It’s not a large crowd, but it’s a presence, nevertheless.
On any given weekday between August and November, fans park on Waianuenue Avenue to catch a glimpse of Hilo High football practices.
This season, not only are the spectators witnessing the inner workings of a machine, but considering the Vikings’ historic levels of BIIF points production on both sides of the ball, the competition undefeated Hilo faces on its practice field might be its toughest all season.
The Vikings’ No. 1 offense vs. their No. 1 defense?
Now that’d be something to watch.
“I think we both have our days when one does better than the other,” Hilo senior defensive lineman Joshua Niro said after a 45-7 victory against Konawaena in a regular-season finale at Wong Stadium. “The main thing is we just push each other to be better and be the best for each other we can be.”
A pair of BIIF championship dress rehearsals in Week 10 went as expected. The Vikings beat the Wildcats for the second time this season, while Kamehameha pulled off a similar feat against Hawaii Prep at Paiea Stadium.
The Wildcats and Ka Makani hit the road again hoping the third time is a charm:
Division I championship
Konawaena (8-2) at Hilo (10-0), 7 p.m. Saturday
Despite being outscored 88-7 in two losses this season to the Vikings, the Wildcats’ defense has largely played well and kept Konawaena within striking distance in the first half. Special teams were fine as well last week, coming up with two turnovers.
It’s the offense that’s been a problem child. Taking on a Vikings’ defense that’s allowing an absurd 3.4 points a game, the Wildcats went backward as often as they went forward last week, needing a late 79-yard touchdown strike from Kainoa “Boo” Jones to Kaden Baptista to ensure they finished in positive yardage and avoided a second consecutive shutout.
Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto and his Hilo counterpart, Kaeo Drummondo, are each sticklers for execution.
“They are really good, a legit top-five team in the state,” Uemoto said. “It goes without saying, if we can’t execute, it’s a big problem.
“I can’t go out and play this thing for them. I try to scheme and devise a plan as best as I can, but it’s going to come down to execution.”
The Wildcats dressed 28 players last week, but Uemeto thought number would be 30-plus on Saturday.
It’s all hands on deck against a Vikings team that has outscored it competition 569-34 – both numbers are believed to be all-time BIIF-bests.
“We’re well aware that Kona is a very capable opponent with good athletes and we haven’t gone into our preparation this week taking anything for granted,” Drummondo said.
If anything, six-time defending champion Hilo appears to be getting stronger as the season has gone on. Kyan Miyasato hasn’t thrown an interception since his third pick of the season came in Sept. 20 win at Konawaena, and he has 37 touchdown passes.
If Kilohana Haasenritter was easing himself into the offensive flow early in the season, he’s coming on strong of late with three touchdown receptions in each of the last two games.
“From what we saw on film we’d like to clean up unforced errors, and I think we lost the turnover battle 3-2 (last week) so that’s one important area we’d definitely like to shore up,” Drummondo said. “I think we still have a handful of missed assignments here and there that you’d always like to see executed better.”
Division II championship
Hawaii Prep (6-2) at Kamehameha (8-0), 7 p.m. Friday
The Warriors have been the presumptive favorite ever since the BIIF realigned last offseason, putting six teams in D-I and and five in D-II.
Perhaps predictably, Kamehameha has navigated an especially uneven season – except when its faced HPA.
In Kamehameha’s 12 games, including nonconference, nine have gone to a running clock because of the mercy rule, six wins and three losses. Of the three outliers, one was a 29-0 win at Kohala and the other two came against Ka Makani.
Still, the Warriors have controlled both games, including a mistake-prone effort last week in which they won 35-11, outgaining HPA 396-90 and intercepting quarterback Umi Kealoha three times.
In league play, a Kamehameha defensive spearheaded by Wilde Germano has allowed just three touchdowns, though Kealoha accounted for two of them in a 34-12 loss Sept. 14 in Waimea.
Both first-year coaches are trying to make a mark.
Kaluka Maiava has already engineered a turnaround as Ka Makani seek their first BIIF title since 2009.
A repeat for the Warriors and Shaun Perry has been the expectation all along.