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Strong Start Fuels Konawaena Victory

August 16, 2015, 10:49 AM HST
* Updated August 16, 10:52 AM
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Saturday night marked several new beginnings for Konawaena High School’s football program.

Finding a way to win, however, remained a constant.

Sophomore quarterback Austin Ewing’s improvisation led to two touchdown hookups with Kamakana Ching, and Torin Tuppein was involved in two safeties as Konawaena defeated Saint Francis 18-6 at Julian R. Yates Field in Kealakekua.

“We were fresh, obviously,” said first-year Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto about his team’s season opener. Saint Francis opened its season last week with a 62-0 blowout of Anuenue.

Speaking of “fresh,” Konawaena unveiled Ewing at the quarterback position, a sophomore with plenty of potential that coaches have been hoping to see on a regular basis since he stood out on the junior varsity level last season. Ewing even got some time on the field during the Wildcats’ league championship loss last year at Kamehameha-Hawai’i.

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Ewing flashed positive things when he was on the run, getting out of pressure and extending time to make a play. On Konawaena’s second drive, Ewing rolled out of pressure to his left and found an open Kamakana Ching down the field for a 49-yard touchdown, putting the Wildcats ahead 6-0 with 7:34 remaining in the opening period.

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“Austin’s intangibles are what kinda separates him, and we saw it exactly there,” said Uemoto. “He not once complained about his offensive line. He continued to praise them and tell them they were doing a good job. Basically, he had to react out there and he had to do the best he could to get that ball off and that’s what he did.”

On the next drive, Ewing picked up a snap that bounced into the grass, rolled to his right, and found Ching by himself on the right sideline for a 15-yard touchdown completion. A two-point run from Mahina Ellis-Noa made the score 14-0 with 2:10 left in the first quarter.

Ewing finished the game completing nine of his 22 pass attempts for 157 yards. He also ran for 10 yards on eight carries.

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Konawaena (1-0) won the game with its defense. On the ensuing drive, Torin Tuppein forced a fumble from Pono Luis-Mateo inside St. Francis’ five-yard line. The ball bounced in and out of the endzone for a safety, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 16-0.

Saint Francis (1-1) couldn’t shake either its bad field position or bad luck early in the game. The Saints’ next drive started at its own 10 and led to a three-and-out. The fourth down punt was blocked by Tuppein and recovered by the Saints in the endzone for another safety, extending the Konawaena lead to 18-0 in the second quarter.

Konawaena didn’t give up a first down until the third quarter and held its opponent to just 70 yards rushing, a far cry from the 231 accumulated last week against Anuenue. Quarterback McLeod threw for just 68 yards on 4-for-15 passing.

“That was our goal, to stop the run, and we did,” Uemoto said in praise of his defense. “That’s going to be the same thing in the BIIF, stopping the run, and that’s something that our defense is going to pride itself on.”

Stopping the run was a key, but Konawaena also put pressure on McLeod, giving him very little time to throw the football. Cameron Howes picked up a pair of sacks on McLeod’s blindside. Phillip Grace and Austin Santos-Johnson each added another.

Saint Francis put up a late rally in the fourth quarter. Singilau Pututau recovered a Konawaena fumble, setting up the Saints at the 41-yard line. Three plays later, McLeod found Destin Pakele for a 38-yard completion down to the Konawaena five-yard line. Matthew Dacuycuy closed the drive from seven yards out to get the Saints on the board. The two-point conversion missed, freezing the score at 18-6 with 5:05 remaining in the game.

Kenny Rah’s onside kick attempt was recovered by Konawaena at midfield, and the Wildcats ran the clock down over the next nine plays to close out the game.

Tyson Shimabukuro led Saint Francis with 52 rushing yards on eight carries. Dacuycuy had 48 yards on 10 rushes.

Saint Francis wraps up non-league play next Saturday at the Clarence T.C. Ching Field on the campus of the University of Hawai’i. The Saints will host Honoka’a, who will enter the game with an 0-1 record. Konawaena, meanwhile, will travel to Kauai to take on the Red Raiders. Kauai lost to Damien Saturday by the score of 34-19.

Saint Francis 0 0 0 6 – 6

Konawaena 16 2 0 0 – 18

Scoring summary

1st Quarter

KONA (7:34) – Kamakana Ching 49 yard reception from Austin Ewing (pass failed)

KONA (2:10) – Ching 15 yard reception from Ewing (Mahina Ellis-Noa run)

KONA (1:50) – Safety

2nd Quarter

KONA (9:40) – Safety

4th Quarter

STF (5:05) – Matthew Dacuycuy 7 yard run (run failed)

BIIF football scoreboard

Konawaena 18, Saint Francis 6

Punahou 59, Hilo 0

Iolani 37, Kealakehe 0

Kamehameha-Hawai’i 51, King Kekaulike 0

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