HILO — Waiakea running back Devin Preston put up big numbers on the ground, and Keaau quarterback Keha Wong countered with huge chunks of yards through the air in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation football season opener that was far from fundamentally sound, but just so much fun.
Both teams turned the ball over four times, but the Warriors prevailed over the Cougars 31-27 on Saturday at Wong Stadium, relying on running production from Preston, who rushed for four touchdowns, including three off turnovers.
“We finally played as a team,” Preston said. “We pulled through, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the team. We had some simple mistakes, but we can work through that.
“I got most of my yards up the middle. Our team is good at power running.”
The 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound running back compiled monster numbers: 224 yards on 21 carries, including touchdown runs of 19, 1, 11 and 81 yards. That was needed because the Warriors had a tough time stopping or simply containing Wong.
He completed 19 of 30 passes for 312 yards, and he fired four scoring strikes and one interception, needing one last touchdown on the game’s final drive. On fourth-and-7 from the Keaau 19, he was sacked by Suwaiter Poch, and Waiakea drained the clock on the ensuing position.
Under a hot sun, nice blue sky and gentle breeze, the first half was filled with lots of fun for the 1,500 or so fans and nothing but frustration for the coaches on both sidelines.
The overriding theme was make a mistake and pay through the nose. Each team scored on the other’s mistakes. The Cougars (0-3 overall, 0-1 BIIF) scored on two blown pass coverages. The Warriors (2-2, 1-0) capitalized on a pair of turnovers for scores.
On the game’s opening drive, Wong scrambled to his right and threw a lovely 49-yard rainbow to Jonathan Segovia on third-and-about-a-mile. No Warrior was within shouting distance of Segovia, who easily trotted into the end zone.
Late in the first quarter, the Cougars coughed up the first of their two costly turnovers on a fumble. Three plays into the second quarter, Waiakea quarterback Kean Wong scored on a 1-yard keeper.
Keaau got bit by the fumble bug, again, on the next series, and three short plays later Preston rushed in for a 19-yard score. Wong, who kicks the PATs, booted the ball high but short. Still, Waiakea grabbed a 13-7 lead.
The series of scoring fun continued when the Cougars eventually worked the ball to midfield, going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Warrior 49-yard line. Talon Ota raced down the sideline and must have put on invisible paint because no one noticed him.
Keaau’s Wong fired another pretty 49-yard touchdown pass to a second wide-open receiver for a scoring strike. Ota converted his kick, and the home team took a 14-13 lead with 6:34 remaining.
Waiakea’s Wong threw two long passes — 40 yards to Ian McKee and 19 yards to Dayton Kiko — to set up a golden scoring opportunity at the 4-yard line. But on the first play, the Warriors fumbled, their third turnover of the first half.
The Hawaii baseball commit ran an efficient zone-read option out of several formations. He was 2-for-2 for 59 yards in passing, and he ran for 92 yards on 14 carries.
Bridging the third and fourth quarters, Preston scored on three straight possessions, rushing for TDs of 1, 11 and 81 yards, the last a run designed up the middle that he sprung outside before going untouched down the left sideline, staking Waiakea to a 31-14 cushion.
“I talked to my line and told them the sideline was open,” Preston said. “I could hear the line cheering me down the sideline, and that gave me an extra boost. The line has improved a lot since the start of the season.”
But Keaau’s Wong rallied his team with his scrambling and accuracy, escaping out of trouble on the next series and rifling a 23-yard touchdown pass to Segovia, who caught four passes for 114 yards.
The Warriors committed their fourth turnover on the kickoff return, fumbling the ball. The Cougars capitalized five plays later when Wong threw a 10-yard TD strike to Makana Fraser. But Ota’s PAT attempt bounced off the crossbar, making it 31-27 with 5:16 left.
Keaau’s defense made a costly illegal procedure penalty on third-and-1 from midfield, giving Waiakea a first down. That milked valuable time off the clock. Three plays later, a punt pinned the Cougs on their 16-yard line.
Taz Preston, a senior and older brother of Devon Preston, sacked Wong on third down. Poch got his sack and Waiakea ran out the clock.
Waiakea 0 13 12 6 — 31 Keaau 7 7 0 13 — 27
Kea — Jonathan Segovia 49 pass from Keha Wong (Talon Ota kick), 9:31 Second quarter Wai — Kean Wong 1 run (Wong kick), 11:06 Wai — Devon Preston 19 run (kick failed), 9:03 Kea — Ota 49 pass from Wong (Ota kick), 6:34 Third quarter Wai — Preston 1 run (kick failed), 4:59 Wai — Preston 11 run (pass failed), 6.2 Fourth quarter Wai — Preston 81 run (run failed), 8:58 Kea — Segovia 23 catch from Wong (Ota kick), 7:56 Kea — Makana Fraser 10 catch from Wong (kick failed), 5:16