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BIIF football: Big first half, ground game lead the way as Kealakehe earns berth in D-I title game

Updated: 
October 1, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — Revenge never tasted so sweet for Kealakehe.

Behind a strong first half and a trio of touchdowns from quarterback Kekoa Ilagan-LeBlanc, the Waveriders (4-4 overall, 4-2 BIIF D-I) wiped out Waiakea 33-24 on homecoming night, running their win streak to four while also punching their ticket to the BIIF championship game.

It was only a year ago that Kealakehe was on the wrong side of the same game against the Warriors, losing 29-14 and missing out on their first BIIF title game since 2001.

This time around, the Waveriders would not be denied, although the Warriors (1-8, 0-6 BIIF DI) didn’t make it easy toward the end.

Kealakehe will face four-time defending champion Hilo (5-1 BIIF Division I, 6-1) on either Oct. 20 or 21 for the BIIF title, but before that, the teams will settle home field next weekend at Wong Stadium.

The Waveriders showed off a potent ground game against Waiakea, tallying 205 yards as a team. Six different players recorded a carry, with Ilagan-LeBlanc having the most success with 67 yards and the three TDs.

In the first half, the Waveriders averaged just a shade under 10 yards per carry, but that tapered off in the third and fourth quarters.

In the loss, Waiakea showed major improvement. The 24 points were a season high, and almost as many as they had scored against league opponents (29) this season. Quarterback Noah Eblacas recorded three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and Cody Alvaro-Thomas notched 53 yards to lead the Warriors in rushing — a large chunk of those coming on two fake punts.

Dallas “Malosi” Laasaga and Tupu Toafili scored on first half rushes, and Ilagan-LeBlanc notched a pair of touchdowns on QB keepers to give the Waveriders a comfortable 27-0 lead at half.

Kealakehe kept its mistakes within a small window of the first half, tossing an interception and fumbling the ball on back-to-back offensive plays. In the second half, the mistakes were more plentiful, including a slew of untimely flags.

Waiakea came out of the break with its longest possession of the game, albeit it wasn’t the most successful. Thanks to a muffed punt by the ‘Riders after a 3-and-out and a subsequent facemask penalty, Waiakea found itself at midfield. However, collectively on the eight-play sequence, the Warriors lost 15 yards.

Despite the score, the Warriors kept battling and supplied the highlights for the night. The first was when Kingsly Kalili nabbed a 32-yard pass one-handed over a defender. However, it would be called back by a flag.

The Warriors didn’t have to wait long for an encore, and this one would count. Just a few plays later, Daryl Sampaga made a bobbling one-handed grab and scampered for Waiakea’s first score of the night.

The game took an ugly turn just before the fourth quarter, with a pair of incidents between opposing players on the Waiakea sideline, resulting in an ejection. Cooler heads did prevail, with players from both sides shaking hands.

The Warriors ended up being the beneficiaries of the laundry on the field, moving within the Waveriders’ 10-yard line. On the next play out of the scuffle, Eblacas connected with Kalili for his second TD toss of the night.

Kealakehe was anything but creative in the second half, running almost exclusively a trio of quarterbacks. Ilagan-LeBlanc, Trevino, and Jorden Himalaya took snaps and ran right down the middle. It worked, with Ilagan-LeBlanc breaking free on a 22-yard scamper in the fourth quarter for his third touchdown, pushing the lead to 35-16.

Waiakea made things interesting with a late TD run by Eblacas, but the onside kick was recovered by the Waveriders, who were able to run the clock out.

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