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Chalk Talk with Paps: Konawaena and Kealakehe headline BIIF rivalry week

Updated: 
October 9, 2014 - 5:30am

Throw out records and divisions, and put the friendships on hold for a few hours. It’s rivalry week in West Hawaii as Konawaena hosts Kealakehe under the Friday night lights.

The Wildcats (4-2 BIIF, 5-2 overall) come in hoping to rebound from a 39-7 road loss against reigning Division I champion Hilo.

Kealakehe (3-3, 3-4) is riding high, having breezed by winless Keaau 65-0 on homecoming night to break out of a three-game skid.

Both teams are gunning to close out the season with a big rivalry win and take the momentum into the playoffs, which start Oct. 17.

Here is what to watch for in the matchup.

Konawaena in focus

The 39-7 margin in last week’s loss is not indicative of the job Konawaena’s defense did against a Hilo offense that was averaging nearly 40 points per BIIF contest entering the matchup.

The Wildcats held Vikings quarterback Sione Atuekaho to less than 100 yards passing and only five completions, but three of those were for touchdowns. Reigning BIIF Division I Offensive Player of the Year Tristin Spikes was bottled up for just 48 yards rushing and the defense held Hilo to just 76 total yards on the ground.

Tate “Baba” Hing leads the team with 46 tackles this season. Five of those came against Hilo. Hing and Kalalena Santiago also had interceptions.

While the Wildcats get a good grade on defense, the bottom line is that the unit couldn’t prevent Hilo from putting up points. Much of this can be accounted to five costly turnovers — four interceptions, one fumble — that gave Hilo a short field to work with.

On top of the turnovers, the offense managed a season-low 138 yards — 39 passing and 99 rushing. A large chunk of those yards came on a 54-yard Cameron Howes scramble in the third quarter.

Senior QB Shelton Grace missed the past two games with an injury. Howes has played in his absence, and relied a little more on his athletic ability than his arm. Last week, Howes was 8 of 25 for 39 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

After its season-opening loss to Kamehameha, the offensive unit has been able to dictate the pace of games during a four-game winning streak with a consistent running game, and picking its spots with the passing game. Going down 21 points in the first quarter against the Vikings did not allow the Wildcats to have that balance.

Kealakehe brings to the table the league’s second best defense, which has held opponents to a single touchdown or less four times this season, including holding Hilo without an offensive score.

The key for Konawaena will be to have the offense flowing and in sync. The running game will hinge on junior back Algene Kelekolio, who had 26 yards on 12 carries last week. Bubba Ellis-Noa and Howes are multiuse players, but the offense will have to find creative ways to get the ball in their hands.

Kealakehe in focus

After losing three in a row, Kealakehe got back on track against winless Keaau with a lopsided 65-0 win — 51 of those coming in the first half.

Junior Markus Degrate continued his evolution at quarterback and capitalized on momentum from a breakout game against Waiakea, turning in his best performance of the year against Keaau.

In one half of action against the Cougars, Degrate was 10 of 16 for 124 yards and one touchdown, and also added big plays with his legs, adding another score on the ground and leading the Waveriders in rushing with 73 yards.

Kobe Antolin has emerged as a game changer for Kealakehe in the backfield, demonstrating elite power, vision and balance when running the ball. He can also contribute as a pass catcher.

Antolin showed the ability last year as a sophomore, even starting a few games, but did not have the confidence he is running with in 2014. Antolin had four touchdowns against Keaau, and all of the scores came after contact.

He had the majority of carries in the win, but Tuitahi Faleofa-Taumoefolau and Ini Paio — who missed last week’s game with an injury — bring running back depth. Keoki Meyers — one of Kealakehe’s hardest hitters from his safety spot on defense — also saw time on offense last week, carrying and catching the ball. He could be a wild card for the Waveriders going forward.

Riggs Kurashige has been the team’s most consistent weapon, contributing both running and catching the ball, but has settled down in the slot with the emergence of Antolin. Kurashige has had a nose for the end zone this season, and the team will likely use the speedy junior on a variety of outside runs, where he can pick up yards in a hurry.

The defense was gashed for 200-plus rushing yards against Waiakea, so coordinator Steve Cox has to dial up a similar defensive plan that stifled the Hilo running game. The players will have to bring the execution and effort.

The defense is a little banged up, but returning first-team All-BIIF defensive end Joseph Kaopua has held down the D-line. He had three sacks against Keaau.

