One Last Hoorah: Kona Brothers Play Final HS Season Together Before Embarking on College Ball
August 2, 2022, 6:30 AM HST
The road has been long thus far, but in many ways, it could also be just beginning.
Two Kona brothers who have played football together all their young lives will be going their separate ways after this year’s high school season as the eldest will move to Reno to play college ball for University of Nevada while the youngest will stay two more years at Konawaena before venturing off into the Division I ranks like his brother.
Both 18-year-old Hezekiah “Kiah” Anahu-Ambrosio and his younger brother, 15-year-old Zedekiah “Zed,” have their sights set on playing in the NFL.
But first, there’s another BIIF season to play, which will be the last one for Kiah and the first one back for both brothers who played last season in Utah. Both teens have been recognized for their athletic talent and received several early football scholarship offers.
The brothers have enjoyed the football journey they’ve taken together over the years.
“I couldn’t do it without the little bro,” said Kiah, who is a high school senior. “God put us together for a reason. We love it.”
The brothers began their football careers at 7 years old. Kiah said his dad’s former football coach started coaching a little league team. After taking him to a couple of practices to see how he’d like it, Kiah said fell in love with the sport.
“I was 9 years old when realized I was good and could make a career out of it,” Kiah told Big Island Now.
Kiah had offers to play football on a full-ride scholarship to the University of Nevada, University of Hawai‘i, Brigham Young University and Utah State University. He said he chose Nevada because of the culture of the program and the coaching staff.
“After meeting them on an official visit, it felt like home,” Kiah said.
Kiah is graduating from Konawaena early in December and is heading to Nevada to start school in January.
Zed, a sophomore, said he’s wanted to play football since he started watching his brother play, adding “I wanted to try and fell in love with it after that.”
“I love playing with my brother and playing with a team,” he said.
Zed was offered full-ride scholarships for football from the University of Hawai‘i and Brigham Young University. He is not allowed to commit to a school until next school year.
Brad Uemoto, head coach for Konawaena High football, said it’s pretty rare for a student-athlete on Hawai‘i Island to earn Division 1 scholarships.
“To have a kid on a Big Island going into his senior year already committed is very rare,” he added.
Uemoto said he’s followed Kiah and Zed throughout their budding careers since they started with the Leeward Steelers. Even at a young age, Uemoto recalled how talented the boys were and how unique they were in their discipline, conducting their own workouts from a young age.
Uemoto said the boys already have a built-in work ethic that set them apart from other kids.
“He (their father) really instilled in them a good understanding of what it would take to play at a higher caliber,” the coach said. “… Anything is possible for these two boys.”
Uemoto added it’s tough to find kids who are easily coached.
“Things come to them very easily. You’ll never find them making the same mistake twice,” he said.
Making Waves on the Field in Utah
Hawai‘i’s student-athletes struggled the past couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, there was no football season. In 2021, the season was delayed and because of the ongoing health crisis, the Department of Education required players to be vaccinated against the virus to participate. Those athletes who were allowed an exemption were still required to test twice a week.
While the fate of the 2021 season was still in flux, the boys’ father, Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio Sr., didn’t want his sons to be sitting for another year, especially since Kiah’s window was shrinking to be considered for major college football.
The decision was ultimately made to send the teens to Utah so they could continue to play. They chose Utah as they had done a few football camps there and a family was willing to host them. Kiah and Zed played varsity for Timpview High School.
Anahu-Ambrosio knew the move was essential for his sons if they were going to grow as football players, adding it was hard not being there for their games, but at the same time, it wasn’t.
“I was proud … They (Kiah and Zed) had their host family but they had to still put things in motion on the side and perform at the highest level,” Anahu-Ambrosio said.
Kiah is currently ranked 22nd for Utah’s top football recruits for 2023.
Zed said the hardest part about being in Utah was being away from family.
“I learned to do everything on my own,” he said. “I had to learn quickly and grow up.”
Kiah said playing in Utah helped him tremendously, explaining how he was able to tap into all of his skillsets.
The brothers have aspirations to play in the NFL. Zed said it would be his dream to play for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I would play for whoever, to be honest,” Kiah said.
Konawaena started practicing with full pads last week. Zed and Kiah are both excited about the team and their teammates. The team’s first preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 12. They are traveling to West Valley City, Utah to play Granger High School.
“I’m excited to come back and play in front of the family, where it all started,” Kiah said.
Zed agreed, adding “it feels good to be back playing with all my boys since I was younger.”
Kiah said the whole team was happy to have him and his brother back on the roster.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team,” he said, adding he has no doubt they’ll take down their rival, Kealakehe this season.
Kiah played for Konawaena when he was a freshman. Uemoto said other teammates have either played with Kiah and Zed or are well aware of who they are.
“It’s been a blessing to have them on the field,” the coach said, adding “they bring a specific caliber of play to the rest of the team.”
Both Zed and Kiah have their own goals for the season. Zed hopes to score more than 10 touchdowns and play better than his brother.
Kiah is trying to break state records in rushing yards and tackles.
Kiah is an all-over-the-field outside linebacker and running back and Zed plays free safety and wide receiver.
Anahu-Ambrosio described his sons as thunder and lightning.
Uemoto said Kiah and Zed have two different styles of playing, noting Kiah is a strong and aggressive player. Zed is an offensive player with fitness, quickness and speed.
Uemoto said he thinks the brothers bring out the best in each other.
“It’s good to have a training partner you live with as there’s no excuses,” he said.
Uemoto has the goal of winning a state title and is feeling optimistic this year as the team had many returning players. The closest they got to winning was in 2017 when they lost to Maui’s Lahinaluna High School.
“This group of kids is the most talented we’ve seen in over 20 years,” he said.