KEALAKEKUA – It may have been the first game of the season for both teams, but Friday night’s contest between the Konawaena Wildcats and the visiting Vikings of Hilo felt more like a heavyweight fight, with both sides trading punches throughout the night.
In the end, it was Konawaena that ultimately delivered the knockout blow in overtime. After a defensive stand on fourth-and-goal kept Hilo off the scoreboard on the first possession of overtime, Wildcat kicker Ro’o Satta-Ellis drilled a 32-yard field goal to snap Hilo’s 23-game BIIF winning streak, 24-21.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Satta-Ellis of watching the game-winning kick sail through the uprights. “I was kind of like, ‘Is this a dream? Am I somewhere else right now?’”
The seven-time defending BIIF champion Vikings landed some hard punches of their own. After Konawaena took a 7-0 lead on a Keoki Alani pass to Kamaehu Makanui in the first quarter, Hilo took control in the second quarter.
Vikings defensive back Damien Kai snagged three interceptions in the quarter. The second led to Hilo’s first score of the game, a 13-yard run by BrennenJon Alcos, to even the score at 7 apiece.
The third quarter saw both sides trade scores – a 75-yard rainbow from Kimo Ibanez Jr. to Kaumualii Harman for Hilo, and a 15-yard strike from Alani to Isaac Clement for Konawaena – to make it an even 14-14 game heading into the fourth.
In the fourth, Hilo went for a knockout blow in regulation. After going up 21-14 on Ibanez Jr.’s second touchdown pass of the night – this one a 41-yarder to Alcos – the Vikings faked a punt inside their own 20 with just over 6 minutes remaining. The fake failed, giving the Wildcats new life.
“In our football program, our word is persevere. We always talk about that word; to persevere,” said Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto. “We’re rusty; we’re going to make mistakes. It was just about how we’re going to bounce back from them and persevere from momentum shifts, big plays, turnovers. I thought our kids did a great job.”
Alani struck for his third touchdown pass of the night with 1:45 to play, finding Kawelu Kaiawe to even up the game at 21, setting up overtime if Konawaena’s defense could get a stop on the ensuing Hilo possession.
The Wildcats did exactly that, with Kaikoa Kelii, Maui Ellis-Noa and Chray Flanary combining for a sack on third down to force the extra period, allowing for the game-winner from Satta-Ellis.
“It was a program win,” Uemoto said. “We lost to Hilo three times the last season we had. We felt like we had a good team coming back last year that got canceled.
“Before the game, I was receiving text messages from those seniors that lost that year. I told the kids back behind the locker room before we walked down, we’re also playing for that group. It was a game that they never got the chance to play. We had that in mind for them as well, to play for them.”