Honokaa coach Bobby Embernate holds on to the belief that his Dragons can recapture that magical Big Island Interscholastic Federation season of 2009, when the school won its first football championship in 35 years.
Last Friday, he put in a tape of Honokaa’s 37-14 victory over Kealakehe for the 2009 BIIF title at Waverider Stadium.
It was good motivation, but didn’t help when the Dragons fell to the Waveriders 67-0 later that night at their home field, falling to 0-5 overall and 0-4 in the league.
Kamehameha (3-3, 2-2) visits Honokaa at 7 p.m. today in Week 5. The four-team BIIF playoffs for both divisions will be held Oct. 18 and 19.
Besides turnovers — Honokaa had eight and six were converted into touchdowns — the Dragons suffered from a lack of depth against the deeper, more physical Waveriders.
Honokaa running back/safety Sione Epenesa is still on the mend from a concussion and so is senior two-way lineman Kalani Benanua. Wayne Vaoga, a running back/defensive end, was held out of the Kealakehe game with an arm injury.
“I showed them the video of that championship,” Embernate said an hour before the game, while watching his Dragons warm up. “Compared to this year’s team, that championship team didn’t have size. But it didn’t matter. It’s all about heart.
“This year’s team is bigger, but we’re really young. All the guys on my line are new, except for No. 50 (Kamaehu Richards). But he’s only a junior this year. We got another guy, Jeron Ramos, going both ways this year. We’re really young and starting from ground zero again.”
The Dragons graduated 11 seniors who received All-BIIF recognition last year. Vaoga landed on the second team at defensive line, and Ramos was honorable mention at D-line.
Epenesa, Vaoga and Richards are juniors, providing Honokaa with experience for next year. Quarterback Nainoa Falk is another young building block. He’s only a sophomore.
“We’re pretty much looking at the future. That’s my thing,” Embernate said. “We’ve got to get into the weight room, get bigger and faster. We got No. 75 (Hans Sommerhoff) from Montana. He’s got size (6 feet 2 and 240 pounds). He’ll be all right next year. There’s nothing like size.
“I like that they play to the end. If we get blown out, they’re all there at practice. Usually when a team gets blown out, players call in sick or have homework and don’t come practice. I like their commitment. You have to give them that.”
Konawaena at Waiakea, 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats are not only playing an exciting brand of big-play football, but also marking off the important items on their checklist to extend their unbeaten winning streak in the league.
For example, they don’t let the other team’s best player beat them. That’s priority No. 2 for coach Cliff Walters, behind not losing the turnover battle. In their 22-21 win over HPA, Kona held bruising running back Bobby Lum to 92 yards on 25 carries, and, even better, forced him to fumble three times — in the fourth quarter.
If there was a BIIF Offensive Player of the Week honor, it might have gone to Wildcats receiver Chase Takaki, who hauled in touchdown receptions of 15 and 89 yards from quarterback Brandon Howes. Takaki had five catches for 154 yards.
There is a BIIF Division II Offensive Player of the Year and Howes is cementing his spot for that honor. Team-wise, he’s unbeaten in the league. As an individual star, the senior dual-threat quarterback was 8 of 24 for 192 yards, rushed for 86 yards, and produced three touchdowns against HPA.
His teammate, defensive lineman Makoa Chapa, is the front-runner for the BIIF Division II Defensive Player of the Year. He landed on the All-BIIF first team last year.
The mythical BIIF Special Teams Player of the Week honor goes to John Replogle, who kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired for the Wildcats. The runner-up would be Kealakehe’s Keoni Yates, who booted a 42-yard field goal into the wind in a 67-0 win over Honokaa.
The BIIF Defensive Player of the Week likely would have gone to Waiakea teammates Shane Picanco and Keala Fong for their touchdowns in a 13-7 win over Keaau. Picanco scored on a 93-yard fumble return in the first quarter, and Fong recovered a fumble in the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Editor’s note: Previews of Saturday’s games will run in Saturday’s edition.