KEAAU — Let’s address the elephant in the football room at Kamehameha right off the bat.
The Warriors say they’re not taking any of their BIIF Division II opponents lightly, though realignment appears to have left the landscape heavily stacked in their favor.
Some might even call Kamehameha’s repeat bid a potential cakewalk.
“I don’t believe in none of that,” standout linebacker Wilde Germano said.
“I believe everyone is Iolani,” he said, referring to the team that beat the Warriors 47-10 to open the nonleague season. “I believe everyone is Hilo High.
“I approach everyone like they can beat us. I approach everyone like they can kill us, because we’re the No. 1 team, we have the “X” on our back that is going to make everyone want to kill us.”
Whether parity lives in D-II this season will hinge on if any of the three former eight-man teams — Ka’u, Pahoa and Kohala, or a Hawaii Prep program that has been in perpetual rebuild mode of late — can rise up to meet the challenge of a perennial contender.
“We never assume we’re going to win any games,” senior center Luke Kaniho.
Konawaena, Kamehameha’s annual dance partner in the title game, moved up to Division I, but the Warriors, almost in unison, are vowing not to look past anyone this season.
Senior running back Apu Alfiche scoffed at the mere thought of letting overconfidence creep into the mindset.
“We have to treat everyone like it’s the biggest game of our season,” he said.
In that football room tucked away in the southwest corner of Paiea Stadium, first-year coach Shaun Perry has everything mapped out and every contingency is accounted for, down to five-minute increments at practices.
Former coach Dan Lyons prided himself on preparing Kamehameha for all situations, and Perry, his former assistant, has turned the intensity up a notch.
“We practice at a super high level, the tempo is unreal,” Perry said. “We judge ourselves on how we get through practice.”
As he’s talking, one voice can be heard yelling above all the rest on the field.
It’s not a coach.
“Do you hear Germano?” Perry said.
Having the wrecking ball of his defense communicate with his teammates is music to Perry’s ears.
“I’ve always been one to open my mouth and say something, but this is my senior year and coach sat me down and said, ‘You’re the guy this year, you need to elevate the play of this team,”’ Germano said. “I want to motivate everyone to give as much as I’m giving. I can still work on that, too. If I can get everyone to buy in, we’ll be straight.”
The Warriors’ numbers are lower than usual for the second consecutive season, but they were able to handle depth issues in 2018 by having many play both ways.
Kamehameha dressed between 29 and 33 players in its first two nonleague games, and they’ll likely be in high 20s when they face Hilo on Friday at Wong Stadium, where their junior varsity will have a game for the first time. The JV program was salvaged for a shortened season, then some will move up to bolster the varsity in what Perry envisions being a roster in the mid-40s for a Sept. 14 game against Hawaii Prep.
Perry thinks a group of 12 players he has to handle the eight positions on the offensive and defensive lines — he thinks of the unit as one — are a team strength, and he looks for big things from the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Kaniho.
“You have to mention Luke,” he said, “he’s going to be a star.”
Of the 10 Warriors to make all-BIIF last season, Kaniho, Germano and receiver/defensive back Izayah Chartrand-Penera return.
Juniors Michael Glendon (5-11, 265) and Keanu Klask Hoopii (5-9, 240) and senior Dayten Mundon (5-8, 195) return to prominent roles roles along the offensive line, and other names to watch are juniors Carson Crivello (6-0, 240), Wallace Ishibashi (5-8, 185) and Jayson Berdon (5-8, 165) and senior Dane Shibuya (5-11, 365).
Sophomore Micah Mahiai (5-10, 210) scored two rushing touchdowns Saturday against Waiakea, and he’ll also play nose guard in a 3-5-3 defensive scheme. Junior Delson Dacalio (6-2, 175) is a potential difference-maker on the line and senior Kanaka Kuamoo-Quihano (6-0, 225) has already made his presence felt.
“Our coaches always tell us we’re the heart of the team, and we take that with pride,” Kaniho said. “We as the offensive and defensive line unit understand that it’s our job to strive for success.”
All-BIIF quarterback Kaimi Like is among the departed, and the player expected to take his place, Koby Tabuyo-Kahele, hasn’t played in a game yet. In his absence, freshman Michael Perry has filled in admirably, but he’ll likely move to receiver, where the Warriors have a huge play-making void to fill.
Simply put, there is no way to replace the dynamic Kilohana Haasenritter, a University of Hawaii commit who transferred to Hilo, but senior Austin Wilson will help try, showing flashes with two scores against Waiakea.
“Austin is my guy,” Shaun Perry said, “I had to make sure he got on the team this year, because there was a part of him that was weighing back and forth. I really wanted him to play because he is a great outside runner.”
Kamehameha rarely has issues filling its four-receiver sets with reliable targets.
Chartrand-Penera, a senior, will be counted on to make big plays and resume his role as a shutdown cornerback, senior Makoa Aurello is switching over to offense, senior Isaac Villanueva is dependable at receiver and as a returner, freshman Ezekial Gragas showed promise during the Warriors’ first two games and senior Keaton McCallum is another name to watch.
At running back, Alfiche seems poised to shine in his first season as the prime ball-carrier.
“He had a really good summer on the mainland, all his camps, all his training,” Perry said. “He came back primed and ready to go.”
Alfiche will play outside linebacker as well, and Perry looks forward to the contributions of some “young bucks” at the position: sophomores Taylor Eckart and Dodge Turner and freshman Tobey Lau.
Jake Toci will help at either free safety or corner, and juniors Peyton Kaliyama and Joshua Ruiz will be counted on in the secondary.
If the Waiakea game is any indication, freshman Elijah Dinkel looks more than capable of handling the place-kicking duties.
“We have a young team” Alfiche said, “the seniors have to build them up so they can fill our shoes when they are seniors and do the same thing, maybe even better.”
Iolani 47, Kamehameha 10
Kamehameha 56, Waiakea 6
Friday at Hilo 8:30 p.m.
BIIF Division II
Aug. 24 at Ka‘u 1:30 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Pahoa 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Hawaii Prep 3 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Kohala 1 p.m.
Sept. 27 vs. Pahoa 6 p.m.
Oct. 3 vs. Ka’u 6 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Kapaa
BIIF Division II
Oct. 18 vs. Kohala 6 p.m.
Oct. 25 vs. HPA 6 p.m.
At a glance
Last season: 6-3, won first BIIF D-II title since 2014, lost to Kaimuki 28-27 in HHSAA first-round game.
Coach: Shaun Perry (first season)
Number to know: 3 – all-BIIF returnees out of the 10 Kamehameha had last season
Quotable: “I approach everyone like they can beat us. I approach everyone like they can kill us, because we’re the No. 1 team, we have the “X” on our back that is going to make everyone want to kills us.”
– senior linebacker Wilde Germano