The semifinals in the Open Division and Division I of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships on Friday night had little drama.
All four games were decided by 16 points.
Saturday it’s Division II’s turn to possibly generate some excitement with two semifinal games. The second takes place on the Big Island as BIIF champion Konawaena hosts MIL champion Lahainauna, which smoked Waipahu 52-14 last week at War Memorial Stadium.
Live updates of the 7 p.m. kickoff will follow below.
Final: Lahainaluna 28, Konawaena 14
Another pick by the Lunas’ secondary, this time by Bailey Honda, to ice a big win by the Lunas.
Big third and 3 for the Lunas, and they give it to Mr. Reliable, Defang, who follows his line and powers his way for 8 yards, dragging Wildcats along the way. First down, Lahainaluna, 4:15 left. Ball moved back to the 46 due to an inadvertent whistle. Still first down. Lunas 2-yard gain, Kona calls time out with 3:55 left.
Konawaena starts at its 13 after a Lunas punt, but its three and out after a sack by Josaiah Sombelon-McEwen. New punter for Konawaena, 39-yard punt. Might be too late now. Lunas ball with less than 6 minutes left.
Lunas still conservative, no surprise, and on fourth down, a fake punt pass is incomplete. Konawaena ball at its 46. But Ewing is picked off on a deep post pass by Derek Perez, who returns the ball to the Kona 46. Huge swing in momentum again.
Big play for Kona, a 67-yard catch and sprint by Austin Aukai to the 3-yard line. Three plays later, a trick play has Ewing run out in motion, and Laban tosses a 1-yard TD pass to Ching. LAH 21, KONA 14, 1:22.
Lunas very conservative, content to run their misdirections and punt.
Kona gets a break on a third-down incompletion when Defang, playing safety, is called for a personal foul. Wildcats drive to the 31, but Ching drops a slant pass and a 12-yard completion by Ewing is one yard short on fourth down. Lunas with a big stop.
The Lunas’ PK, Pablo Rico, deserves some credit for the turnover. Strong leg, kicks a line drive that is unusual and has a lot of velocity. Kind of a knuckler with fastball speed. But it’s special teams that are hurting the Wildcats in addition to Lahainaluna’s ground attack.
The ensuing kickoff return is botched by Konawaena. The return man let the ball bounced and he never got control, so Hoaka Phillips recovers for Lahainaluna at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Defang scores on a run up the middle. PAT run by Elijah Ragudo on a sweep right is good. LAH 21, KONA 7, 9:20.
Lunas keeping it simple. Run for 9, run for 7. Defang off left tackle, huge hole, wide enough for a tank. He scores easily, nobody within 5 yards as Lahainaluna takes the lead. They now own the trenches. But for some reason, they go for 2 on the PAT and that run by Honda is stuffed. LAH 13, KONA 7, 9:59.
Wildcats receive the second-half kickoff. Touchback. Laban lines up wide, catches a pass and decides to run all the way to the other side instead of running behind his blockers, 9-yard loss. The punt is not shanked this time, but it’s out and only 14 yards. Konawaena is losing a ton of yardage on the punting problem. Lunas ball at the Kona 36.
Lunas are a combined 0-for-4 with three picks. They’ve rushed for 147 yards. Ewing is 10-for-17 with the TD pass to Ching and the one INT that I’m pretty sure he wishes he could have back. Konawaena had 35 rushing yards. It’s been a half of turnovers and momentum swings.
Attendance looks like more than 2,000, maybe 3,000. Definitely standing-room only. But since the renovation, they don’t have vistors’ side bleachers anymore, just a small set behind one end zone.
Lunas get a TD run called back for an illegal block call. After a run up the middle, they call time out with 9 seconds left in the half, ball at the Konawaena 30. Etuati Storer‘s pass is picked off by Jordan Kikugawa in the end zone, touchback with :03 left. Wildcats take a knee to end the half, 7-7.
Wildcats go three and out, and the punt is shanked again, this time to the left for minus-4 yards. Oops. Lunas ball at the Konawaena 27.
Konawaena with a nice drive brewing, three completions by Ewing. But after an illegal motion flag, Konawaena calls time out and then tries a trick play, but Ewing’s lateral goes awry and is recovered by Ching, who is tackled for a 10-yard loss. Then Ewing is sacked by Hoaka Phillips on third down. Punt is shanked, only 12 yards. Lunas ball at the Konawaena 37, but the Lunas stall and a fourth-down pass is intercepted off a tip by Cacal near the 10, and her returns the ball to the Wildcats’ 38.
Wildcats go three and out, then Lunas go three and out. Booming punt by Lahainaluna, 59 yards, but it tumbles into the end zone for a touchback.
Lunas capitalize with an eight-play, 80-yard drive, all on the ground. Radon Sinenci scores on a sweep left for a 1-yard TD. LAH 7, KONA 7, 9:15.
Wildcats are the ones who miss and opportunity now. Micah Laban bursts up the middle but is stripped of the ball at the 3-yard line by Unaloto Pahulu, and S/QB Bailey Honda recovers in the end zone for a touchback. The crowd just went quiet, air out of the balloon.
Lunas stick with the ground-and-pound option game out of their Wing offense, but they throw an interception into double coverage. Jeriah Cacal returns the ball 50 yards up the sideline to the Lahainaluna 20.
Ewing has a little bit of Colt Brennan in him. Unflappable. He launches a 48-yard bomb to Jeremiah Casuga-Llanes, and he caps the 80-yard drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Kamakana Ching. KONA 7, LAH 0, 4:06.
Lunas blow a golden opportunity. Fumble on first down, 8-yard loss. Holding call, ball moves all the way back to the 26. Finally, a 37-yard FG try is wide left.
Wildcats in hurry-up mode with Austin Ewing directing the offense, marching quickly on 5-for-6 passing. But Ewing forces a pass over the middle — he had open field on the rollout left, and Lahainaluna’s Donovan Defang picks it off. He returns it 64 yards to the Konawaena 5.
Lunas go three and out, nice punt downed at the Konawaena 5.
Konawaena wins the coin toss and elects to defer. Conditions almost perfect. Cool, trade winds 5 mph if that, no rain. The giant utility/light pole in front of the press box has been here for decades. Just perfect.
It’s been a voggy day on the Kona Coast, but not humid. Up here in Kealakekua, it’s a nice, cool 72 degrees or so, not windy, but definitely gray skies above. From what I hear, hospitality is still a priority in this part of the state. The visiting Lahainaluna Lunas were fed by a local huli huli chicken proprietor. Spectators waited patiently in line, some since noon, at the gate. Some of the Konawaena folks are expecting 3,000 or more here at Julian Yates Field.
I’m going to get me a fried opelu plate before the line gets too long. Boys basketball coach Donald Awa is a diver, and there were a lot of opelu. Might be gone soon.