BIIF football: Resilient ‘Riders run over Keaau

KEAAU — Kealakehe kept running the ball out of its spread package and sprinkled a few passes to keep Keaau wondering what would happen next.


KEAAU — Kealakehe kept running the ball out of its spread package and sprinkled a few passes to keep Keaau wondering what would happen next.

More often than not, the Waveriders played smash-mouth football and clobbered Keaau 59-6 in a BIIF Division I game Saturday at the Cougars Stadium, where fans made sure to bring umbrellas for the wet weather.

Its first win vaulted Kealakehe (1-4, 1-2 BIIF Division I) into second place in the standings while Keaau (0-3, 0-3) is tied for last with Waiakea (1-5, 0-3). Hilo (4-0, 3-0) is in a league of its own on the D-I level.

The Cougars had eight turnovers, including three that were converted into touchdowns in the first half. The Waveriders had two harmless turnovers.

The question coming into the game was could the offense move the ball?

That question applied to both teams. Before the battle of the winless, the Cougars scored only six points in two games, and the Waveriders were outscored 115-50 over four.

Pick an option on advancement: gain tough yards between the tackles, pass protect and throw something other than check-down passes, or produce a momentum-changing big play.

The ‘Riders checked off all three on the list.

In their spread set, they had three receivers on one side and a single wideout on the other side, running to the strong side over and over again. The occasional pass allowed their offensive linemen to practice their pass blocking.

Keaau’s lone highlight was Junior Santiago’s 85-yard touchdown in the second quarter. That was pretty much it for cheering opportunities for the home crowd. The senior running back finished with 86 yards on eight carries.

Throw out Santiago’s long TD and the Cougars had negative 37 yards on 15 carries in the first half. They finished with 34 yards on 20 attempts; four quarterback sacks and several tackles for loss will send total rushing yards tumbling.

Kealakehe quarterback Kekoa Ilagan-LeBlanc went 5 of 12 for 55 yards and a touchdown. Anthony “Head” Trevino was his favorite target with 47 yards on two catches. Not that the visitors needed to throw the ball, but every completion moved the chains.

The ground game was solid. Raymond Skillern blasted through tackles for 132 yards on 18 carries, Ilagan-LeBlanc added 51 yards on 11 attempts. Kealakehe compiled 199 yards on 20 carries, a healthy 4.52 average.

“He works every single day, no question, whether it’s the offseason, in-season or in the classroom,” Kealakehe coach Sam Kekuaokalani said of Skillern. “I shouldn’t be surprised he ran for that much yards. But we tried to rotate backs and get everybody in.”

Keaau quarterback Caine Lunsford went 3 of 8 for 64 yards and three picks. His O-line struggled to provide a clean pocket or open holes for the ground attack on a rainy night that made hanging onto the ball a challenge.

Once long ago, or precisely from 2004-07 and 2010-12, Kealakehe was an expert at wearing an opponent down and stretching the field, relying on its power running with its jumbo package, especially in the red zone, and attacking with speed from the spread.

Kealakehe played ground-and-pound football to score on the game’s opening possession. The eight-play, run-only drive was helped by a Cougar penalty on a fourth-and-2 deep in their territory. One play later, Ilagan-LeBlanc scored on an eight-yard run when he pitched the ball, but it bounced off a teammate, and he caught and ran in.

“It was nice to be on the lucky side on things like that,” Kekuaokalani said. “We had a good week of practice, and everything started from that. All three aspects of the game — offense, defense, and special teams — played well. To get eight turnovers, how’s that? Any time you play in Hilo, it’s about ball-security.”

On the ensuing series, Bryton Lewi had an 85-yard pick-six when there was a breakdown on Keaau’s passing route. Lunsford threw to the sideline, but his receiver ran a streak. Lewi, who had a 34-yard kickoff return to set up the first score, doubled down on his big-play production with no one close to him on his green pasture TD return.

Both times the Waveriders added PAT runs in a first quarter marathon that lasted 50 minutes and featured eight penalties. High school quarters are 12 minutes. Overall, there were 20 penalties.

But before that, the Waveriders scored a safety when a punt went deep, but a Cougar picked it up and was tackled in the end zone, starting off an unfortunate chain of mishaps in the second quarter.

After the safety, Keaau couldn’t escape the short-field situation and Malosi Laasaga later scored on a one-yard run.

Then Santiago’s TD run was sandwiched by Raymon Fauhiva’s 55-yard fumble return and Ilagan-LeBlanc’s four-yard jaunt into the end zone.

Keaau fumbled on its next possession, and Ilagan-LeBlanc fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ikaika Pali with four seconds left until halftime, which started the 35-point mercy rule running clock.

In garbage time, Kealakehe’s Tupu Toafili scored on a three-run run in the third quarter. Then, Makoa Soares had a 70-yard interception return to set up Skillern’s eight-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Kealakehe 18 28 6 7 — 59

Keaau 0 6 0 0 — 6

First quarter

Kealakehe — Kekoa Ilagan-LeBlanc 8 run (Malosi Laasaga run), 8:55

Kealakehe — Bryton Lewi 85 interception (Travis Grace run), 6:59

Kealakehe — Safety, 3:35

Second quarter

Kealakehe — Laasaga 1 run (Anthony Trevino kick), 9:38

Kealakehe — Raymon Fauhiva 23 fumble (Trevino kick), 6:09

Keaau — Junior Santiago 85 run (run failed), 4:57

Kealakehe — Ilagan-LeBlanc 4 run (Trevino kick), 3:43

Kealakehe — Ikaika Pali 20 pass from Ilagan-LeBlanc (Trevino kick), :04

Third quarter

Kealakehe —Tupu Toafili 3 run (kick failed), 1:57


Fourth quarter

Kealakehe — Raymond Skillern 8 run (Trevino kick), 8:25