The upset started at chapel.
Hawaii Prep has a tradition where the team meets and the captains speak, and quarterback Koa Ellis said Bobby Lum set the tone heading into its game against Kealakehe.
“He told us that Kealakehe hadn’t lost (in a while), but that doesn’t mean we can’t win,” Ellis said. “That’s Bobby Lum. He’s a leader out there. Offense and defense; off the field and on.”
It’s easy to have faith in Lum, a senior who went out and scored three touchdowns Saturday night while spearheading Ka Makani’s defense as HPA handed the Waveriders their first Big Island Interscholastic Federation regular-season home football loss, 34-21, in six years.
Or maybe the upset started at practice.
Ellis wasn’t making excuses, but he missed preparation time heading into Ka Makani’s game Aug. 31 against Hilo.
The junior was off in the passing game and the Vikings manhandled HPA during the second half for an 18-10 victory in Waimea.
“Hilo game, they were crushing us,” Ellis said Saturday night at Waverider Stadium. “We had no heart in the Hilo game, but we worked on it. We just had heart in this game.”
The offensive line had its will bent against the Vikings, but senior left tackle Keenan Greenbaum said his unit focused on conditioning and went back to basics during the week.
The coaches’ message: Forget last week, just keep on firing out.
“They were trying to show us that we could get punched in the mouth and come back and bounce back,” said Greenbaum, a co-captain. “Against Hilo, we didn’t show that.
“The coaches made us mentally stronger and gave us belief and hope.”
With sophomore Nahe Grace making his first start at left guard, the line gave Ellis enough time to pass for 191 yards and two touchdowns — he was sacked once — while Lum churned out 91 yards and scored twice on the ground.
Both Ellis and Lum credited the scout team for keeping the regulars crisp during the week.
“We have a lot of young people who don’t play, but they come to practice and work hard, too,” Ellis said. “This was a team win.”
Said Lum: “The underclassmen keep us on point.”
Of course, it’s possible that HPA’s win wasn’t an upset.
After all, the three-time defending Division I champion Waveriders are trying to replace 22 seniors and looked vulnerable at times during a Week 1 victory at Keaau.
Running behind an offensive line that is considered one of the Waveriders’ strengths, evasive sophomore Riggs Kurashige gashed HPA for 186 yards.
But Ka Makani sacked junior quarterback Kaimi Wilson five times and forced four turnovers.
Lum made four tackles for loss at linebacker.
“We know Kealakehe is a big physical team,” HPA coach Jordan Hayslip said. “They’re a great football team. We were doing whatever we could to move the ball.”
Upset or not, the BIIF landscape looks different as teams jockey for seeding ahead of the league semifinals in mid-October.
Hayslip said it would be a stretch to say that HPA saved its season, but Ka Makani (3-1, 1-1 BIIF Division II) certainly got back on track.
On Friday, they’ll visit Waiakea (2-2, 1-1) — a team they shut out at home 34-0 in the preseason — and the following week Konawaena (3-1, 2-0 Division II) comes calling to Waimea.
“Hopefully we can just get back to work and still be humble,” Greenbaum said. “Keep doing what we’re doing. Condition hard. Just technique, technique, technique.”
The only other undefeated team after two weeks is the Vikings (3-1, 2-0 Division I). Kealakehe (1-2, 1-1 Division I) hosts Kamehameha-Hawaii (2-2, 1-1 Division II) this Saturday, and the Waveriders and Vikings will hook up Sept 28 in Hilo.