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BIIF football: Waveriders stick together, look for 4th straight win

September 28, 2017 - 8:32pm

KAILUA-KONA — Kealakehe had every reason to fall apart in September.

The Waveriders opened the month by dropping a tight contest to Kamehameha-Hawaii — a fourth consecutive loss to start the season — which was punctuated by a highly-publicized confrontation between a parent and coach on the field.

But instead of falling apart in the face of adversity, Kealakehe rallied, with a 31-14 victory at Honokaa last weekend being the latest boon for the ‘Riders (3-4 overall, 3-2 BIIF D-I), making it three in a row for the squad.

The Waveriders will look to polish off the month with a homecoming victory over Waiakea on Saturday. The win — paired with a Keaau loss to D-I front runner Hilo on Friday — would also lock up the No. 2 spot in Division I, meaning Kealakehe would return to the BIIF title game after a rare year away.

“Adversity and hardships do one of two things — it either makes you want to run away, or it brings you closer together,” Kealakehe head coach Sam Kekuaokalani said. “The boys have done an awesome job of rallying together. We try to teach it, but it’s up to them to do it. It’s a credit to the parents out there teaching them good things and their previous coaches from Pop Warner and other programs.”

Since the altercation, which featured police coming to Waverider Stadium, offensive coordinator Haloa Paakonia has resigned, and the school sent out a letter to parents and supporters, restricting access to practice facilities and game fields.

But now on a nice run, it’s safe to say the Waveriders are ready to play football and put to bed any drama that stemmed from the incident.

“We just want our whole organization to come together,” senior defensive back Qishaun Gallon said. “We all know there was a little beef, but we just want to play. Let the coaches coach and us do our work on the field.”

“It’s one mindset,” senior linebacker Ismail Souza added.

As it turns out, those first four teams the Waveriders lost to were pretty good. Konawaena, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Damien and St. Margaret’s (Calif.) have combined for just three losses since playing the Waveriders, all those coming to stiff competition. However, there were still some glaring deficiencies in Kealakehe’s system.

The biggest difference for the team has been an efficient offense. The Waveriders have averaged a shade over 45 points per game during the three-game winning streak, as opposed to just 12.5 in their previous four.

The unit didn’t rack up yardage against the Dragons, but converted when they needed to. A bunch of ‘Riders were involved in the passing game, including Anthony “Head” Trevino, an All-BIIF pick at wide receiver two years ago, who proved he can probably out-jump most defenders in the league on a nice 26-yard catch in the corner of the end zone. A fleet of sturdy backs did their part, picking up chunks at a time and converting in short yardage situations out of the smashmouth spread.

“We love to run, and we have been doing it well behind our O-line,” Kekuaokalani said. “Outside the red zone, we were not as effective. We need to work on that.”

But as the Kealakehe skipper points out, while the offense put points on the board, the defense has been a major catalyst in the Waveriders’ scoring outbursts. For two games in a row, the Waveriders have posted a trio of touchdowns in just a few play span thanks to timely turnovers from the defense shortening the field.

“Both the defense and offense work together. It’s like a glove. If one of us don’t fit, it’s not going to work,” Souza said. “We have just been trying to swarm to the ball.”

While the 0-4 start wasn’t pretty — and the worst in recent memory for Kealakehe — BIIF historians will reference what the Waveriders did more than a decade ago on the way to their first league title in 2004. That team dropped its first three before nearly running the table the rest of the way, knocking off Hilo 41-21 in the title game and earning Kealakehe its first BIIF banner in school history.

That being said, no one is getting ahead of themselves in the ‘Riders huddle.

“It’s a game-by-game process for us,” Souza said. “We just have to focus on the process.”

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