Hilo cements Big Isle’s first state football crown

Kahale Huddleston scored Hilo's first two touchdowns to wipe out a 13-point deficit en route to the 35-19 win. Steven Erler / Special to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

It was a long time coming and the Hilo Vikings finally got it done for the whole island of Hawaii.

No Big Isle team had ever won a football state championship since the tournament began in 1999 … until Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.

Heck, it was hard enough for a Big Isle team to win a game in the tourney. Now, they’ve got that elusive Division I (second tier) championship.

The Vikings (10-1) got off to a slow start and trailed Damien by 13 points before taking over for a 35-19 victory.

“With the delay (after Lahainaluna’s seven-overtime 75-69 win over Kamehameha for the D-II crown), it was hard to tell if we were ready or not,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “Apparently we weren’t. We got punched in the mouth and we needed to respond and we did.”

Kahale Huddleston, who rushed for 244 yards in a win over ‘Iolani early this season, had a big hand in the comeback. He scored on runs of 20 and 12 yards to give the Vikings a 14-13 lead. He finished with 92 rushing yards, and quarterback Kaleo Apao added 98 yards and a TD on the ground and two TD passes.

Damien kept it close, making it 21-19 midway through the third quarter, but the Vikings dominated the rest of the way. With 7:12 to go, an Elijah Apao interception put a damper on the Monarchs’ abiity to make a comeback.

“We wanted to make Hilo proud and we did,” Huddleston said. “We wanted to keep pushing forward and get this W. We had been through adversity before, so we just had to keep pushing and put all our hearts in it and keep going forward. We did and we got this W.”

Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo kissed the koa trophy that his Vikings won with a 35-19 state Division I championship game win over Damien on Saturday night. Dennis Oda / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Marcus Faufata-Pedrina finished his stellar career as Damien’s quarterback with a rushing TD and a passing TD.

“Everybody played their hearts out,” Faufata-Pedrina said. “Props to Hilo. They played a tough game. We started really fast and started to slow down a little bit. I honestly don’t know what it was. They played a helluva game and got the better of us tonight. For the last game of the year, it was a little bit of a bitter taste, but it was a helluva ride and I want to say thanks to our coaches and to the boys.”

Faufata-Pedrina also thanked the players who came before him for setting the winning foundation for Damien (10-4), which has now won three ILH D-II titles in a row.

Coach Eddie Klaneski talked about the Monarchs’ successful season and the future: “We want to continue to win and have a good tradition at Damien. We’re proud of our kids. We had a great season. Proud of our coaches, the administration, the parents, everybody who made it a great season. I feel bad for our kids, but we’re in position to keep our program going on the right path.”

Damien senior quarterback threw for one TD and passed for another in the Monarchs’ loss to Hilo. Steven Erler / Special to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The last time the Monarchs were in a state title game, they lost 9-7 to Aiea in D-II in 2003, the first year of classification.

When the clock wound down to zero, the Hilo stands erupted in celebration and 6-foot-5 right guard Kaeia Vera was one of several who immediately lifted his helmet toward the fans.

“It’s just surreal to get to this point — after all the offseason training, everything we do in practice,” Vera said. “It’s just amazing. As a freshman, I never saw myself here. Honestly, it just feels great. Anything is possible. Don’t limit yourself. Go beyond that. Strive for greatness.”

The Vikings received their trophy after the first quarter of the late game, while Saint Louis and Kahuku were locked in a 7-7 tie in the state Open Division final. Just three years ago, Hilo was leading Kahuku 10-0 before the Red Raiders came back with 20 fourth-quarter points for a 20-10 state D-I (top tier) first-round game.

On Saturday night, Hilo didn’t beat the best in the state, but the Vikings did defeat the best in their classification. They are a force to be reckoned with in the middle division and could step up to the top tier again some day.

“This means everything,” Drummondo said. “This is what we work so hard for. This is why we start as soon as the dead period ends. That’s why we get in the weight room and get back to work. To accomplish your goal, you can’t ask for anything more. I’m happy for the kids, the community, the program. It’s exciting to take that koa trophy home with us on the airplane tomorrow. I’m just ecstatic.”


