Ask Konawaena football coach Cliff Walters about Hilo’s size on the line, and he’ll shake his head.
“They’re bigger than UH’s line this year,” Walters said. “They average something like 325 to 350 pounds. When we play them, it’s going to be like the giants from the midway versus the little guys from the mountains. We average about 180 pounds across the line.”
The Vikings, under new coach David Baldwin, will host the Wildcats in a nonconference game tonight at Wong Stadium. Junior varsity action starts at 5 p.m., with the varsity to follow.
The teams also met in nonconference play last year, with Konawaena beating Hilo 20-6 at Julian Yates Field.
Last Saturday, the Vikings (1-0) rallied to beat Hawaii Prep 21-18 in Waimea while Konawaena (1-1) defeated Maui 38-17 at home.
“I have tons of respect for Dave (Baldwin),” said Walters, in his second year at Konawaena after a successful stint at Kealakehe. “He’s a great coach, has lots of knowledge, and he’s a motivator. He’ll get the most out of his kids, and eventually Hilo is going to be a contender. It may or may not happen this year, but it’s going to happen, and they’ll give Kealakehe a challenge.”
Walters scouted the Vikings during the first half of their win over HPA in Waimea.
“Hilo is so large, so big up front,” the Wildcats coach said. “They manhandled Hawaii Prep on the line. From tackle to tackle, they’re so strong. For us to compete with them, we’re going to have to pass the ball and go around them.
“I know Dave likes to pass the ball, but we’re going to have to try to stop their stuff up the middle. They can control the line to run, and that means they can go either inside or outside. But my first concern is those linemen up front. We’re going to have to do a really good job to contain them.”
Walters said Hilo’s offense is dangerous.
“They start the little quarterback (Donovan Kelley) with the other quarterback (Drew Kell) out with an injury,” Walters said. “Kelley can run and pass the ball. He’s a nice runner, someone we’ve got to keep an eye on. Kell is a top quarterback, one of the better ones in the league. When they get him back, they’ll be even more dangerous.
“Hilo has some good receivers, too, plus I’m impressed with their running back (Aven Kualii) who had a big game against Hawaii Prep.”
Kelley, a 5-foot-7, 165-pound junior, passed for two touchdowns, completing 3 of 6 attempts and keeping the Viking offense in an attack mode. He threw a 30-yard scoring pass to senior Kamu Patnaude and a 38-yard TD pass to sophomore Faa Fuiava. Hilo’s other TD came on a bullish 2-yard run by senior William “Spike” Boyd.
Kualii, a 5-6 150-pound Viking junior, ran for a game-high 117 yards in the win.
“He’s a good runner,” Walters said. “He’s got good moves and speed.”
Kell, a 6-2, 175-pound junior, sat out last week’s game against Hawaii Prep with a finger injury. He’s not expected to play tonight but could return for the Vikings’ Big Island Interscholastic Federation opener on Sept. 7 vs. Keaau at Wong Stadium.
“I know Dave will have a good game plan for us,” Walters said. “We’ve just got to do a good job with their line, and we’ll have to double team that No. 52 because he’s a special player. We won’t be able to handle him one on one. He’s a one-man wrecking crew.”
Donovan “Makana” Josue, a 6-0, 250-pound junior linebacker, wears Hilo’s No. 52. Walters describes him as “a Division I prospect.”
Konawaena will look to pass against the Vikings.
“Normally, we like to pass 60 percent of the time and run 40 percent of the time,” the Wildcats coach said. “But against Hilo, we’ll rely more on the pass.”
Walters calls Lii Karratti, a 5-10, 175-pound junior, “one of the best I’ve had in my 35 years of coaching.”
“He’s an excellent quarterback,” the Konawaena coach said. “He delivers the ball on target all the time and can throw a rope 60 yards. This year, he’s making better decisions. In our first two games, he has over 500 yards passing, and he’s also got some great wheels.”
Karratti’s top targets are Dominic Morris, a quick 5-8, 155-pound senior wide receiver, and Kenan Gaspar, a 5-10, 175-pound senior wide receiver.
Last year, the versatile Morris — a first-team All-BIIF selection in football and baseball — was second in the state in touchdown receptions with eight. Both Morris and Gaspar have excellent hands, good speed and can dance past defenders once they catch the ball.
Koa Basque, a 5-8, 145-pound sophomore, is Konawaena’s leading rusher.
“He’s got good feet and runs with his eyes open — he has good vision,” Walters said.
Mikey Rabara, a 5-11, 175-pound senior linebacker, anchors the gritty Wildcats’ defense.
“It’s going to be an interesting game against Hilo,” Walters said. “They know what we’re going to do, and we know what they’re going to do. It should be a really good game.”
Hilo will wear black uniforms this season under Baldwin.
“We’re not changing our colors,” Vikings Athletic Director Sondra Lundvick said. “The football uniforms will be black, but the numbers will be gold and outlined with royal blue.
“The school colors remain blue and gold.”
The Vikings’ new uniforms have not arrived from the mainland, and the team will wear replacement black uniforms against Konawaena.
Hilo is expected to have the new-look uniforms for its opener against Keaau.