Konawaena Survives Late Rally in State Opener
Saturday night’s First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division II opening round football game between Damien and Konawaena featured just about everything imaginable: lots of offense, dramatic moments, penalty flags galore, and even a shooting star flying above Julian R. Yates Field in Kealakekua.
Konawaena made sure that a 27-point Damien comeback wouldn’t be added to the list.
Powered by a career night by senior running back Algene Kelekolio, the Konawaena Wildcats won its first ever state tournament football game, hanging on to defeat Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Damien 42-33 in front of a crowd of 1,124.
“We jumped on them early, and I don’t think we got comfortable,” said Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto. “I think I maybe tempo’d [my offense] right out of the half a little bit. I think we got a little tired leaving the defense out on the field. But, you know what, credit Damien for making some big plays, causing turnovers, and that’s something that is uncharacteristic for us.”
The win didn’t come easy. Leading 33-6 at halftime, Konawaena was slow out of the gate in the second half. On its first drive of the second half, Austin Ewing completed a pass to Kamakana Ching over the middle of the field, but Damien defender Cody Labanon popped the ball into the air for teammate Shawn Borges to recover.
Konawaena (11-1) turned the ball over on downs on its next drive, and Damien took advantage, launching an 11 play, 76 yard drive, capped off by a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marcus Faufata-Pedrina to Bransen Apao, making the score 33-12 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter.
After a touchdown pass from Austin Ewing to Kupono Kane, Damien responded with a another scoring hookup from Faufata-Pedrina to Apao, also from six yards out, cutting the Konawaena lead back down to 20 points with less than 11 minutes remaining.
Damien (6-2) recovered a fumble on a mishandled snap by Ewing. That led to a nine-play, 59 yard drive, capped off by a two-yard plunge by Faufata-Pedrina. His two-point pass to Kaimana Cameron cut the Konawaena lead to 39-27 with 7:48 remaining.
Another break would come Damien’s way, this time from a questionable special teams decision by Konawaena. Punter Cameron Howes decided to run for the first down instead of punting the ball away, falling short of moving the chains by a yard. That meant that the Monarchs would get great field position at Konawaena’s 46 yard line. Five plays into the drive, Faufata-Pedrina swung a pass out to his running back, Kepono Kawaakoa, who ran the ball in from 22 yards away to trim the score down to 39-33 with 4:51 remaining.
Ewing would get two chances to put the game away on the strength of his right foot. His 34-yard field goal attempt with less than a minute left to go whizzed wide left, but Borges was guilty of running into the kicker, giving Konawaena one more chance to extend its lead to nine points. Ewing’s second attempt, this time from 29 yards, sailed through the uprights to seal the game with 39 seconds left on the clock.
The star of the game was Kelekolio, who racked up a season-high 263 yards on 27
carries with three touchdowns. His 69-yard dash up the middle of the Damien defense, his third of the day and the first of three second-quarter touchdowns for Konawaena, was the highlight of the night.
“When I broke through, I was running and then I looked to the side and saw a guy running at me,” Kelekolio said, describing the biggest rushing play of the evening. “I was like, ‘oh! I’ve got to hit that pylon!’ and I was boogeying it. I had to give everything. It was really great.”
Offensively, Konawaena racked up 588 yards of offense with 370 of those yards coming through the ground game. Damien, an option-style team that relies heavily on the run, only gained 85 yards rushing and made its way back through the air, compiling a season-high 296 passing yards.
“When you kinda look back at it, we kinda got killed through the pass a little bit, and that’s uncharacteristic for us,” Uemoto said. “We spent so much time defending that option that we sorta got away from defending the pass.”
Damien quarterback Marcus Faufata-Pedrina, just a sophomore, completed 15 of his 30 pass attempts with three touchdowns and an interception. He also led the Monarchs with 50 rushing yards. His top receiver was Austin Ballesteros, who caught five passes for 153 yards.
On the other side, Ewing also threw three touchdowns and an interception. He completed 17 of his 31 pass attempts for 218 yards.Three different receivers – Kupono Kane, Ching, and Kayson Mahiai, caught touchdown passes.
The unsung hero on the defensive side of the ball was Austin Santos-Johnson, who racked up 10.5 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks. Konawaena combined for seven sacks on Faufata-Pedrina, while Damien only tallied one sack from Pomai Kim.
Penalty flags were even a key stat in the contest as both teams combined for 36 infractions. Konawaena was penalized 20 times for 133 yards, while Damien was marked off 16 times for 124 yards.
Konawaena will travel to Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium on the campus of Roosevelt High School, where they will face Oahu Interscholastic Association champion Radford, the second-seeded team in the six-team tournament, on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Damien 6 0 6 21 – 33
Konawaena 12 21 6 3 – 42
KONA (10:05) – Algene Kelekolio 2 yard run (Austin Ewing kick blocked)
KONA (6:34) – Kelekolio 3 yard run (Harry Hill run failed)
DMS (5:08) – Marcus Faufata-Pedrina 13 yard run (Kaimana Cameron kick failed)
KONA (11:05) – Kelekolio 69 yard run (Hill kick)
KONA (8:52) – Kamakana Ching 15 yard reception from Ewing (Hill kick)
KONA (:40) – Kayson Mahiai 36 yard reception from Ewing (Hill kick)
DMS (3:03) – Bransen Apao 6 yard reception from Faufata-Pedrina (Kepono Kawaakoa run failed)
KONA (1:22) – Kupono Kane 9 yard reception from Ewing (Hill run failed)
DMS (10:57) – Apao 6 yard reception from Faufata-Pedrina (Cameron kick)
DMS (7:48) – Faufata-Pedrina 2 yard run (Cameron pass from Faufata-Pedrina)
DMS (4:51) – Kawaakoa 22 yard pass from Faufata-Pedrina (Cameron kick failed)
KONA (:39) – Ewing 39 yard field goal
HHSAA football scoreboard
Lahainaluna 7, Kaimuki 0
Konawaena 42, Damien 33