  1. 88 November 19, 2017 2:07 am

    So winning this division makes you what? The 30th best team in the state?


  2. 888 November 19, 2017 2:11 am

    Not sure but looks like losing the open division makes you a sorry loser. Grow up 88. Act you age not your IQ.

  3. Kanaka Maoli November 19, 2017 8:34 am

    You folks need to realize that in every other state their are classifications for a reason and it’s accepted. Long Beach Poly plays in the elite tier in CA for a reason. They would not be playing Waialua or PAC-5 if those schools were up there. If you can understand and accept it that then you wouldn’t minimalize the DI or DII champions cuz they didn’t beat St Louis or Kahuku.

    It also doesn’t help when the writer of this article says “…didn’t beat the best” reinforcing this poor perception in the islands.

    Give the kids their due respect and stop comparing classifications (because St Louis WILL beat everyone due to their recruiting which is no different then catholic schools on the mainland). Classifications ensure teams play competitive ball and encourages kids to keep playing ball in an environment where participation is going down.

    I coach in the mainland and we have seen participstion trending lower over the last few years. Without classification, our team of 30 kids would be much less and we are in the 2nd largest classification in the state.

    It would help if Hawaii Prep World would stop making these comparisons next season which only fuels the fire with your readers. Accept it Gang and appreciate the game. This ain’t fantasy football.

    BTW I’m not a Hilo alumni and respect what they did last night.

  4. The Rim November 19, 2017 9:53 am

    @Kanaka Maoli thank you for saying that! It gets old hearing it over and over, especially when the kids play their hearts out and make history for a program, public school program!

  5. KealaKoji November 19, 2017 11:53 am

    Big ups to Hilo and winning a state championship. I agree with Kanaka Maoli’s comments above regarding different classifications and giving credit to the team who wins out at their division. The only problem I have this year is the OIA playing politics and not allowing a team to enter in the Div 1 playoffs. A team like Leilehua would have competed well and maybe even won it. Keep in mind HIlo lost in the regular season to Konawaena. I bet Konawaena wishes they moved up and compete in D1, they might have been going home with the trophy. The two teams that played for the DII title were better than both teams in the DI matchup.

  6. The Rim November 19, 2017 1:29 pm

    @ KealaKoji – another hater? You can have your “what if” all you want, Hilo is the DI champ. What if waianae beat Kahuku or St. Francis beat Damien, or Kamehameha Hawaii beat Kona…what if St. Francis beat Leilehua like they should have, all what ifs that mean absolutely NOTHING!

  7. Kanaka Maoli November 19, 2017 1:51 pm

    AND Hilo did beat the best in the state in their classification which was Damien which defeated two tough opponents from their division, St. Francis and Iolani. All 3 teams would easily compete with the big boys in WA and OR…and now that also includes Hilo.

  8. Mike Kahale November 19, 2017 7:00 pm

    @TheRim – whoa buddy slow your roll!!! I gave credit to Hilo in my first sentence earlier. My point was that the D1 playoffs did not represent all that is should have with the OIA abstaining from participating. This is of course at no fault to Hilo. And again, both teams in the D2 Championship were better than the D1 finalists. No arguing that, just look at their schedule and ranking across the state.

  9. Tim November 20, 2017 8:50 am

    @88- Please show some respect and stop embarrassing the real Kahuku fans. Im a Kahuku alum and all my friends and family would never be so disrespectful. All the neighbor island teams made their family and community proud.

  10. Tim November 20, 2017 8:54 am

    Everyone should realize that the disrespectful comments about outer island teams are probably some teenager that is just messing around and their idea of fun.

  11. Bolosan November 20, 2017 4:49 pm

    @mike kahale no they were not. Saint Francis trounced on konawaena this year? Look at the schedules again please. Konawaena wins muddy game vs Hilo. Your theory is wrong.

  12. kelly November 23, 2017 10:22 am

    All praise and glory to Hilo High School Vikings Football
    You are the best!!!!
    God bless you all
    Thank you Hilo for bringing PRIDE AND RESPECT
    To the Big Island
    You will be remembered forever
    You are in a class all by yourself
    History has been made

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