It would be a stretch to say Hilo was confused coming off back-to-back shutouts, but after the Vikings’ first three games, it was fair to say there was some lingering uncertainty.
Then a ride to West Hawaii brought clarity to the BIIF football playoff picture and cohesiveness and confidence to the revamped five-time defending Division I champions.
“The Kealakehe game, that was when we actually started rolling and got confident,” junior quarterback Kyan Miyasato said, “because we really weren’t confident and didn’t feel we had it.”
When senior safety Kahiau Walker got on the bus back from Kailua-Kona on Sept 21 after a convincing victory at Waveriders Stadium, he figured Hilo had found itself.
“It kind of was a big surprise,” he said. “Going in, a lot of people were going in and out of our set.”
Afterward, ”we were fully comfortable with each other,” Walker said.
Coach Kaeo Drummondo hadn’t noticed a championship buildup at a midweek practice, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he said. The mantra for Hilo (7-0) is that Friday night’s 7 p.m. kickoff against Kealakehe (5-2) at Wong Stadium is just another game, just a chance to add another title to a dynasty.
No disrespect intended, that’s just how the Vikings roll.
They execute their game plan.
“As long as we stay focused we can execute better than we did before,” Walker said. “It’s my last year, I have to enjoy every second of it.”
They let the chips fall where they may.
“Win or go home,” Drummondo said. “One game for the championship. Practices have been good so far this week. I like the way they’ve approached it. It doesn’t feel like they are taking anything lightly.”
He’s quick to point out the Vikings used two pick-sixes to pad their 45-23 victory in the teams’ first meeting – including Elijah Apao’s from end zone to end zone – a luxury his squad might not be able to rely on again.
“Kealakehe should be confident in the way they moved the ball,” Drummondo said. “We’ve continued to watch their film and they have capable playmakers. The score doesn’t always dictate or tell the exact story of how the game went.
“Defensively, there is so much more we have to get cleaned up.”
Kealakehe quarterback Jorden Himalaya tossed two touchdown passes in the first meeting, and those 23 points represent 64 percent of the total points Hilo’s allowed in BIIF play this season. The Vikings posted four shutouts, allowed 13 at Keaau High and won via a forfeit.
“Read and attack and go play fundamental football,” Drummondo said.
Going into the season, the Vikings’ question mark defensively was its front seven because of youth, but five underclassmen along with junior play-making linebacker Kalen White have helped shore the holes up front. That’s made life easier for Walker and an experienced secondary.
“They need a little bit more experience at this level,” Walker said, “so far, so good.
“Since the beginning of the season, they’ve picked it up a lot.”
The same could be said of Hilo’s offensive line and Miyasato, an off-and-on three-year contributor who has been conspicuous in his absence at times in his career.
The Vikings returned a bevy of skill players and a rebuilt offensive has rounded into shape, leaving Miyasato’s development as the last missing piece.
He threw four interceptions in the BIIF opener against Hawaii Prep and he missed Week 2 against Honokaa, but ever since he’s delivered.
Miyasato even sounds like a field general.
“I put all the pressure on me, everything that happens to us good or bad,” he said. “Maybe not the good, but the bad, even if it’s not my fault I just put it on me to bring up the team instead of bringing them down.”
In his past five games, Miyasato has fired 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions while surpassing 1,000 in the air by taking advantage of a deep receiving core that includes Fiki Aguiar (nine touchdowns) and Guyson Ogata (eight).
Hilo has had a two-week break since beating Konawaena 25-0, although there was drama last week regarding whether they were going to have to play Kamehameha last Friday. Hilo learned last Thursday that the Warriors’ forfeit was final.
Miyasato sounded as if he’s spent much of the past two weeks studying the Waveriders’ defense. Last time out against Kealakehe he accounted for four scores and threw for 254 yards. Running back Kaleo Ramos’s has two 10o-yard games this season, the first coming against Kealakehe.
“They have seven new fronts now, but our coaches they tell us it’s not really anything to worry about,” Miyasato said. “We’ve heard about it and we watched all their defenses and their fronts.
“They’ll play a 5-1, 3-3, 4-2, they play all kinds (of fronts), but we have answers to all of it.”
“It’s the coaches,” he said, “they really know what they are doing.”