Alapaki Iaea, Kamehameha seniors take last leap at league title

Last school year, against the state’s best competition, Alapaki Iaea was soaking up the big-game atmosphere he enjoys so much.

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Last school year, against the state’s best competition, Alapaki Iaea was soaking up the big-game atmosphere he enjoys so much.

Kamehameha lost a heart-breaker in the championship at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament on Oahu.

Still, there was Iaea running around, smiling and having the time of his life — because he and his fellow Warriors had played their hearts out.

The one possible regret or disappointment: The sport was volleyball, not football, his true love. For the second time in three years, Punahou beat Kamehameha for the state title.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound wide receiver hasn’t experienced anything similar for football. In fact, Kamehameha last won a Big Island Interscholastic Federation title in 2010 when Iaea was in eighth grade.

That year’s team was loaded with talent. From the All-BIIF Division II team, six Warriors received recognition and played college ball, including arguably the best kicker in league history in DJ Grant-Johnson, who signed with Navy.

“We’ve been together and bonding as brothers for a while,” Iaea said of the 14 returning seniors. “Through middle school we’ve been playing together. Finally, we’re in our last year. We’ve been working a long time for this. It’s our last run for a championship.”

Konawaena has been the team to beat the past three seasons. The Wildcats defeated HPA for the BIIF crown last season, and the Warriors the previous two years.

The chase for a league title won’t be a bed of roses for the Warriors, who graduated 20 seniors, including eight who received All-BIIF recognition.

The biggest loss figures to be linebacker and inspirational leader Timmy Burke, who is at Menlo College, an NAIA school in Atherton, Calif. Burke was a three-time All-BIIF selection, and a significant force as a run stopper and pass rusher.

Iaea, who doubles as a high-jumping middle blocker for volleyball, got honorable mention last season for football. His lanky frame and speed will also be useful assets in the secondary.

“I want to bring leadership and energy, and lead the team in the right direction, stay consistent and positive,” Iaea said. “I love big games and the atmosphere. I get pumped up with big crowds, playing in front of our fans and having that bond with my brothers.”

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Iaea and quarterback Micah Kanehailua, who also got honorable mention, are three-year starters and a deadly combination.

“Paki is tall, strong and has a good connection with Micah,” coach Dan Lyons said. “He’s worked hard and inspired to be a good leader for that receiving group.”

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