The Waveriders’ linebackers will face the test of filling the holes and stalling the Konawaena running game.

Shutting down the Konawaena running game will be key, but Kealakehe cannot forget about the Wildcats’ quick wide outs, who can take advantage of a defender being even a step behind.

Kealakehe X-factor: Markus Degrate

Offensive coordinator Shawn Akana and the coaching staff have to be given credit for developing Degrate and letting the first-year player progress.

Early in the season, Degrate didn’t have a lot of protection and made some mistakes, but he came back stronger and wiser from those experiences. Every week he is gaining more experience and understanding, taking in the coaching and continuing to improve.

Against Keaau, Degrate operated with poise and consistency, not forcing bad throws and progressing through his reads. This week, a matchup against the Wildcats’ secondary and Luca Vartic and Kaneala Kaaihue will provide a much tougher test.

If Degrate continues showing improvement passing, his dual-threat ability will become even more effective and give Kealakehe a tremendous weapon under center.

Konawaena X-factor: Cameron Howes

Howes has scored a touchdown in every facet of the game — passing, rushing, on defense and returning kicks. The multitalented junior also kicks the field goals for the Wildcats.

Before playing in the last two games at quarterback in relief of Grace, Howes was moved around on offense and could provide big plays in a variety of ways.

If Grace is back, it will let Konawaena have more flexibility with how Howes is used, and keep a stingy Kealakehe defense off-balance. If not, Howes will have to find a way to be efficient passing the ball — getting it out to top weapons Bubba Ellis-Noa and Kevin Medieros — and capitalizing when running lanes open up.

Matchup to watch: Kealakehe’s resurgent run game vs. Konawaena’s swarming defense

The Waveriders have made an attempt to stay balanced this year, but the team’s strength is running the ball with it’s big offensive line and backs who can accelerate through holes.

Kealakehe’s offense operated nearly flawlessly against Keaau, but the winless Cougars have rarely put up a fight on defense this year, being outscored 316-46 this season. The Waveriders rushed for six touchdowns in the win.

This week, Konawaena’s swarming defense is going to provide a much stiffer test. The linebackers like to blitz, and Hing, Torin Tuppein and Kevin Medeiros have made quarterbacks uncomfortable all year with quick pressure. And the Wildcats’ defensive backs are not scared to get up near the line of scrimmage and make tackles.

If Kealakehe gets its running game going, it can open up things like play action passes off of the team’s most successful runs. If the Wildcats manage to stuff Kealakehe, it could lead to a familiar frustration for the Waveriders.

Hilo at Waiakea

• Friday, after 5 p.m. JV

The Vikings’ defense has been dominant this year, allowing just over a touchdown per game.

The defense forced five turnovers last week in a rout of Konawaena, and the offense turned the majority of those into quick points. Hilo linebacker Ofa Fahiua continued to add to his lengthy resume for BIIF Defensive Player of the Year with a pick six.

After two solid outings against Kamehameha and Kealakehe, Waiakea faltered against HPA. The Warriors got behind early and were forced to chase with a less than efficient passing game.

The Vikings have already locked up home field through the playoffs but have a chance to record a second consecutive undefeated BIIF season.

Kamehameha at Keaau

• Saturday, 3 p.m., no JV

The Warriors rebounded after a surprising loss against HPA with a 55-7 trouncing of Honokaa. Quarterback Micah Kanehailua was 10 of 14 for 214 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He threw a single pass in the second half.

Keaau has struggled mightily this season but has continued to show up and fight every week. Against Kealakehe, quarterback Justin Quesada provided a few big plays for Keaau, but he was not able to get the Cougars into the end zone.

Kamehameha is hoping to lock up the No. 1 seed in Division II. It would be a monumental upset if the Cougars rose up to knock off their crosstown rival.

HPA at Honokaa

• Saturday, 7 p.m.

Ka Makani had their most complete performance against visiting Waiakea last week. The offense found a steady rhythm, and the defense smothered the Warriors’ running game.

Koa Ellis finished the game 13 of 21 for 154 yards and three scores. Nicky Palleschi and Justin Perry each had a touchdown grab, and the duo combined for 107 yards receiving.

Honokaa has progressed by leaps and bounds since last year’s winless campaign, but the team has struggled to put a full game together against its higher quality opponents.

If the Dragons hope to have a chance, quarterback Nainoa Falk will have to play efficiently. Last week, the junior was just 4 of 22 for 89 yards with a touchdown and pick.

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