Konawaena head coach Cliff Walters admits the defending BIIF Division II champions are a young and undersized team, but also knows his team is ready to adapt on the fly, stare larger opponents in the face and get better every week of the season.
Today, the Wildcats kick off the season against Maui Interscholastic League opponent, Maui High School.
“It’s one of the most difficult things you can ask a group of young players to do,” Walters said. “To touchdown and then be on a field hours later is a tremendous challenge.”
There are not too many familiar faces in the Wildcats huddle. The only offensive holdover from the team’s division II championship roster is wide receiver Chase Takaki.
Throwing the ball to Takaki will be Kamehameha-Hawaii transfer Brandon Howes. Howes split reps last year at quarterback for the Warriors.
“We are still in the spread and want to pass the ball,” said Walters of his new-look offense. “We have some really good running backs we are going to depend on too.”
One of those running backs the Wildcats will be relying on is senior second-team All-BIIF selection Dishon Cho, who saw some time at slot last year.
At 5 foot 6 inches and weighing 135 pounds, Cho is undersized but will be forced to see a heavier workload than expected because of a number of academically ineligible or injured players.
Cho will be running behind a rookie offensive line which boasts a few freshmen.
Senior Eyvan Yamaguchi and All-BIIF defensive tackle Makoa Chapa will hold down the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats.
“It’s going to be a fire drill, no doubt about it,” Walters said. “Younger guys need to know they can play with older, more experienced teams — that is what the exhibition season is all about. You go out and play against teams and find out who you are.”
Maui started its preseason schedule last week with a thoroughly dominating 51-0 victory over first-year ILH Division II opponent, Saint Francis.
Sabers head coach David Bui called the game “the most complete game” under his tenure.
Despite being the first game of the season, Maui looked to be in midseason form. The Sabers tallied four safeties and three defensive touchdowns. Couple that with an offensive unit that didn’t miss a stride — totaling 224 yards of offense in the first half — and the Wildcats have a huge challenge ahead of them.
“They are primarily a big running team,” Walters said. “ They give the ball to a 230-pound fullback and also have a real fast little tailback. They use a two-tight end set and are lined up to run at you with their big o-line.”
Konawaena and Maui kick-off at 7 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.
In other preseason action, HPA hosts Waimea (Kauai) at 2 p.m.
Running back Bobby Lum rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns last week in Ka Makani’s 34-0 win against Waiakea.
Waimea pounded Anuenue Na Koa 42-0 in its first week of action. Destin Miguel led the way for the Menehune, rushing for three touchdowns and breaking off multiple runs over 20 yards.