Seth Fukushima doesn’t throw, run or catch the football, but he was an offensive star for Hilo, which didn’t look too far off from last season’s championship form.
The junior left tackle had, perhaps, the toughest assignment on Saturday night, blocking Hawaii Prep’s Nicky Palleschi, a potential Division I college recruit, one-on-one with no help.
Palleschi, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior, also plays tight end/wide receiver, but his future at the next level figures to be on defense because he’s got a ferocious pass rush and a frame that could add a lot more bulk.
Fukushima was sometimes pushed backward, but the 5-10, 260-pound junior kept his balance and hands anchored on Palleschi, who moved around and also faced Hilo senior right tackle Kacey Hall.
Palleschi recorded no sacks, tackles for loss or any solo tackles, a quiet night going against Fukushima, who played on the junior varsity last year, for the most part, and Hall, an all-league honorable mention pick.
Behind that fundamentally sound line play, Hilo walloped turnover-prone HPA 45-15 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation season-opener for both schools at Wong Stadium, scoring four touchdowns off giveaways.
“We had to focus on Nicky because he’s their key defensive player. We had to shut him down in order for our offense to score,” Fukushima said. “I had to suck it up to play against him. I had to stay low and keep my leverage against him. We tried to get the ball away from him. He’s a big playmaker on defense.”
The young Division II Ka Makani (0-1 BIIF, 1-2) dearly miss running back Bobby Lum (now at Southern Oregon), who racked up 1,244 yards last season.
The visitors from Waimea rushed for just 80 yards on 30 carries. Alex Brost led the way with 33 yards on eight attempts while Caleb Kagawa had 33 yards on nine carries.
Like Palleschi, Fukushima is also a two-way player and starts at defensive end. The tough-nosed Viking had one of his defense’s two sacks; HPA had no sacks.
“That was the first sack of the season, so you’ve got to celebrate,” Fukushima said. “The main thing was keeping contain on the perimeter then the linebackers would take care of the rest.”
HPA couldn’t find a ground attack, but Koa Ellis went 16 for 25 for 156 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Division I Vikings (1-0, 2-0) took advantage of Palleschi’s aggressive rushes from the perimeter, cutting their ball-carriers inside when he overran a play.
Tristin Spikes showed why he was the BIIF Division I co-offensive player of the year last season. He zipped around defenders for 94 yards on 15 attempts. In mop-up time, Isaac Lerma added 53 yards on five carries for Hilo, which ran for 181 yards on 31 attempts.
“Tristin is a beast and he helps us out so much,” Fukushima said. “He’s a naturally good athlete. He pounds the ball, and has a lot of heart, too.”
Vikings senior quarterback Sione Atuekaho didn’t connect frequently, but he made his completions count. He was 6 of 14 for 97 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers. Atuekaho rushed for nine yards on three carries, scoring on a 9-yard run and accounting for four TDs.
The home team had zero turnovers while HPA had five and got scored on each time off a free gift.
In the first quarter, Ka Makani fumbled, and six plays later Spikes scored on a 30-yard run when Palleschi got into the backfield, but the senior running back shot through the other gap.
Atuekaho scored his 9-yard run in the second quarter after Dallas Mata picked off Ellis for a 14-0 lead.
Then Ellis escaped from a potential sack and threw a 5-yard scoring strike to Palleschi, but after that HPA fumbled two consecutive times on kickoff returns, and the Vikings scored in each instance.
After Atuekaho fired a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cohlby Espaniola for a 21-7 lead, HPA fumbled the kickoff return. Two plays later, Espaniola scored again when he beat double coverage on a 15-yard corner route.
Then to the shock of the traveling Ka Makani fans, there was another fumble with 11 seconds until halftime. On the first play from scrimmage, someone forgot to cover Spikes, who took a swing pass from Atuekaho and stormed to the end zone from 29 yards out for a 35-7 cushion.
In the third quarter, Haili Mahoe picked off Ellis at the 1-yard line and bolted down the sideline for a 99-yard pick-six and a 42-7 lead.
After HPA fumbled again for its fifth turnover, Rayce Takayesu booted a 36-yard field goal five plays later.
With no time showing on the clock, Ellis threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Palleschi, who had 13 catches for 117 yards.
HPA 0 7 0 8 — 15
Hilo 7 28 10 0 — 45
Hilo — Tristin Spikes 30 run (Rayce Takayesu kick), 3:00
Hilo — Sione Atuekaho 9 run (Takayesu kick), 9:45
HPA — Nicky Palleschi 5 pass from Koa Ellis (Alex Brost kick), 1:56
Hilo — Cohlby Espaniola 13 pass from Atuekaho (Takayesu kick), :38
Hilo — Espaniola 15 pass from Atuekaho (Takayesu kick), :18
Hilo — Spikes 29 pass from Atuekaho (Takayesu kick), 0:00
Hilo — Haili Mahoe 99 interception (Takayesu kick), 6:39
Hilo — FG 36 Takayesu, 1:19
HPA — Safety (QB tackled in end zone), 2:34
HPA — Palleschi 25 pass from Ellis, 0:00