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BIIF football: Hawaii Prep forfeit clinches perfection for Konawaena

Updated: 
October 6, 2017 - 12:05am

KEALAKEKUA — Konawaena clinched a perfect BIIF regular season on Thursday, and the Wildcats didn’t even have to take the field.

Hawaii Prep — Konawaena’s scheduled opponent for Saturday’s regular season finale — announced it would be forfeiting the contest due to lack of players and safety concerns, via an email from athletic director Steve Perry.

Ka Makani have struggled mightily this season and the team has gutted out some games with a very compact roster. Hawaii Prep was outscored 27-289 in BIIF play, its lone victory in a 1-6 campaign a 14-13 win over Waiakea on Sept. 2.

With home field and a berth in the BIIF Division II championship game already locked up for Konawaena, the weekend’s contest wouldn’t have been anything more than a formality for the Wildcats. Konawaena now has two weeks without a game before facing Kamehameha-Hawaii at Julian Yates Field on Oct. 20.

Hawaii Prep doesn’t carry a JV team, so Konawaena had around 19 anxious additions to the squad who were slated to see some time and ease into duty with the BIIF championship on the horizon.

“It’s not to say we weren’t preparing, but the game didn’t mean much for us already having home field in the championship,” Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto said. “We have had some good practices, but we were already considering how long to let the starters play and when to start rotating guys in.”

The situation makes it an anticlimactic end to perfect BIIF regular season, which isn’t common in Kealakekua.

While Konawaena has been among the Big Island powerhouses for the better part of a decade, the last time the Wildcats navigated a regular season without hitting a pothole was back in 2012 — book-ending the year with tight losses to Oahu foes Iolani and Nanakuli. Previous to that, it had been at least a decade since the Wildcats had completed the feat.

The two blemishes on Konawaena’s 7-2 overall record this year are a pair of preseason losses to Saint Francis (ILH) and Kapaa (KIF), where a large chunk of core starters were sidelined.

“There are some good teams in this league, so it’s something to be proud of,” Uemoto said. “But it doesn’t put any points on the board in the game that matters.”

Perfection won’t be the focus for the Wildcats as they start to breakdown the film from a night where they were far from it in a narrow 13-12 win against Kamehameha, the team they will see in the title game.

The squads combined for 10 turnovers on the night, including a series of fumbles in the scoreless fourth quarter of the one-point game. Konawaena uncharacteristically had four in the second half alone.

“We were totally sloppy — the offense in particular. There are no excuses for some of the turnovers and missed assignments that we had. It’s frustrating because I know we are better than that,” Uemoto said after the game. “If we played them again and made those same mistakes, we probably wouldn’t be as lucky.”

Quarterback Austin Ewing accounted for a pair of those mistakes, tossing a pair of interceptions. However, the BIIF’s reigning D-II offensive player of the year showed up in the big game and did things that transcended the box score.

On top of a heavy workload, both as a passer (12-23, 121 yards, TD) and as the Wildcats most effective rusher (83 yards), he also lined up at corner for a series and returned a kick. Uemoto said he doesn’t want to typically use his QB and arguably most important cog in the system like that often, but his elite football IQ allows him to cover in a crunch.

“We had some injuries and guys go down and he was ready to go,” Uemoto said. “He’s capable in those situations. He can man up a guy, or fair catch a punt. He has that competitive drive and wants to be the best at everything.”

The game was further validation to Konawaena’s increasing reputation as a defensively-dominant team. Kamehameha’s explosive plays could be counted on one hand, and the Warriors scores both came on short fields after turnovers.

“It is odd for us. We have been known so much for our offense, to have this defensive unit holding us down and keeping us in games is a good feeling to have,” Uemoto said. “I can’t say enough about the defense, week after week. They have flipped the switch.”

For now, the Wildcats wait.

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