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BIIF football playoffs: Wildcats stick to winning formula against HPA

Updated: 
October 26, 2014 - 1:30am

KEALAKEKUA — Konawaena ran away from HPA 49-14 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II semifinal matchup Friday night at Julian R. Yates Field, but the Wildcats — who are in search of a fourth consecutive D-II title — aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“We know we are not done yet,” Konawaena senior captain Bubba Ellis-Noa said. “This game is in the past now. We have to get to work and prepare for Kamehameha.”

That kind of championship poise and pedigree does not manifest overnight. It is something that has been building since head coach Cliff Walters took over the program in 2011. This senior group has not known anything but championships during their high school football careers at Konawaena.

“Our boys showed up to play,” Walters said. “I’ve been telling them all week that if the same team that played Kealakehe (two weeks ago) showed up to play these guys, we would be in the driver’s seat.”

Konawaena (7-2) goes on the road against Kamehameha (6-2) next Friday in the title game. It is the rematch the Wildcats have been waiting for since the Warriors marched into Kealakekua and handed the defending champs a humbling 20-6 loss in the BIIF opener Aug. 29.

What Konawaena demonstrated Friday night against HPA is that its is not the same team that lost to Kamehameha. Friday, the Wildcats executed what they had done well all season.

Konawaena got the ball into the hands of its playmakers, scoring on all of its first-half possessions, outside of an interception with less than a minute left in the half. The Wildcats’ first punt didn’t come until the final minute of the third quarter.

Konawaena QB Shelton Grace was an efficient 9 of 14 for 128 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Offensive sparkplug Cameron Howes had 100 total yards — 59 receiving, 21 passing, 20 rushing — and accounted for two touchdowns. Ellis-Noa, a two-way star, had four total touchdowns, three on offense and a 67-yard interception return on defense.

Ellis-Noa’s long pick-six came on HPA’s opening drive and changed the complexion of the game.

“I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” Ellis-Noa said with a smile. “I dropped back and heard someone say ‘in,’ so I floated over and it fell into my hands.”

Algene Kelekolio continues to be the surprise of the season for the Wildcats. The junior running back exploded for 168 yards and a score, and had a season-high 54-yard run.

“Algene has really come into his own this season and has developed into a great weapon for us,” Walters said of his running back, who has a team-high 760 yards on the ground this season.

But as good as the offense was, the Wildcats defense may have been better. The unit limited a potent HPA offense to 267 total yards, 140 of those and both touchdowns coming within the final minute of the first half.

HPA went deep into its playbook to move the ball before the break, with the team’s first big gain coming on a 37-yard hook-and-ladder play. Then, Koa Ellis put HPA on the board with a 28-yard strike on fourth down to an open Alex Brost over the middle.

Despite being up 35-7, Konawaena wanted to make up for the score before the half, opting for the long ball. HPA defensive back Noah Wise picked off Grace’s pass, and gave his team the ball at its 25-yard line with less than 20 seconds left.

Taking advantage of a rare, undisciplined play from the Konawaena secondary, Ellis hit Justin Perry in stride down the sideline for a 75-yard score as time expired.

“They got those two touchdowns before half and I was really upset about that,” Walters said. “I was proud of our boys and our defense played a very disciplined game outside of those two big plays.”

Ellis finished his final game as the signal-caller for HPA 17 of 31 for 222 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

HPA tight end Nicky Palleschi was again shadowed by Konawaena corner Luca Vartic. In the team’s regular-season matchup, Palleschi had 11 grabs for 79 yards and a touchdown. Friday, Palleschi grabbed seven balls for 56 yards, but Vartic put an exclamation point on his performance with a late interception.

HPA 0 14 0 0 — 14

Konawaena 20 15 7 7 — 49

First quarter

KONA — Bubba Ellis-Noa 5-yard run (Austin Ewing kick), 8:32

KONA — Ellis-Noa 67-yard interception return (Ewing kick), 4:20

KONA — Kayson Mahiai 21-yard reception from Cameron Howes (Kick failed), 1:09

Second quarter

KONA — Ellis-Noa 11-yard reception from Shelton Grace (Ewing kick), 9:00

KONA — Howes 1-yard run (Ellis-Noa pass to Mahiai), 3:16

HPA — Alex Brost 28-yard reception from Koa Ellis (Brost kick), :31

HPA — Justin Perry 75-yard reception from Ellis (Brost kick), :07

Third quarter

KONA — Algene Kelekolio 11-yard run (Ewing kick), 9:00

Fourth quarter

KONA — Ellis-Noa 6-yard run (Ewing kick), 9:04

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