The best thing about the preseason is that a loss won’t hurt you. In fact, some preseason losses actually show you a lot about your football team’s character.
One good example would be the Kea’au Cougars. On Saturday, they shot themselves in the foot on each of their first two plays from scrimmage, giving up a safety and a fumble returned for a touchdown. After a 62-yd Jesse Huihui touchdown run got the Cougs back in the game, the home team stayed right with the Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors throughout much of the game, even outplaying them at times, before finally falling 36-21.
What does that loss mean in the bigger picture? That leads our list of storylines after the third week of the season.
1) The second best team in Division I may be decided this weekend.
Most people, and I have been the first to say this, would agree that Kealakehe is far and away the best team in Division I. The bigger question is who will stand out as the second best team in the division. Both Waiakea and Kea’au can lay a legitimate claim to that spot, and they will face each other on Saturday.
For those of you reading away from the Big Island, you’re probably wondering why the second best team in the division matters. That’s because the BIIF puts all four teams in a mini-tournament, which determines the league champion and state tournament representative. The top two seeds get home field advantage in the semi-final games.
Before last weekend, I didn’t have the Cougars in this discussion, but after watching them play tough against the Warriors, I’m willing to consider them as the second best team in the division. Their defense staggered pressure on quarterback Warner Shaw, and limited big plays, while the Cougars moved the ball down the field on several occasions, yet stalled on a few drives. They are better than most people expected.
2) Honoka’a opened up league play with a win.
Only one game has actually mattered so far this year, and that the 63-0 win that Honoka’a picked up against the determined Ka’u Trojans last Saturday. With that win, the Dragons moved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in Division II league play.
The win meant something more to the Dragons as they played for head coach Bobby Embernate. West Hawaii Today reported over the weekend that Embernate has been in a Honolulu hospital to address a high white blood cell count. Embernate took over the Dragons head coaching job after Fred Lau left to be the head coach at Waiakea.
The real question is whether Honoka’a will be able to stay at the top of the Division II rankings. They host Kealakehe in a preseason contest on Friday night, followed by a home game against Kohala the following Friday. The first in-conference test for the Dragons will fall on September 16th when they travel to Kamehameha-Hawaii.
3) Kea’au’s Jesse Huihui may be the league’s best athlete.
The statement has been true for over a year now, but the credit has been long overdue for the Cougars senior. Non-football readers may know Huihui as a tremendous track-and-field athlete at the league level, where he has recorded several top three finishes.
On the football field, Huihui is a two-way player for Kea’au High. He’s a standout defensive back whose quickness allows him to hang with receivers and cover a lot of ground. That speed has allowed him to become a regular on offense, where he is the team’s starting running back this year, while continuing to moonlight as a slot receiver.
Huihui showed several examples of his athleticism last week, almost carrying the team on his shoulders at times to keep them in their game against the Warriors of Kamehameha-Hawaii. With Kea’au down 9-0 after two offensive plays, Huihui took a second down run 62 yards for the team’s first touchdown of the game, spinning off of a few tackles and bursting out with his elusive speed. Later in the game with his team down by double digits, Huihui returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score and allowing Kea’au to hang around as he dashed up the left sideline with help from clean blocking.
Kea’au will rely on Huihui all year, as they are still trying to find consistency in their passing game. If defenses can’t keep him in check, Kea’au may be able to grab an extra couple of wins just on Huihui’s playmaking alone.
This week’s game to watch is at HPA, as Ka Makani will be hosting Konawaena on Saturday. Konawaena is coming off of a great defensive effort in a win over Division I Hilo last Friday, while HPA enters this game at 1-1 off of a bye week. Konawaena has looked impressive in their first few games, and fans will find out whether the Wildcats are for real against HPA’s dominant offensive and defensive lines.
Two weeks of prep football are in the books here on the Big Island, and while you can’t put too much analysis into the results, some things still stand out.
For example, whenever a Division II football team is able to defeat a perennial Division I league champion on the road, you can’t help but take notice. Kamehameha-Hawaii’s 16-13 win over Kealakehe leads our list of storylines after Week 2:
1) The Warriors have a good chance to repeat as Division II Champions
After our debut post on ScoringLive.com, one reader said that we shouldn’t have given the Waveriders as much credit as we did because their opponent last week, Kailua, was missing athletes due to academic probation (more on this later). What Oahu football fans need to understand is that Kealakehe has dominated the Division I scene here over most of the last decade, and that judging a neighbor island school should not be done based on ONLY state tournament results. The school has risen in population to surpass the older Konawaena High, and the domination over schools like Hilo and Waiakea has been noticeable in recent years.
