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Pop Warner Pee Wee football: Kaneohe defeats Leeward for regional title

November 12, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — After claiming the Big Island title last weekend, the Leeward Steelers entered Saturday’s Pee Wee Regional Championship game against Oahu’s Kaneohe Knights for a chance to represent Hawaii at the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida.

The Steelers are built for the run, both offensively and defensively, but the Knights were like no team on the Big Island this year. They were a team that could attack through the air, eating up large chunks of yardage at a time.

Scoring on three passing plays longer than 50 yards — and four longer than 30 — Kaneohe rolled to a 43-14 victory over Leeward at Old Kona Airport Park.

“This was a tough game and a tough loss against a well-rounded team,” said Leeward head coach Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio. “They were like no team we have played this year, but I am proud of the kids and how hard they played.”

The Knights struck quickly when quarterback Treston “Kini” McMillan hit Ean Kamau-Waikiki for a 51-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. A missed kick kept the score at 6-0.

While Leeward’s offense struggled to pick up a first down, the defense tied the game midway through the opening frame when Shaden Ako picked up a loose ball and returned it 31 yards for a score. Keawemauhili Navas-Loa and Race Moxley combined to cause the fumble with a hit on Kaneohe running back Heaven Aipia-Drummondo.

The tie did not last long as the Knights went on a roll for the rest of the half, taking a 31-6 lead into the break.

Late in the first quarter, Kaneohe took the lead for good when McMillan found Davyn Joseph for 71 yards and six points. The pair hooked up again early in the second quarter, this time for a 32-yard score. The PAT was blocked by Leeward’s Kainoa Kamehaiku, but Kaneohe now led by 12 points.

With a minute and a half to play in the half, McMillan found Isaac Ishikawa on a 71-yard play for his fourth passing TD of the game. At the half, the Knights held a 25-6 advantage.

The Knights received the ball in the second half, but the Steelers’ defense was able to make a stop. However, on the ensuing drive, a bad snap led to a 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Ishikawa — his second score of the game.

Leeward began to move the ball more regularly behind hard nosed runs up the middle by Zedekiah Anahu-Ambrosio. However, a long drive would stall late in the third quarter.

The Knights did not need any luck to beat the Steelers on Saturday, but even the bounces went Kaneohe’s way early in the final quarter. Inside the red zone, McMillan darted for the goal line on a quarterback draw but he was tripped up and fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Jordan Bruhn for the score, putting the Knights up 37-6.

On the next drive, Steelers running back Navas-Loa found a hole, taking the ball to the house on a 55-yard run. It would be the lone offensive TD of the game for the Steelers.

Kaneohe added a final score with a minute and a half to play when Keona Po’ouahi-MacPherson, who took snaps in the Wildcat formation several times throughout the game, ran the ball in for a 3-yard score.

Despite the loss, Leeward will still head to the mainland to play in a postseason tournament. The coach is looking at either a tournament in Arizona or California.

“Every year, win or lose, we plan to travel because these kids always play their hearts out,” Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio said. “We want to represent the Big Island the best we can.”

The Steelers, who are the current three-time defending Big Island champions, will return most of their team next year. They will only lose three players.

“This was a young team with a lot of young kids,” Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio said. “I am excited for next year. We will be back stronger, faster, bigger and more well rounded.”

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