Vikings Earn Redemption to Claim BIIF DI Title
Kealakehe might have ended its losing skid to Hilo in the regular season, but the Vikings claimed the game that counts to book their return trip to the state tournament.
Hilo’s defense and special teams combined to score 20 points, and the Vikings powered past Kealakehe 41-20 to claim its third straight Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I championship.
“It’s a long journey, a long road from where we came,” said Hilo interim co-head coach and defensive coordinator Kaeo Drummundo. “I’ve been telling them that you’ve gotta enjoy the journey. It is well worth all the adversity and challenges we went through.”
The challenges Hilo faced included the indefinite suspension of its head coach, David Baldwin, for unspecified reasons, leaving Drummundo and Lisa Pana to carry the team as co-head coaches on an interim basis, which has lasted all season.
On the field, the Vikings lost three of its first four games. Two of those losses came to Punahou and Kamehameha-Kapalama, two top-notch Interscholastic League of Honolulu teams that missed the state tournament this year. After a win over HPA to open the regular season, the Vikings fell to Konawaena in a game that was postponed two days because of bad weather.
Hilo (7-4 overall, 7-2 BIIF) channeled a familiar formula for success to come up with the win: a play-making defense that can dictate the tempo of the game. The Vikings were the beneficiary of five Kealakehe turnovers in the first half, three in the first quarter.
Kealakehe (8-4, 7-2) gave the ball away early on its second drive when Markus Degrate’s backwards pass to Akoni Demello was dropped and recovered by Josh Whisler. Hilo wouldn’t capitalize on that mistake, but they would on the next one, which came on the Waveriders’ next drive when Kobe Antolin fumbled the football. Whisler ran in to pick up the loose ball and returned it 38 yards to the end zone to put the Vikings ahead 6-0 with 8:34 to to go in the first quarter.
“That boy has come a long way,” said Drummundo of his senior defensive back. “From where we started in the summer to now, he’s leaps and bounds better from where he was, and its a testament to him and his attitude. He’s a great kid.”
Later in the quarter, following a Ka’ale Tiogangco 10-yard touchdown run for Hilo, Kealakehe’s Howard Cosare returned the ensuing kickoff. The lineman decided to throw the ball backwards to a returner, but threw it off target. Hilo recovered the ball at Kealakehe’s 15 yard line and punched the ball into the end zone a few plays later when Pono Landford ran it in from two yards out to extend Hilo’s lead to 20-0 with less than three minutes left in the opening period.
Ka’aina’olu Lewis would get in the act next for Hilo’s defense, picking off Degrate’s attempted screen pass and returning it 22 yards for another Hilo score, extending the lead to 27-7 with 10:01 left in the second quarter.
After a 27-yard field goal from Kealakehe’s Kolby Martin, Kahale Huddleston returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the endzone to push the score to 34-10 with 7:05 remaining in the first half.
“This was the effort we’ve been looking for for a while,” said Drummundo of his defense. “I’m not surprised. We had a good week of practice. The kids were flying around in practice and getting to the ball.”
Kealakehe struggled to recover from the early mistakes. Injuries made the task more difficult, especially with the loss of leading rusher Riggs Kurashige to an injury early in the first quarter. Antolin was also lost for a short period of time because of a leg injury.
One offensive connection that Kealakehe was able to maintain throughout the game was between Degrate and receiver Anthony Trevino. The two hooked up nine times for 121 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown. Five of Trevino’s catches came in the fourth quarter.
Landford was able to put the game away with a 31-yard touchdown dash with just over five minutes to go in the game on a third-and-six play. The transfer from Waiakea finished with 106 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
“A lot of that was our Alabama package,” Drummundo said of his three-man backfield formation, which included two lineman blocking for Landford. “We knew that if we could get a lead, we’d go big-on-big and see what happens.”
Hilo advances to the first round of the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division I State Championships. The Vikings will face a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Friday, Nov. 6. The site of the game has not been officially announced.
Hilo 20 14 0 7 – 41
Kealakehe 7 3 2 8 – 20
HILO (8:34) – Josh Whisler 38 yard fumble recovery (run failed)
HILO (3:29) – Ka’ale Tiogangco 10 yard run (Kaleihalia Tolentino-Perry kick)
HILO (2:53) – Pono Landford 2 yard run (Tolentino-Perry kick)
KEAL (:01) – Elijah Brouwer 7 yard reception from Markus Degrate (Kolby Martin kick)
HILO (10:01) – Ka’aina’olu Lewis 22 yard interception return (Tolentino-Perry kick)
KEAL (7:20) – Martin 27 yard field goal
HILO (7:05) – Kahale Huddleston 96 yard kickoff return (Tolentino-Perry kick)
KEAL (7L48) – Safety (Howard Cosare sack)
KEAL (7:24) – Anthony Trevino 21 yard reception from Degrate (Degrate to Akoni Demello pass)
HILO (5:01) – Landford 31 yard run (Tolentino-Perry kick)