HILO — Waiakea’s Pono Auwae tries to elude the spotlight. He’d much rather it shine on others, not him.
With the way he played Friday night, there was enough praise to go around for everybody.
Auwae ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a half, and the Warriors cruised past Keaau 33-8 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation regular-season football opener at Wong Stadium.
“My line is actually the ones that make me look good,” the 5-foot-4 junior said. “I’m pretty small. I don’t think (defenders) can see me.”
If the Cougars (0-1 BIIF Division I, 0-2) did, it was already too late.
Waiakea (1-0, 1-2) scored a touchdown on each of its four first-half possession, taking a 27-0 lead and giving coach Moku Pita a chance to rotate in other backs.
One week after committing five turnovers in a loss to Hawaii Prep, the Warriors were turnover-free and ran for 367 yards behind an offensive line that Auwae and Pita said is much improved.
“They did really, really good. I told them this week that the preseason is over and the starters are in, so get in the game,” Pita said.
Defensively, Waiakea sacked Keaau senior quarterback Richard Hatori-Kanakaole seven times.
The only touchdown that Auwae didn’t have a hand in was Byrce Felipe’s 49-yard scoring pass to Cody Cuba. Felipe, a senior, wasn’t busy, completing 2 of 5 for 60 yards as Waiakea ran the ball 41 times.
“Rushing is our thing,” Pita said.
The Cougars’ Justin Quesada atoned for a fumble deep in Waiakea territory with a 89-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The senior accounted for most of Keaau’s 195 rushing yards, finishing with 170 on 23 carries.
Auwae needed just 12 to do his damage, and then he watched from the sidelines as Safune Wilson (12 carries, 72 yards) and Joe Alvarez (15-70) got the bulk of the carries in the second half.
Joey Ongais’ 48-yard scamper set up a Tyler Kerr field goal.
“I don’t want to be the star,” Auwae said. “I want others to be the star.”
But the standout of the first half was clear.
After carrying the ball exclusively and scoring on a 10-yard run on the Warriors’ penalty-aided first possession, Auwae covered 73 of his team’s 88 yards on a second-quarter touchdown drive.
Ahead 20-0, the Warriors took over at their 26 with less than a minute left in the half but needed only a long penalty and two Auwae runs, that last one covering 33 yards, to reach the end zone.
Cougars coach Kalei Young saw his overmatched defensive line get pushed around by Waiakea in the trenches.
“What an offensive line. They played a hell of a game,” Young said. “We had a few assignment mix-ups and missed tackles, but I give Waiakea credit.”
Pita was pleasantly surprised to see Kerr convert both of his field goals, one from 31 yards, and three of his four extra points.
“We lost key games last year because of (missed kicks),” Pita said.
Still looking to iron out the kinks in the Cougars’ new double tight end system, Hatori-Kanakaole, a first-year quarterback, was 3 of 11 for 20 yards.
“I saw a lot of good things,” Young said. “Receivers were open, but we’re just at the tip of the iceberg with this offense.”
Keaau 0 0 0 8 — 8
Waiakea 6 21 3 3 — 33
Waiakea — Pono Auwae 10 run (kick failed), 6:31
Waiakea — Auwae 3 run (Tyler Kerr kick), 7:25
Waiakea — Cody Cuba 49 pass from Bryce Felipe (Kerr kick), 4:39
Waiakea — Auwae 33 run (Kerr kick), :11
Waiakea — FG Kerr 31, 9:10
Keaau — Justin Quesada 89 run (Tihoti Tadeo run), 9:57
Waiakea — FG Kerr 20, 5:40