HONOKAA — For the past three football seasons, there was always next year for Honokaa’s Justen Kawamoto.
Not this fall.
So thoughts of a football career ending by November crept in this mind, and Kawamoto decided he wanted to go out with a bang. So far so good.
Kawamoto intercepted three passes, returning one of them for a touchdown, and rushed for another score as host Honokaa defeated Waiakea 26-12 Saturday in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation nonconference football game.
Honokaa (1-1), which jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead, forced a total of five turnovers in the game, with senior Damien Kaluhimoku also intercepting a pass and senior Makalii Perreira recovering a fumble.
“I feel that every day is the last day playing football,’’ Kawamoto said. “If I give it 110 percent, I have no regrets.’’
On the first of his three picks, Kawamoto stepped in front of a Kayed Rodrigues pass and weaved his way down the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown. Kaluhimoku’s 2-point conversion run made it 8-0 with 5 minutes, 42 seconds remaining.
Kawamoto returned his second interception 31 yards to the Waiakea 24, setting up a five-play scoring drive Caleb Pacheco capped with a 3-yard touchdown run just as time expired in the first quarter.
Elrey Tupe forced Rodrigues out of the pocket on the junior quarterback’s third interception, and Kawamoto picked off a pass just before he stepped out of bounds at the Dragons’ 33-yard line.
Then Honokaa had its most effective drive, marching 55 yards in eight plays as junior quarterback Makani Ibanez hit Kaluhimoku-Dela Cruz in the flat for a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 20-0 lead.
Honokaa’s offense fared well on the ground, rushing for 143 yards on 23 carries.
Kawamoto ran for 43 yards on 11 carries, while Pacheco added 36 yards on nine rushes.
Thanks in large part to Honokaa’s takeaways, Waiakea managed just 54 yards of offense in the first half.
“They executed (on defense), and they made it count,’’ Warriors coach Fred Lau said.
Waiakea (1-2) entered the game without workhorse running back Devin Preston, who was suspended for a game after officials ruled he led with his helmet while making a tackle in the team’s last contest.
Waiakea fared better on the ground in the second half, with Lono Leasure-Lucas finishing with 47 yards on eight carries.
“The running backs ran a little more north-south (in the second half),’’ Lau said.
Waiakea 0 0 0 12 — 12
Honokaa 14 6 0 6 — 26
Hon — Justen Kawamoto 37 interception return (Damien Kaluhimoku-Dela Cruz run), 5:42
Hon — Caleb Pacheco 3 run (kick failed), 0:00
Hon — Kaluhimoku-Dela Cruz 12 pass from Makana Ibanez (kick failed), 2:36
Hon — Kawamoto 8 run (pass failed), 11:54
Wai — Lono Leasure-Lucas 18 run (kick blocked), 10:41
Wai — Dayton Kiko 11 pass from Kayed Rodrigues (pass failed), 7:48
c Iolani 44, Hawaii Prep 6: Iolani’s Reece Foy went 5-for-5 for 71 yards and a touchdown to lead his team to a rout of Hawaii Prep.
Ka Makani (0-2) managed only 45 yards of offense in the first half.
Follow Joe Ferraro on Twitter @jf_hawaiisports