KEALAKEKUA — Konawaena hadn’t even stepped on the field before delivering its first message of the BIIF season.
Two-by-two, the Wildcats shuffled down the stairs near the northern end zone, slicing through a standing room only crowd at Julian Yates Field.
Over the speakers, “The Drum” by The Siege served as the welcoming soundtrack for the Wildcats and the lyrics couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“When you hear the sound of the drum … We’ll be saying, here we come,” rang through the Kealakekua night repeatedly. “HERE WE COME.”
The Wildcats — 26 players strong — announced their arrival in the BIIF’s Division I with a 24-7 victory over cross-town rival Kealakehe (0-1 BIIF, 1-1 overall) on Saturday night.
“I told them once we walk down this stairs we are taking care of business,” Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto said. “We are going to play our brand of football and not get outside that bubble. Have that moment, but then regather yourselves and get ready to go.”
Junior quarterback Kainoa “Boo” Jones led the way for the Wildcats (1-0), completing 23 of 31 passes for 189 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception. He also had a rushing score.
Jones showed great chemistry with his top targets Marc Basa (6 catches, 77 yards) and Jesse Canda (7 catches, 65 yards, 2 touchdowns). Canda is slippery at 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, catching both of his scores in close quarters on the goal line, including an athletic catch and dive for the pylon for Konawaena’s first touchdown of the season.
“At 5:30 a.m. we’re out here working before school,” Jones said of his chemistry with his wide receivers before cracking a smile. “I need to get on those guys more.”
Jones transferred from Kealakehe to Konawaena in the offseason and epitomized the rivalry postgame. Before he could take some time for an interview, he had to get through a long line of photos with players wearing both blue and green.
“Before and after the game, we are all boys — of course. But during the game there are no friends,” Jones said. “They know at the end of the day we are going to be friends and I got their back. But we have to take care of business on the field.”
Jones said he enjoyed the experience of being a member of the Wildcats’ Zoo Krew in “The Jungle,” rather than a visitor in hostile territory.
“I can’t describe it, honestly,” Jones said. “New team, new culture. I’m just happy to be here.”
Jones was an All-BIIF wide receiver last season at Kealakehe, but is now in control of Uemoto’s up-tempo Wildcat offense. With zip on his throws and top-notch athleticism to keep plays alive, Jones wowed in his first appearance as a Wildcat. But his new head coach sees the ceiling for Jones, and it’s still a ways away.
“If I was to grade him, it’d probably be a solid C,” said Uemoto, which is as much a compliment as it is a criticism. “That’s just because I know his potential. He did a really good job this being his first game in our system. But it’s not just about running the offense — it’s about conducting the offense. It’ll be great to have film now and we can get to work on what we need to correct and improve.”
Konawaena’s game plan was controlled and methodical. With the Waverider offense unable to find its footing early, the Wildcats were able to dictate the pace of the game, picking up first downs and running more than twice the amount of plays in the first half.
“Our defense played a great first half. It allowed us to be a little bit conservative and play field position early,” Uemoto said of the unit that limited Kealakehe to just 59 yards of first half offense — 24 of that coming on one play. “We wanted to execute and play clean, which isn’t always easy at this point in the year.”
Konawaena defensive end Alex Muti made his usual ruckus on the edge. But against Kealakehe, it was his co-star Elisha Martin on the other side of the defensive line that made a big impact. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior defense end tallied a pair of sacks and an interception.
“Elisha is doing a good job being the unsung hero with his steady play,” Uemoto said. “Muti ends up pushing a lot of plays his way and he does his job holding down that side.”
Despite their first half dominance, the Wildcats entered the locker room with just a 10-0 lead and one big play could have pushed Kealakehe back into the game. However, that play never game for the Waveriders, and a 14-point third quarter from Konawaena essentially put the game away.
The rivlary is far from over. With BIIF divisonal foes facing off twice per season, Konawaena will travel to take on Kealakehe in the rematch on Sept. 26.
“We don’t want to build this win up too much. Outside of the score, that was a good football team,” Uemoto said. “We know coming into the next meeting that they’re going to adjust from this loss. We need to understand what got us this win but also think about how to counter what we think they’ll do different.”
As the rest of the BIIF gets underway next week, the Wildcats will welcome California powerhouse Mission Viejo to Kelakekua in a non-league game on Friday. The Diablos are currently ranked No. 36 in the country, according to MaxPreps.
The Waveriders have the week off before another big matchup against six-time BIIF D-I champ Hilo on Aug. 30.
Kealakehe 0 0 0 7 — 7
Konawaena 0 10 14 0 — 24
KONA – J. Roback, 30 yard field goal.
KONA – J. Canda, 5 yard pass from K. Jones. (J. Roback kick)
KONA – K. Jones, 1 yard run. (J. Roback kick)
KONA – J. Canda, 2 yard pass from K. Jones. (J. Roback kick)
KEAL – S. Nahale, 2 yard run. (K. Robins kick)
PASSING – Kealakehe: Sheynen-Wyatt Nahale 7-21-2-68. Konawaena: Kainoa Jones 23-31-1-189, Joseph Roback 1-1-0-12.
RUSHING – Kealakehe: Elijah Kahele 10-42, Sheynen-Wyatt Nahale 9-12, Raymond Skillern 4-8, Ronnie Bhoy Tababa 3-4. Konawaena: Riley Sato 7-27, Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio 10-24, Kainoa Jones 8-16, Schyler Suzuki 2-7,
RECEIVING – Kealakehe: Hunter Wehrsig 3-37, Akela Kaniho 3-23, Isaiah Mansaas 1-8, . Konawaena: Marc Basa 6-77, Jesse Canda 7-65, Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio 4-25, Joseph Roback 4-22, Kaden Baptista 2-12