With all of that said, very few teams have been able to say that they have been able to beat Kealakehe in recent years. Honoka’a, now in Division II, took the Division I title away from Kealakehe in 2009 and went to the state tournament. Hilo High hasn’t beaten the Waveriders since Sam Papali’i coached the team in 2004.
On Saturday night, Kamehameha-Hawaii battled with Kealakehe in a back and forth affair featuring momentum changing turnovers, defensive pressure, and late game heroics, with the Warriors winning it on a Warner Shaw touchdown pass to Keoni Wong with 22 seconds left. The comeback win was another notch in the cap of the defending Division II champions, who have already knocked off Kauai High, and are favored to stay perfect against Kea’au this weekend.
Many “experts” have given the Division II title to Hawaii Prep before the season has even started. They cite the solid offensive line, led by Shane Brostek, and the defensive front seven that has held opponents scoring in check. However, with the team’s biggest playmakers from last season in Nathaniel and Isaiah Adams graduated, people should give a serious look to Kamehameha-Hawaii to capture the Division II championship.
2) Can Fred Lau lead the Waiakea Warriors back to the top of Division I?
The easy answer to this question is “No,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t expand this to the future.
I ask this question because the hiring of Coach Lau brought Waiakea fans a refreshed sense of optimism that they could compete for Division I Championship. Lau’s success started back in 2009 when he led Honoka’a to their first ever state tournament appearance in Division I, which rejuvenated the optimism of Dragons fans.
While it is probably a longshot that this could happen this year, it isn’t something to ignore in the future. We got a glimpse of this over the weekend when the Warriors hosted Maui High at Wong Stadium. Both teams knew very little about each other coming into the nonleague matchup, and both head coaches, including Maui coach David Bui, knew that they would need to make in-game adjustments in order to win the game. Coach Lau’s squad made the best adjustments as the game went on to stop the Maui ground game, and those adjustments, coupled with the offensive asjustments to dial up more misdirection running plays, helped to cement his team’s first victory of the year.
It’s hard to see Waiakea winning a league championship this season when they are averaging less than nineteen yards passing per game, but the in-game work from their coaching staff, led by Lau, could make this team better prepared to win sooner rather than later.
3) Academic Probation Impacts Nonleague Games
For those of you looking for in-depth previews of schools across the state, you probably won’t find it right away. That’s because almost every team in the state is missing key players due to academic ineligibility.
Let’s get the rules straight: Academic ineligibility is based on the fourth quarter grades from the prior school year for the first several weeks of the year. This has become a story because of some schools playing games with a severely shortened roster, projected starters at certain positions not playing, and junior varsity players being called up.
This should start to level off as we get into September and academic eligibility is based on this year’s grades. Once these rosters start to fill out, we’ll be able to give you a more accurate look into your favorite teams.
The only divisional league game this weekend is in Honoka’a, when the Dragons host the Ka’u Trojans on Saturday night. The game to watch will be in Kealakekua, when Konawaena hosts Hilo. The Vikings have lost their first two games to Division II opponents, and hope to avoid going winless into league play.
High school football is back, and so are the close games and exciting finishes! Even though Oahu football fans were treated to a good amount of blowouts and one-sided contests, fans on the big island were fortunate enough to see several close contests that came down to the final few minutes of the game. Since neighbor island football doesn’t get a lot of coverage, a lot of you miss out on some of the key results and standout players who don’t get to make it on TV or play at Aloha Stadium.
Over the course of the season, I’ll be here to share some of those stories with you and give you a better idea of how things are playing out on the BIIF gridiron by giving you three key storylines from each weekend’s action.
1) The Two-Man Race for Top Quarterback on the Island
It’s actually no surprise that the top quarterbacks on the island, Tyler Yates and Warner Shaw, play for schools with dynamic offenses. Both Kealakehe and Kamehameha-Hawaii run spread offenses that feature a good balance of the run and pass. And, the quarterbacks that run the offense at those schools have the right combination of athleticism and awareness that make them so good at their position.
