KEALAKEKUA — There was a lot of offense expected in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation football opener between Division II title contenders Kamehameha (1-0 BIIF Division II, 1-0) and Konawaena (0-1, 1-1) Friday night at Julian R. Yates field. What it turned out to be was a game filled with the unexpected.
Kamehameha topped the Wildcats 20-6 in an ugly game with little offense and marred by more than 100 yards in penalties.
Micah Kanehailua never found his rhythm in the Warriors’ usually potent passing offense, but the three-year starter found a way to win. Kanehailua finished with three touchdowns — two through the air and one on the ground.
“Micah did what he needed to do,” Kamehameha coach Dan Lyons said. “They play a great man defense and we could not get our passing game going. I thought we had a number of opportunities, but missed a bunch of stuff off fingertips that would have been big plays.”
The loss is Konawaena’s first to a BIIF Division II opponent since 2011, when it was undone 28-0, also to Kamehameha.
Cameron Howes was the primary source of offense for the Wildcats. Howes played mainly at quarterback, but also saw time at wide receiver. He finished 10 for 26 passing for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 63 yards on 12 carries — 41 of those yards coming on one carry.
“We were outplayed. Pure and simple,” Konawaena head coach Cliff Walters said. “There are more lessons to be learned in a loss than in a win. We learned about our offense, our defense and our pass game. Now we have to go to work on those things. We will watch the tape and bury this loss on Monday.”
The season could not have started more strangely for the two squads.
The Wildcats elected to receive the opening kickoff, but Luca Vartic misjudged the kick and was forced to pick up the ball at the 1-yard line. A host of Kamehameha defenders chased him into the end zone, resulting in a safety and likely the fastest score in BIIF history.
“The problem is, when you are the second-fastest man in the state — he came in second at states in the 100-meter — you get the ball and want to do something for your team,” Walters said. “He got it, and wanted to do something big for his team, but he forgot about angles. No matter how fast you are, you cannot outrun angles. Luca just tried to do too much and got hit. But he will learn from that.”
Both offenses struggled to get going in the first half. Jarring hits and swarming defense prevented either offense from getting going, outside of a few big plays. The muddy field after an afternoon rain in Kealakekua didn’t help.
“We play on turf all the time, but out here it seemed like our backs had a hard time adjusting,” Lyons said. “They would see the holes and could not get to them.”
Howes got going with a 41-yard sprint on a designed quarterback-keeper down the middle of the field. Bruising senior back Bubba Ellis-Noa punched the ball in from the 3-yard line to give the Wildcats a 6-2 advantage.
Kanehailua struggled to find rhythm early on, going just 1 for 7. But the senior quarterback settled down early in the second quarter and found Alapaki Iaea for his first touchdown, making it 8-2 going into halftime.
Kanehailua opened the second half with the biggest play of the game for either team, scrambling out of the pocket and sprinting down the sideline 65 yards to the Wildcats’ 3. The third-year starter finished the drive with a 6-yard strike to junior wide receiver Bayley Manliguis to make it 14-6.
Konawaena continued to struggle in the second half and attempted to spark the offense by bringing in Shelton Grace midway through the first quarter. The junior had a rough start though, getting sacked on his first play, and intercepted by Preston Kalani on the next.
“We tried to bring in a new quarterback to spark the offense, but maybe we brought him in a little too late,” Walters said. “He never got into a rhythm. You can’t fault him for that. We should have got him in earlier.”
Grace finished 1 for 6 for 15 yards and an interception. He also had one catch for 14 yards.
“I felt coming in to this game it was going to be a battle between the offensive and defensive lines,” Lyons said. “I think we won it this time by just a little. Our defensive line was incredible and contained their run. It made them have to throw the ball and that was not what they wanted to do.”
Kamehameha 2 6 6 6 — 20
Konawaena 6 0 0 0 —6
Kamehameha — Safety on kickoff, 11:55
Konawaena — Bubba Ellis-Noa, 3-yard run (Kevin Medeiros PAT missed) 2:35
Kamehameha — Micah Kanehailua 37-yard pass to (Kalai Preston PAT blocked)
Kamehameha — Kanehailua 6-yard pass to Bayley Manliguis (Preston PAT missed)
Kamehameha — Kanehailua 2-yard run (Preston PAT missed)