It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Waiakea’s homecoming, but Kealakehe came in with an agenda and monopolized the football field.
Everything pretty much rolled the Waveriders’ way in a 43-0 BIIF Division I victory over the Warriors on Saturday at Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium.
Elijah Kahele rushed for 239 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in one half of work in a must-win game for the Waveriders (3-2 BIIF, 4-2 overall), who next host Konawaena (4-1, 4-2) in a rematch.
Sheynen Nahale stretched the field and went 14 of 19 for 109 yards with an interception.
He completed 4 of 5 on the game’s opening eight-play, 57-yard scoring drive, capped by Kahale’s 23-yard run. Nahale connected on his first three passes, getting the ball out quickly in Kealakehe’s uptempo, spread offense.
For the last six years, Hilo has won the BIIF championship, beating Kealakehe all but one time, a frustrating saga for a program that once captured seven titles from 2004 to 2012.
With Konawaena jumping up to Division I, the Waveriders no longer have that automatic entry in the title game. They have to fight for it, and Waiakea stood in the way toward their forward progress.
The Waveriders have already lost on the road to Hilo, 51-21, and to Konawaena, 24-7. The Wildcats have won the last six games, outscoring the Waveriders 219-71.
For the first half, Kealakehe tried to have a balanced run-pass ratio. The visitors ran 23 times and passed 17 times.
“We wanted to stay balanced,” Kealakehe coach Wyatt Nahale said. “Those are the things we’re working on to be better in the second round.”
Besides being unpredictable, the Waveriders also want to snap the ball quickly, hoping to catch a defense not in the right alignment. But they’re mindful to move the chains, pick up first downs and win the time of possession battle. Three-and-outs and a tired defense are the negatives to an uptempo attack.
Kealakehe’s offensive line, behind a mix of zone and man blocking, opened holes for the running game, which finished with 306 yards on 40 carries, for a 7.7-yard average. The O-line also didn’t give up any sacks.
The defense held Waiakea (0-5, 0-6) to negative seven yards on 16 attempts, piled up four sacks and forced four turnovers.
“We played aggressive and swarmed to the ball,” Nahale said. “We’ve worked on our tackling and I liked our overall team defense.”
The Waveriders stopped the run, pressured the quarterback (Waiakea’s Justin Nakamoto-Baltzar was 7 of 23 for 49 yards and three picks) and forced turnovers. Even better, the defense scored twice: Mikah Ascino had a 48-yard pick-six, and Caden Ishikawa-Young scored on a 30-yard fumble return.
Kealakehe will have its homecoming against Konawaena. That’s a good source of motivation as any for the Waveriders to break their skid.
“Nobody likes to lose on homecoming,” said Nahale, who’s hoping his defense can play fast and aggressive and swarm to the ball against the Wildcats.
Raymond Skillern added 49 yards on 10 carries, and Hunter Wehrsig had seven receptions for 51 yards, catching everything thrown his way. But it’s Kahale, a 5-foot-7, 149-pound junior, who opens the offense.
He’s slippery, fast and persistent. In the second quarter, he scored on a 45-yard run, but it was wiped out due to a penalty. Two plays later, he scored on a 31-yard run.
“He keeps defenses off-balanced, and he helps our passing,” Nahale said.
Nahale said the Waveriders weren’t able to scout the Hilo-Konawaena game on Friday. But that’s OK. Kealakehe already knows what’s coming.
He knows the defense has to pressure Konawaena quarterback Kainoa “Boo” Jones, get stops and force turnovers. They need junior tackle Hailama Anakalea, who had a sack and applied consistent pressure in Waiakea’s back field, to make life uncomfortable for Jones.
Besides the long winless drought against the Wildcats, the Waveriders have one extra edge. It’s homecoming, and as Nahale said, no one likes to lose on homecoming.
Kealakehe 14 22 7 0 — 43
Waiakea 0 0 0 0 — 0
Kealakehe — Elijah Kahele 23 run (kick failed)
Kealakehe — Mikah Ascino 48 interception return (Makana Wagner pass from Sheynen-Wyatt Nahale)
Kealakehe — Kahele 35 run (Raymond Skillern run)
Kealakehe —Caden Ishikawa-Young 30 fumble return (Kenan Kaeo-Nakashima kick)
Kealakehe — Skillern 1 run (Kaeo-Nakashima)