Konawaena Battles Injuries to Defeat HPA
Konawaena faced a massive amount of adversity late Friday night in its attempt to hold off Hawai`i Prep at home.
Nursing a 27-20 lead with about 3:30 left to play, the Wildcats were huddled on their own sideline, praying for senior Koa Basque, who was taken off the field in an ambulance after suffering a lower leg injury.
Earlier in the game, starting quarterback Shelton Grace left the game with a dislocated left shoulder. And starting wide receiver Bubba Ellis-Noa was thrown out of the game after officials alleged that he made intentional helmet contact with another player.
When HPA couldn’t convert a fourth down deep in Konawaena territory with less than a minute left, however, the Wildcats could breathe a sigh of relief, leaving its home field on homecoming night with a 27-20 win.
“It was a physically tough game for both teams,” said Konawaena Head Coach Cliff Walters. “You have to put guys in there and endure ’til the end. Both teams were hanging on by the skin of their chinny-chin-chin’s.”
Walters was coaching hurt after being taken to a hospital earlier this week with a blood clot in his left leg. Walters was told to coach from the sideline while sitting in a chair, but he couldn’t keep himself seated as the game tightened up.
“I was supposed to be sitting in that chair resting my leg. It was okay until that fourth quarter and then it was impossible,” Walters said. “I was up more than I should’ve been.”
Konawaena (4-1 overall, 3-1 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) was in total control of the game for much of the first half. The Wildcats kept Ka Makani from getting a first down on HPA’s first six drives of the game and limited them to 68 yards of total offense in the first half, most coming in the final drive of the half, which ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Koa Ellis Jr. to Nicky Palleschi to narrow Konawaena’s lead to 27-14 with 2:11 to play in the first half.
Konawaena’s offense, despite a few turnovers, wore out HPA’s defense early in the game. The Wildcats struck first when Grace found Kayson Mahiai for a 42-yard touchdown reception to put Konawaena up 7-0 with 3:54 left in the opening quarter.
HPA’s defense capitalized on a Konawaena turnover to tie the game. Caleb Kagawa picked up a Grace fumble and returned it 76 yards to tie the game with 2:20 remaining in the first.
The Wildcats would rattle off 20 consecutive second-quarter points to shift the momentum completely in the home team’s favor. After a 28-yard punt return by Cameron Howes set the Wildcats up at HPA’s 37 yard line, junior running back Algene Kelekolio wasted little time in finding the end zone, bursting through the middle of the field for a 37-yard touchdown run to push Konawaena to a 14-7 lead with just :22 elapsed in the second quarter.
Kelekolio, last year’s starting running back on the junior varsity squad, led the Wildcats on the ground with 69 yards on 14 carries.
Konawaena’s quick strike offense struck again two drives later when Grace opened the drive finding Ellis-Noa for a 51-yard touchdown completion to extend the lead to 21-7 with 7:29 left in the half.
Grace had his most efficient game of the season before leaving with the injury to his left non-throwing shoulder. He completed 16 of his 26 passing attempts for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
Ellis-Noa, before being kicked out of the game, caught a team high eight passes for a game high 98 yards. Walters says he will look at the video tape before appealing the ejection. By rule, Ellis-Noa must miss the team’s next game at Honoka`a next week.
After the sixth and final HPA three-and-out, the Wildcats ran the ball right down the throats of the tired Ka Makani defense, running four plays on the ground, leading to Ellis-Noa’s 12-yard touchdown rush to put Konawaena ahead 27-7 with 5:22 left in the half.
Hawai`i Prep (2-4, 1-3) cut into the score during the third quarter when Ellis found Justin Perry for a 22-yard touchdown connection, cutting Konawaena’s lead to 27-20 with 5:23 left in the third quarter. Without a consistent running game and facing an aggressive Konawaena secondary, Ka Makani couldn’t get closer.
Ellis finished the game going 16-for-41 through the air for 164 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Junior cornerback Luca Vartic’s pick spoiled an HPA drive that was deep in the Wildcats’ side of the field. His assignment was to shut down HPA’s best receiver, Nicky Palleschi.
“He’s (Palleschi) a big dude, he’s talented, he’s a great receiver and a good athlete,” Vartic said. “His high level play raised my level, so I felt like that’s why I did fairly well.”
Palleschi, HPA’s leading receiver, did get 11 receptions for 81 yards, but outside of his touchdown reception, most of his other catches didn’t go for major yardage. And Perry, Ka Makani’s second-best receiver, didn’t have a catch until the second half. He finished the game with four catches totaling 62 receiving yards.
HPA, needing to win out to have a chance at hosting a Division II semifinal game, will host Kamehameha-Hawai`i next Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
Hawai`i Prep 7 7 6 0 – 20
Konawaena 7 20 0 0 – 27
KONA (3:54) – Kayson Mahiai 42 yd reception from Shelton Grace (Cameron Howes XPT good)
HPA (2:20) – Caleb Kagawa 76 yd fumble recovery return (Alex Brost XPT good)
KONA (11:38) – Algene Kelekolio 37 yd run (Howes XPT good)
KONA (7:29) – Bubba Ellis-Noa 51 yd reception from Grace (Howes XPT good)
KONA (5:22) – Ellis-Noa 12 yd run (Howes XPT no good)
HPA (2:11) – Nicky Palleschi 2 yd reception from Koa Ellis Jr. (Brost XPT good)
HPA (5:23) – Justin Perrt 22 yd reception from Ellis Jr. (Brost XPT blocked)
Friday’s BIIF scoreboard
Konawaena 27, Hawai`i Prep 20
Kamehameha-Hawai`i 25, Waiakea 18
Konawaena JV 56, Pahoa 6 (8-man)