Despite the rich history between the leagues, Lahainaluna will be the first Maui team to travel to the Big Island when it visits Konawaena to play the BIIF champion Wildcats on Saturday. The Lunas (7-4) will take on the Wildcats (8-1) for a berth in the Division II title game.
With the Neighbor Island Bowl a thing of the past, Saturday’s game passes for the biggest clash between the league on the Big Island in this century. The leagues used to compete every year. More than a half-century ago, under legendary coach Ted Ura, then-BIIF superpower Hilo actually played in the MIL for four years and won it once — painstakingly riding a ferry over the choppy waters.
During the N.I. Bowl series, Waiakea, coached by Tim Lino, ended a long drought by the BIIF by upsetting Kauai on the Garden Island during the mid-1990s, and then nearly upset Maui at War Memorial Stadium. A fumble return for a touchdown by Waiakea was blown dead — very late — by an official to preserve Maui’s 6-0 win. The fumbler, future UH player Robert Kemfort, admitted after the game that it should’ve been a legitimate fumble.
The state tournament seems to have made the meetings sparse since, and wins by the BIIF have been tough to come by.
Now you can count games between the leagues on your fingers, and Maui has the bragging rights that come with winning all three contests between the conferences in the state tournament.
Lahainaluna has done the trick every time. The Lunas beat Hawaii Prep in 2003, Konawaena in 2011 and Kamehameha-Hawaii in 2014. All three of those games were at War Memorial Stadium.
Things are looking up for Konawaena, though, the Wildcats broke through with the Big Island’s second home win in last year’s state tournament when they beat Damien 42-33 and the league has won at home two years in a row for the first time. Kamehameha-Hawaii beat Nanakuli 42-20 two years ago at home.
Footnote: Perhaps the most impressive performance in postseason play by a BIIF team came in the 1980s when Konawaena, in the midst of 12 league titles in a row, met ILH champion Saint Louis in an exhibition game one week before the Prep Bowl. Saint Louis suffered some key injuries a narrow win, prompting coach Cal Lee to declare that the Crusaders would never again play in exhibition games before the Prep Bowl.
Campbell became the 21st school to host a state tournament game when it held a first-round doubleheader last week. The tournament has been played on every island over the years.
Vidinha Stadium will host its 14th state tournament game on Saturday when Damien comes calling to meet Kapaa for the right to meet the Lahainaluna-Konawaena winner in the Division II final. It’s a tall task for the Monarchs, as KIF teams are 10-3 in their home stadium but Damien was one of those teams to get it done.
The Monarchs were the first to go to Kauai and come back with a win, beating Waimea in 2003. Radford did it the other two times, beating Kauai in 2008 and 2012.