BIIF football preview: Konawaena looks to continue mastery of Kealakehe

  • Kona’s Kamaehu Makanui goes up high for a pass during Saturday’s game hosted by Waiakea. Photo: Tim Wright

It’s been one of the hallmarks of Konawaena football ever since the program’s re-emergence 10 years ago: Alongside BIIF title game appearances and championships and HHSAA berths, wins against Kealakehe have come hand in hand.

Since the rivalry resumed in 2013, the Wildcats are 8-0 against their westside cohort, outscoring the Waveriders 259-78 in the process.

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Beyond fielding quality teams season after season, seventh-year Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto couldn’t pinpoint one reason for all of the resounding wins.

“That’s a tough one, but I think they usually have the bigger more physical teams, while we’re smaller and quicker,” he said. “As coaches, we’ve tried to play to our strengths and out-quick them and outmaneuver them.”

The teams will meet again at 6 p.m. today at Waverider Stadium in a BIIF Division I regular-season finale that will determine postseason positioning. Konawaena (3-0) can lock down home-field advantage in the playoffs if it can avoid its first loss to the Waveriders since 2010. Uemoto was an assistant that year, and he was retained as offensive coordinator in 2011 when Cliff Walters took over. Since then, the Wildcats have never failed to reach the BIIF title game.

If Kealakehe (2-1) wins today, there is a scenario where Konawaena and Kealakehe could rematch next week in the D-I semifinals. Victories by the Waveriders and Hilo tonight would set up a three-way tie for first place, and the BIIF would use point differential among the three teams as the first tiebreaker to determine the top seed, which will host Keaau (1-2) next Friday. Konawaena beat Hilo by three points in October, while the Vikings beat the Waveriders by nine points last week.

“They are so athletic, so we know we need to be able to stop their athletes,” Uemoto said of the Waveriders. “Good quarterback, good running back and good wide receivers, and we know their defense is equally as good.”

He’s had a profound impact on in the development of Kealakehe senior quarterback Sheynen-Wyatt Nahale, a four-year starter. Nahale played his freshman season with Konawaena, and Uemoto remembers him undergoing a baptism by fire during a game at state powerhouse Kahuku.

“He doesn’t get rattled,” Uemoto said. “He’s matured a lot, and I’m very proud of him.”

In other games:

Hilo at Keaau, 6 p.m. Friday: The Vikings got their defense going last week in the 21-12 win against Kealakehe. A Vikings’ victory would secure at least the second seed and a home game next Friday in the semifinals.

Honokaa (2-2 BIIF Division II) at Ka’u (0-3), 11 a.m. Saturday: The Dragons, who can lock down the third seed in the D-II semifinals with a win, have finally gotten their offense on track, and now the Trojans would like to do the same, having yet to score this season. Honokaa coach Fred Lau came away impressed with the Trojans’ defense last week in their loss at Kamehameha.

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Kohala (1-3) at Kamehameha (3-0), 5 p.m. Saturday: The Warriors are gearing up for their regular-season finale at Hawaii Prep (4-0), which will determine the top seed in the D-II playoffs.

However, they won’t want to look past a game Cowboys squad that challenged Ka Makani last week.