BIIF football playoffs: Kealakehe benefits from thorough preparations

Since the spring, Kealakehe head coach Sam Kekuaokalani has preached to his players the importance of preparation.


Since the spring, Kealakehe head coach Sam Kekuaokalani has preached to his players the importance of preparation.

After an extra week of practice, the Waveriders looked like a prepared team Saturday night, rolling with the punches and holding off a persistent Waiakea squad 39-25 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinal.

“I think the boys have learned that simply the desire to win is not enough,” Kekuaokalani said. “It’s the desire to prepare to win that will separate us and get us to where we want to be.”

Kealakehe (4-5) will play Hilo (9-0) Friday at 7 p.m. at Wong Stadium for the BIIF D-I championship. It is the third consecutive year the teams are meeting for the title and the 13th straight (2002-14) appearance for the Waveriders in the championship.

Kealakehe enters the title matchup on a high note. Outside of a 65-0 blowout of winless Keaau (0-9), the 39 points Saturday was the team’s most this season, and the defense stifled a Waiakea running game that recorded 231 yards when the teams met in the regular season.

“We kept our heads in the game,” said Kealakehe linebacker Kainoa Piltz, who led the Waveriders with 10 tackles, three of which were for loss. “I think we maybe looked ahead of them a little last time, but we played even-keeled for the whole game tonight.”

The Waveriders also bounced back from a disappointing 26-yard performance in the season finale against rival Konawaena, racking up 303 yards of total offense behind an improved offensive line.

For Waiakea (2-8), the season is over, but the future is bright because of a young core of playmakers. Quarterback Gehrig Octavio is a sophomore, and top running backs Pono Auwae and Joseph Ongais are juniors.

Octavio was 14 of 24 for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Kealakehe, but had three costly interceptions, including a fourth quarter pick-six by Dustin Waiau. Auwae had a team-high 46 yards on the ground and a score.

Kealakehe’s stress on preparation was amplified for the postseason when threat of hurricane forced the league to delay the semifinals a week.

Senior captain Louie Garcia took to heart the sentiments of his coach. The speedy senior was an X-factor against the Warriors.

“Coach told us at the beginning of the week, ‘You don’t win games on Saturday nights. You win games Monday through Friday in practice.’ That really stuck with me,” Garcia said. “I think we played as a team and the preparation paid off.”

Garcia, who was an All-BIIF honorable mention at wide receiver in 2013 but had seen the majority of his snaps this season on the defensive side of the ball, re-emerged as a major offensive weapon for Kealakehe. He ignited the ’Riders offense early, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Kaimi Wilson, and then set up his team’s next score with a long punt return.

Garcia finished the contest with 102 yards receiving and two touchdowns — one each rushing and receiving.

“Louie showed up to practice every day with a purpose and a goal,” Kekuaokalani said. “He played knowing this could be his last game.”

Another senior who stepped up for Kealakehe was Wilson, who had seen scattered time at quarterback, but got the start in place of Markus Degrate.

Wilson is not a prototypical quarterback: He embraces contact — playing on both kick coverage teams — and never shies away from lowing his shoulder for an extra yard. He had his most productive game of the season against Waiakea, throwing for 180 yards on 14 of 30 passing and accounting for three touchdowns.

“We made the decision to go with Kaimi towards the end of the Konawaena game,” Kekuaokalani said. “He is a different type of quarterback. He is a tough kid who will take a hit to make a play and is learning to work even harder than he has in the past.”

While Kekuaokalani commended his players for the terrific two weeks of practice, another factor he mentioned was the outpouring of support from the Waveriders’ biggest fans — the parents.

“I think the parents understand the importance of their support for us,” Kekuaokalani said. “When they support what we are doing, it helps us focus on the goal.”

Now, the Waveriders have a championship matchup against the Vikings. Hilo narrowly edged Kealakehe 7-0, the score coming on an opening-drive fumble return by Vikings linebacker Ofa Fahiua.

“They didn’t score anything on our defense last time, but we know it is going to be another tough game,” Piltz said. “Tristin Spikes is a great athlete and Sione (Atuekaho) has got an arm. We know we have to prepare for everything.”

Waiakea 7 2 8 8 — 25

Kealakehe 13 0 14 12 — 39

First quarter

KEAL — Louie Garcia 15-yard pass from Kaimi Wilson (Ari Mench kick), 7:17

KEAL — Kobe Antolin 1-yard run (2-point conversion failed), 4:42

WAI — Pono Auwae fumble recovery in end zone (kick good), 2:09

Second quarter

WAI — Safety, snap out of back of end zone, 1:39

Third quarter

KEAL — Wilson 2-yard run (Mench kick), 6:22

WAI — Rapoza 25-yard pass from Octavio (pass to Rapoza), 4:11

KEAL — Garcia 1-yard run (Mench kick), 1:27

Fourth quarter

KEAL — Dustin Waiau 41-yard interception return (2-pt. conversion failed), 9:47


KEAL — Riggs Kurashige 30-yard pass from Wilson (kick blocked), 7:30

WAI — Cuba 14-yard pass from Octavio (pass to Cuba), 1:04

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