Turnovers derail Wildcats: Konawaena turns the ball over 10 times in 30-7 HHSAA Division I semifinal loss to Lahainaluna

  • Konawaena’s Anthony Torres and Maui Ellis-Noa share a hug after the final whistle of the Wildcats HHSAA Division I semifinal Friday afternoon in Honolulu. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • Kawelu Kaiawe runs through a gaping hole in Lahainaluna’s defense Friday at Farrington High School. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • Isaac Clement hauls in a 40-yard pass in the first quarter of Konawaena’s HHSAA Division I semifinal Saturday. Clement’s catch set up the Wildcats’ lone touchdown of the game. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • Akoni Binney fields a kickoff during Konawaena’s game against Lahainaluna Saturday afternoon. Binney racked up 65 return yards on the game. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

HONOLULU – If the Wildcats were going to go down, they made sure to go down swinging.

Despite turning the ball over a staggering 10 times to Lahainaluna in Friday’s HHSAA Division I semifinal, the Konawaena football team was still within striking distance – down just two scores – late in the fourth quarter.

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“It’s a tribute to this group; it’s what they’ve been all year,” said Konawaena’s head coach Brad Uemoto. “They’ve been fighters, and I wanted to go out fighting.”

Ultimately, the turnovers proved too much to overcome, and the Lunas advanced past the Wildcats 30-7. Konawaena QB Keoki Alani threw seven interceptions, and the Wildcats lost three fumbles.

“Obviously, we turned the ball over way too much,” said Uemoto. “We were still in the game at the half, and I felt we were one score away. We just couldn’t make that one, get that one score that could get us back in it.”

After a botched snap on a field-goal attempt led to a 20-yard score by Lahainaluna’s Kuola Watson early in the first, the Wildcats responded with a 68-yard drive of their own, punctuated by a pair of punishing Kawelu Kaiawe runs – followed by a Ro’o Satta-Ellis extra point – to even the score at seven.

After the Lunas punched in a one-yard touchdown following a botched Konawaena snap, the Wildcat defense held firm for nearly the rest of the game. Lahainaluna didn’t find the end zone again until 1:54 remaining. Three Anatello Flores field goals – two in the second quarter and one in the fourth – made it a 23-7 game late.

While the Wildcat offense often found chunks of yards through the air – Alani found Kamaehu Makanui 10 times for 86 yards, Isaac Clement twice for 40 yards, Satta-Ellis six times for 37 yards and Landon Daquel-Shimabukuro four times for 27 yards – Lahainaluna’s opportunistic secondary too often capitalized to end drives with turnovers. Alani finished with 190 yards, completing 22 of 47 attempts.

Defensively, Konawaena’s front couldn’t contain Lahainaluna’s four-headed monster of a rushing attack as the game wore on. The Lunas racked up 279 yards on the ground on the afternoon.

“They’re so good; once you miss an assignment, there goes 10, 20 yards,” said Uemoto. “That’s what they do to you; you stop them, you stop them, they wear you down, and then they just get one big one… Our goal was to limit those, and I thought we did a good job throughout the night. They just got a couple big ones that hurt us.”

Kaiawe led Konawaena on the ground with 78 yards on 19 carries and recorded the team’s lone score of the day.

Though the loss surely stings, Konawaena’s head coach sees a bright future for his team, which returns all but six seniors.

“We’re such a young group; this is a great experience for them,” said Uemoto. “Mark my words right now; we’re going to be back next year.

“We’re going to be tougher, better. This experience is going to teach these younger kids a lot and build this into a championship-caliber team next year.”

Lahainaluna 14 6 0 10 – 30

Konawaena 7 0 0 0 – 7

First quarter

Lahainaluna – Watson 20-yard run (Flores kick)

Konawaena – Kaiawe 2-yard run (Satta-Ellis kick)

Lahainaluna – Sylva-Viela 1-yard run (Flores kick)

Second quarter

Lahainaluna – Flores 19-yard field goal

Lahainaluna – Flores 30-yard field goal

Fourth quarter

Lahainaluna – Flores 30-yard field goal

Lahainaluna – Cabanilla 10-yard run (Flores kick)

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