King me: Mighty defensive effort helps Wildcats stymie Waiakea on homecoming night

  • The Pop Warner Kona Marlins meet Konawaena players on the field before the Wildcats play a game against Waiakea on Friday at Julian Yates Field in Kealakekua. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • Konawaena's Orion Smith breaks through the Waiakea line in the second quarter of Friday's game in at Julian Yates Field in Kealakekua. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • Konawaena's Boaz Ayers celebrates with teammate Schyler Suzuki after scoring a touchdown off a kick return during the second quarter against Waiakea at Julian Yates Field on Friday in Kealakekua. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • Konawaena's Boaz Ayers celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown off a kick return during the second quarter against Waiakea at Julian Yates Field on Friday in Kealakekua. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — Boaz Ayers’ Friday night attire ended up quite a bit dirtier than the rest of the homecoming court.

It’s safe to say, he didn’t mind.

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The Konawaena homecoming king and senior defensive back turned in the most interesting stat line of the night in the Wildcats’ 41-7 win over Waiakea, returning a punt for a touchdown, nabbing a first half interception and catching a two-point conversion.

Ayers’ punt return gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead in the second quarter and was a momentum boost Konawaena desperately needed after a relatively stagnant start to an eventful evening.

“I felt like we had it in us, we just had to find that spark,” Ayers said. “We were all so hyped up from homecoming we made some mistakes early, but we were able to turn it around.”

Ayers combined with two-way senior lineman Tevin Canda for the most entertaining highlight of the night.

After the Wildcats scored on a nearly flawless first drive out of the half to make it 27-7, Canda found himself at the controls of the offense for a two-point try. Canda — who’s listed at 5-foot-6, 225 pounds — rolled out to the right and floated a ball into the hands of Ayers.

Canda couldn’t help but laugh when asked how his throwing arm felt after the game.

“The arm feels cherry,” Canda said with a smile, stretching it out. “I was so nervous. We practiced it like one time, but it worked.”

The play call on the two-point play? Appropriately, “homecoming.”

“It’s always a good time when the big boys get involved and I figured we’d throw Boaz the ball since he was the king,” Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto said. “We weren’t sure if we were going to use it, but at the time, I felt it would give us a little bit of momentum. Fortunately, we executed.”

Execution, however, would not be a theme for the night for either squad.

“Both teams were very inconsistent,” Uemoto said of the choppy game. “We knew coming in Waiakea was improved and it showed. A lot of our inconsistencies had to do with what they were doing out there.”

Konawaena freshman QB Sheynen Nahale completed 20 of his 42 throws for 277 yards and a trio of touchdowns. However, he also tossed three of interceptions — one that was returned 100 yards for Waiakea’s only score of the game, and another on just the second pass of the game.

Nahale did show the ability to shake off a costly mistake though. After the Warriors’ defensive score, he completed 9 of his next 11 passes for 141 yards and a TD.

Uemoto has maintained that he’s not shying away from giving the talented freshman a heavy workload as he builds his pocket presence. Nahale has surpassed the 40 attempt mark in three of four games this season. The only time he didn’t came against Kapaa, a contest he left just after the half with an injury.

“At the end of the day, I’m never going to treat Sheynen like a freshman,” Uemoto said. “We are going to keep putting his feet to the fire because that’s the only way he’s going to gain experience, improve and get comfortable out there.”

Waiakea threw the ball 40 times with two QBs — Justin Nakamoto-Baltazar (10-25, 63 yards) and Noah Eblacas (4-15, 22 yards). Five of Waiakea’s first seven passes went for completions, but they would have just nine the rest of the game.

On top of the mound of incompletions, the Warriors had more than a dozen plays that went for no, or negative yardage. Waiakea’s total offensive output in the game was just 137 yards, with only two plays — both QB runs — going for over 15 yards. The Warriors’ most explosive play was a 57-yard catch and run near the end of the first half, but it was waved off because of an illegal crack back block.

An active defensive line kept the Warriors uncomfortable. Konawaena’s AJ Alani and Alex Muti were in hot pursuit on most plays, while the always consistent Canda shut down the middle with sound gap responsibility.

“The defense has been dialed in,” Uemoto said. “They take it personally when teams gain yards and sustain drives.”

The Wildcats intercepted four passes. Safety Noah Bredeson had a pair — including a fourth quarter pick-six — along with Kalai Santiago and Ayers, who credited the guys up front for making things easier in coverage.

“Our defensive line has been working hard, plugging holes and stopping the run. That helps us in coverage a lot,” Ayers said. “It feels like it’s all coming together, but I think we are still realizing our potential. It’s just going to take hard work to get where we want to go.”

Days of future past

While the homecoming festivities celebrated the historic 1968 Konawaena squad, a few future Wildcats got the sideline experience before kickoff.

As Konawaena stormed onto the field, they were welcomed by a sea a blue jerseys belonging to the players of the Kona Marlins Pop Warner program. The youth players slapped hands and bumped fists with the Wildcat players.

“I wanted to give them that experience to be on the field with the boys,” Uemoto said. “They can dream about what it’s like to play high school football.”

Before he was an All-BIIF defender for Konawaena, Ayers had those dreams of suiting up in Konawaena Green.

“I played for the Kona Marlins growing up and I remember being some of those kids, throwing footballs on the track during the game,” Ayers said. “It’s nice to be able to feel like role models.”

It didn’t end there. The Wildcats hosted a free clinic for youth players ages 8-14 at Julian Yates Field on Saturday morning, with players and coaches dispersing some tricks of the trade to the up-and-coming footballers.

“We want to inspire these kids,” Uemoto said, “and hopefully they will want to be Wildcats one day.”

Next up

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Konawaena: The Wildcats have a short week to prepare for Hawaii Prep, its first D-II opponent of the season. Ka Makani visit Julian Yates field on Thursday night.

Waiakea: The Warriors will look to get back on track at home against Keaau on Saturday.

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