After throwing for over 3,300 yards last season, Yates returns for one more shot at a Division I league championship. His biggest strength is his ability to make plays out of the pocket with his legs, and his biggest improvement over the last couple of years has been his arm strength. That combination has made him a must watch quarterback in West Hawaii. His five touchdown effort (three passing, two rushing) against Kailua on Saturday night in a 36-34 win at home is just another day at the office.
Meanwhile at Kamehameha-Hawaii, Warner Shaw has quietly become one of the top players at his position, and showed off his improved game on Friday night in a 31-28 win over Kauai. Shaw completed his first eight passes of the night and showed off his improved cannon early in the game with a few touchdown passes of over 40 yards. Kamehameha-Hawaii’s solid offensive line gave him plenty of time early on, and he capitalized by making big plays without forcing passes and taking chances.
Ironically, both quarterbacks will be squaring off with one another on Saturday night when the Division I Waveriders host the Division II Warriors in non-league action at 7 pm.
2) New Head Coaches Get Off to a Strong Start in 2011
Six of the ten big island schools have new interim or full-fledged head coaches this season. Five of them were on the field coaching up their squads this weekend, with Kohala’s Carlos Adams waiting until September 3rd when his Cowboys open up their season against Kamehameha-Hawaii in league play.
Of the four head coaches who won in their debuts this weekend, none may have been more impressive than Konawaena’s Cliff Walters and his short-handed Wildcats traveling to Kea’au and picking up a 32-0 win. Walters took over the Wildcats and spoke openly about playing a more exciting brand of offensive football while stepping up the aggression on defense. All of the x’s and o’s should be on the back burner this week when you realize that Konawaena played with only 23 players due to academic ineligibility, injuries, illness, and several players on trips for other sports. The Wildcats will have an extra week to prepare for their final non-league game against Division I Hilo on August 26th.
Kamehameha-Hawaii’s interim head coach Dan Lyons, who got the job offer the Monday before practice started, got his first win on Friday against Kauai. He has spent many years as a Water Polo coach at the high school level, but has a background as a former quarterback in his younger days. Kealakehe interim head coach Sam Kekuaokalani, who is filling Gary Clarke’s position while he is away tending to family matters, picked up his first win against Kailua. He is also the school’s head basketball coach, with Clarke serving as an assistant. And, Honoka’a head coach Bobby Embernate, who took the position after Fred Lau left to take the reins at Waiakea High, scored his first victory against Division I Hilo at home. Embernate has served as a defensive coach for many years at Honoka’a before moving up to head coach this season.
3) Kealakehe is still the favorite in Division I
Before this season, several “experts” looked at Lau’s arrival as a sign that Waiakea could return to the prominence that they once saw decades ago. Under Lau, Honoka’a used their run-heavy offense to make the Division I state tournament in 2009, and was competitive in Division II in 2010.
After Week One of this year, those same “experts” may need to cool down on the hype. Waiakea lost to a 26-man Waimea squad which saw eight starters on both sides of the ball. The Warriors’ starting quarterback was out due to academic ineligibility, and the ground game dominance they had to start the game cooled down slowly as the game went on.
The Waveriders may have an interim head coach, but they still have talent on both sides of the football that make them dangerous to play against. Big island fans have been used to seeing Kealakehe dominate on the gridiron over the last half a decade, and they may have to get used to it again. After all, the other two Division I foes, Hilo and Kea’au, lost to Division II programs in Honoka’s and Konawaena, respectively.
Viloria Wins Third World Championship
It is a struggle to make boxing a relevant sports nationally, even more so locally.
Yet, with Waipahu's Brian Viloria capturing his third world championship on Saturday by defeating Julio Cesar Miranda by judge's decision, the biggest bout is still a losing fight.
Viloria headlined the Tom Moffatt promotion of Island Assault 2 by contending and winning the WBO Flyweight Championship against Miranda in front of a crowd estimated between 2,000 and 2,500 people. The card was held at the Neal Blaisdell Center, which holds at least 8,000 people. This was a considerably smaller crowd compared to Viloria's IBF Light Flyweight Title defense in 2009 at the same venue, which was estimated to be close to fifty percent full.
