By KEVIN JAKAHI
Stephens Media Hawaii
KEAAU — Konawaena's youth didn't matter much against a far more experienced Kamehameha football team on Friday night.
Behind several big-play touchdowns in the second half, the Wildcats pummeled the Warriors 37-3 in an early Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II showdown at Paiea Stadium.
Kona quarterback Brandon Howes, the Warriors backup last season, threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another. He completed 9 of 24 passes for 235 yards, but was far more efficient as a runner.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior rushed for 101 yards, including a 53-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, to offer the two-time defending champion Wildcats (2-1 overall, 1-0 BIIF Division II) a dual threat.
However, he had a few mistakes, but none all that costly. Howes tossed two picks and fumbled twice.
The Warriors (1-2, 0-1) won the turnover battle (two giveaways to Kona's five turnovers), but it didn't help much. They only got a 25-yard field goal from Logan Uyetake in the third quarter, when the Wildcats forgot to touch the ball on a kickoff.
Kamehameha recovered in the red zone at the 11-yard line, but the offense couldn't move the ball. Actually, the home team picked up positive yards, but only when Ina Teofilo, who finished with 181 yards on 22 carries, touched the ball.
Three times in the second half, the Warriors played a press defense, bringing everybody in the box, no more than five yards from the line of scrimmage.
Three times, the Wildcats scored, all in a row: a simple swing pass from Howes to Bubba Ellis-Noa for 88 yards, followed by Ellis-Noa's 59-yard run, and then a 53-yard run by Howes, who faked a handoff, found no resistance on the perimeter and padded the cushion to 30-3.
Ellis-Noa was another two-way threat. He caught two passes for 91 yards, and rushed six times for 81 yards.
Kamehameha's scoreboard isn't working. It will be inoperable for the entire season. Something is wrong with the electrical parts.
The Warriors are hoping that their passing game isn't in the same boat. Junior QB Micah Kanehailua was 5 of 20 for 45 yards and one interception, overthrowing open receivers four times, including twice when receivers had nothing but a picture of the end zone in front of them.
The Wildcats played a press defense, too, but settled their safety back in the second half. Against the defensive press for each side, Kona simply made plays; Kamehameha did not.
Their offenses looked like mirror images. Kamehameha has a pistol set, Kona a spread. (The QB in the pistol is about 3 for 4 yards from the center.) Both defenses emphasized pressure. The similarities don't end there.
In the last meeting for the BIIF Division II title a year ago, which included a convoluted 14-point differential for the Warriors to become champs, Kamehameha couldn’t stop Kona running back John Kamoku.
Despite having a bull’s-eye on his back, he still bowled over anyone in his path, and finished with 231 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, sparking a 32-28 win and securing the Wildcats’ second straight BIIF championship.
In the last two meetings, running backs flourished. Teofilo couldn't be stopped, at least in the first half, with his 152 yards on 19 attempts. A year ago, Kamoku was the same way.
But he’s gone, off to Ventura (Calif.) College, graduated in the 2013 class with 25 other teammates, turning Kona into a different-looking team, one filled with youth and inexperience with only three returning starters: lineman Makoa Chapa, linebacker Evyn Yamaguchi and wideout/corner Chase Takaki.
Maybe youth and inexperience don't make a dime of difference, when the defense doesn't allow a touchdown, and the offense finds a way to make big plays.
Chapa shed blocks and finished with 18 tackles. Yamaguchi didn't need to drop into pass coverage, filled running lanes and recorded 11 tackles. They were mostly responsible for holding Teofilo to 29 yards on 13 carries in the second half.
The Warriors are on the opposite end of the pool with veterans soaked in big-game experience, and 11 returning starters, including two offensive weapons in Kanehailua and senior running back Teofilo.
Both put up pretty decent numbers in the BIIF championship last season. Teofilo ran for 122 yards on 23 carries, but fumbled twice. Kanehailua was 13 of 21 for 256 yards and three touchdowns, but had four interceptions.
Kamehameha’s offensive duo aren’t the only shining stars. Rangy cornerback Kaua Aganus landed on the All-BIIF Division II first team, as well as lineman Timmy Burke. Both are seasoned seniors.
Aganus ran down Howes in the first half, when he bolted for a 52-yard run, and stripped the ball. Kamehameha recovered the ball, but couldn't score — a broken-record theme for most of the night.
Kona 3 7 13 14—37
Kamehameha 0 0 3 0—3
Kona —FG 46 John Replogle, 9:27
Kona — 33 pass from Brandon Howes to Kevin Medeiros (Replogle kick), 5:43
Kam — FG 25 Logan Uyetake, 9:34
Kona — 88 pass from Howes to Bubba Ellis-Noa (Replogle kick), 5:56
Kona — 59 run Ellis-Noa (kick failed), 3:27
Kona —53 run Howes (Replogle kick), 9:37
Kona — 7 run Makoa Chapa (Replogle kick), 6:48