which is also 4-0 in BIIF play, representing Hilo’s biggest test to date.
Honokaa 0 0 0 0 — 0
Hilo 17 28 7 14 — 66
Hilo — Elijah Apao 32 fumble return (Keanu Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Fiki Aguiar 15 pass from Kyan Miyasato (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — FG 33 Keolanui
Hilo — Lyle Silva 28 run (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Silva 1 run (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Kilohana Haasenritter 50 pass from Miyasato (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Kaimi Tiogangco 64 pass from Miyasato (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Ricky Mamone 23 run (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Kalen White 31 fumble return (Keolanui kick)
Hilo — Mamone 60 interception return (Keolanui kick)