It's disappointing to see a local fighter get little support from fans. After all, Viloria has been known to draw crowds as much as 10,000 deep to watch his fights overseas. Heck, Manny Paquiao invited Viloria to join him on his media tour to promote his next fight! Yet, Viloria's home island didn't come out in full to see him.
There are several reasons to suggest that this isn't anything to do with Viloria, but with where the sport is and how it is promoted:
1) Ticket prices ranged between $56 and $220 dollars. That is too high. If a father wanted to take his son out to watch five bouts, he'd already be spending the minimum of $110, without even factoring in food, drink, and merchandise.
2) Promotion - This fight had 4-5 weeks of lead up promotion, which is too little time during the summer months, especially when people like to plan their summer plans well ahead of time.
3) Boxing is looked at as one-dimensional, where MMA includes boxing with a mixture of grappling, wrestling and other styles to create a fighter's profile. Also, MMA features more action with knockouts, takedowns, and submissions. On the Island Assault 2 card, four of the five bouts went the distance, with half of those bouts holding the fan's attention.
It's too bad because Viloria is a great guy, a proud and tough fighter, and a great representative of Hawaii in the boxing world, yet there isn't enough support for this world champion.
In Other Bouts:
>> Mike Balasi (Kalihi) vs. Van Oscar Penovaroff (Hilo) - Penovaroff suffered his first professional loss to the smaller fighter in the best undercard bout of the evening. Both men traded some heavy blows, yet Balasi kept great positioning on the canvas and landed enough shots to take the very close win.
>> Michael Farenas (Phillippines) vs. Fernando Beltran Jr. (Mexico) - Farenas was looked at several times for possible headbutts, yet persevered in another distance fight which split much of the crowd.
>> Ku'ulei Kupihea (Honolulu) vs. Tiffany Judot (New Orleans) - Kupihea added on to her impressive professional career by dominating Judot with multiple shots in every round. Judot deserves credit for taking as many shots as she did without getting knocked out.
>> Denver Cuello (Phillippines) vs. Omar Soto (Mexico) - The laugher of the evening. After both fighters wore the wrong color gloves, Soto failed to really show up in the bout. He was knocked down several times in the first round, and slipped several others times before finally being knocked down and out :56 into the second round.
Check out the Photo Gallery from the event here
From L-R: Melissa Plato (Kealakehe High School), Jordan Heres (Makua Lani Christian School), Jonathan Chow (Keeau High School), and Steve Van Ribbink (HMSA Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer) / Photo Courtesy: HMSA
When I was first invited to be a presenter at the 2011 HMSA Kaimana Awards last month, I figured that I’d just be a part of a standard event. Directions: Read a script, eat lunch, meet people, and don’t look stupid.
As I drove up to the Hawaii Prince Hotel in Waikiki and had the valet park my car (for free), I realized that this was going to be no ordinary presentation.
As I walked with Jonathan Chow (Kea’au High School class of 2011) and his family up the escalator to the third floor and walked into the ballroom, I saw television style cameras, a high definition TV, sponsor backdrops like you would see in a press conference, a video and audio board in two different areas of the room, and two huge video boards on each side of the stage. And, we weren’t on television.
For HMSA, whose workers set-up, clean-up, and handle the vast array of things that make up the bigger-than-life presentation of their Kaimana Awards, this is all standard. After all, this was their sixth year hosting the event and presenting scholarship money to schools and student athletes.
And they didn’t shy away from matching their big set up with big names in the sports world to honor them. University of Hawaii Play-by-Play voice Jim Leahey was the master of ceremonies, while Dave Reardon (Honolulu Star-Advertiser), Dave Vinton (OC16 Sports), Steve Uyehara (Hawaii News Now), and Wes Nakama (HHSAA/ScoringLive.com) presented the league awards. Slam poet Kealoha, who also played KAC basketball when he was younger (with Leahey as the emphatic referee), was the guest speaker, or better described, motivator for the audience.
When I was younger, I thought I was always too busy. I was playing two sports (Basketball and Tennis), spent my senior year as student body president, got involved in several clubs on campus, got into college radio, got a part-time job as a musician, and still had to do homework and do everything my parents asked me to do. As Vinton said during his portion of the program, that all seems like “lunch” now.
