Kealakehe is officially in uncharted territory.
On Tuesday, the Waveriders departed for the program’s first mainland game against Utah squad Desert Hills. The game is slated for Friday night in St. George, Utah.
“The boys are hungry to do well up there,” Kealakehe head coach Sam Kekuaokalani said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for us and our focus is to go and represent Hawaii well. We want to go through this journey and enjoy it.”
Kealakehe opened its season with a 33-20 victory over OIA squad Pearl City back on Aug. 4. The Waveriders were scheduled to open BIIF play against Konawaena last weekend, but the game was canceled due to the threat of Hurricane Lane.
Desert Hills has dropped both of its games this season, falling 14-7 to Highland and 17-10 to Salem Hills.
The Thunder are under first-year head coach Mark Murdoch. Desert Hills runs a spread offense but has struggled to put up points in its first two games using a run-heavy approach. In two games the squad has only completed 10 passes for 104 yards, with four interceptions to go with just a single touchdown through the air.
Kealakehe showed off a stout from seven against Pearl City, holding the Chargers to less than 50 yards rushing as a team and allowing just one run over 10 yards.
“It’s going to be a whole new level up there,” senior offensive lineman Kaua Awana “We are excited to see the competition up there.”
“We are treating it like a business trip,” quarterback Jorden Himalaya added. “We know a lot went into making this trip happen, so we don’t want to go up there and lose.”
There will be plenty to do away from the gridiron for the Waverider contingent. The team will visit three different colleges during the trek in Division I UNLV, D-III Dixie State and Southern Utah University, where the team will watch a game between the Thunderbirds and North Alabama before returning on Sept. 2 and getting back to the BIIF.
“We don’t view this as just a football trip, but an opportunity that will enable our student athletes to be exposed to three college levels,” Kealakehe athletic director Alan Vogt said. “We find that most of our kids have limited exposure to post high school prospects.”
That sentiment is not lost on the players, who are excited for the opportunity to play a game on the mainland.
“To be able to put our name out there is huge,” said Kealakehe offensive lineman Setu Vole. “Coming from this island, we don’t always get that opportunity.”
There won’t be anytime to rebound from jet lag for the Waveriders, who will return to the Big Island on Sept. 2. Kealakehe will head to Kamehameha-Hawaii on Sept. 7 for its BIIF opener.
“It’s not the easiest schedule, but I think it will be good for the boys to experience that game and address the challenge,” Kekuaokalani said.
Those looking to tune in can watch the live stream of the game at https://youtu.be/rE_2jBnE3Ig, or visit www.sportsradio977.com.m