Star-Advertiser’s Dave Reardon did a piece on some of the most outstanding stories of the ceremony on Sunday. He chose to write about Miracle Helekahi of Hana, who had dealt with homelessness and still found a way to take care of her studies, play sports, and serve as senior class president. She’s got life all planned out. After she finishes school in Denver at Johnson and Wales University, she wants to continue studying at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College and start her own pastry business.
Reardon also told a story of Iraqi born Fadi Youkhana. That’s enough of a story for most people to be amazed at, seeing how he came from the very volatile area of Mosul. Yet, the Roosevelt graduate acclimated himself as best as he could at his new school while playing soccer, and will stay in the state to study medicine at the University of Hawaii. Heck, I might need his help if I keep neglecting vegetables as part of my diet.
What about the Big Island stories from the Kaimana Awards? Three outstanding student-athletes were recognized on Saturday. Each had their own outstanding story and background.
Let’s start with Kea’au Cougar Jonathan Chow. For the last few years, I’ve been very fortunate to call Football and Baseball games that Chow has played in. For years, Chow has always been the smallest young man on the gridiron, yet he constantly showed incredible effort and grit. He was rewarded for his skill and effort with an Honorable Mention award at running back in Division I play this year.
I was also very fortunate to watch him graduate. I was at the Kea’au High commencement exercises as Chow spoke in front of his class, family, friends, and others. He may not be the most confident public speaker, which is fine because he has always let his actions speak for him. HMSA compiled a list of achievements for Jonny:
I met his family for the first time at this event, and I could see where he got a lot of his work ethic from. His proud mother and father, soft-spoken, thanked me for all of the coverage their son had gotten. I told them that they should instead thank his coaches and administrators for making sure that I knew about his great grades and work ethic. It was also rewarding to see Athletic Director Iris McGuire there. As I saw her at the Honolulu International Airport, she simply told me, “I’m here for Jonny.” Chow will attend Whitman College in the state of Washington.
Jordan Heres of Makua Lani was also awarded an HMSA Kaimana Scholarship
Bet you had to look back to see if that last nugget was correct, right? I remember trying to inspire my parents to buy me a car when I got my driver’s license (and it didn’t work)! Jordan will continue his studies at Wheaton College in Illinois.
And finally, Melissa Plato was honored with the final HMSA Kaimana Scholarship for Big Island student-athletes.
It takes an incredible monetary effort, as well as strength and dedication to want to help overseas instead of just wanting to have fun during spring recess. Melissa will attend West Hawaii Community College in the fall.
Don’t be surprised if next year’s winners are accomplishing feats just as good, if not better. And I’m not necessarily talking about on the field of play.
Kolten Wong Honored by Mayor Billy Kenoi
By Josh Pacheco
Former Kamehameha-Hawaii standout Kolten Wong has amassed plenty of awards in his young life, from HHSAA Hall of Honor honoree to Baseball America first-team All American. On Wednesday, Wong was given something absolutely new to his list of achievements: his very own day.
Wong, joined by his mother, siblings, and members of his immediate family, were guests of Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi at his office, where Kenoi proclaimed that the County of Hawaii would celebrate "Kolten Wong Day." Kenoi praised Wong's on-field achievements, yet spent more time on how Wong represented his parents, and spent enormous amounts of time with youngsters who look up to him.
After Wong accepted the proclamation and gave a short thank you speech, Wong spent a longer amount of time signing batting gloves, baseballs, helmets, and anything else put in front him by little league baseball players who were part of the gathering.
After the event, Wong sat down with me and talked about what being recognized meant to him.
"It's awesome," Wong explained. "Anytime you can be with the mayor, especially my Uncle Billy Kenoi, it just really shows that I have a lot of supporters and it's something that a lot of people don't have so I just feel blessed and honored."
While the accolades continue to roll in for the Hilo product, Wong has had to do something he isn't accustomed to doing. He's been waiting for contract negotiations to wrap up between the St. Louis Cardinals and his team. "Good, good yea" was all he could say when asked about the contract situation. Until that is resolved, Wong won't know where he will have to report in the Cardinals association.
Until then, Wong continues to train all day with his father, Kaha. Wong spent most of Thursday working out and keeping in shape, making sure he is ready for whenever the call comes to report to the Cardinals organization.
Check out the video below of the recognition ceremony!