It is, as Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo says, “David vs. Goliath.”
“Arguably, the best running back in the state that we have to contain. One of the best quarterbacks if he comes back. One of the best receivers,” Drummondo said.
The Vikings overcame their own set of obstacles, including the loss of head coach David Baldwin early in the year. He was suspended by administration for an unspecified incident during preseason with no state timeline for return.
Hilo suffered in his absence, losing to ILH powerhouses Punahou (59-0) and Kamehameha (41-0). Then came a 34-27 road loss to D-II Konawaena in week 4. Since then, Drummondo and the staff have turned momentum around. Drummondo, who is still defensive coordinator, guided the Viks to six wins in their last seven games, including a 41-20 victory at Kealakehe for the BIIF title.
Offensively, the Vikings threw the ball 25 times per game, a high number that compares to the title team nearly a quarter-century ago with Robert Medeiros at QB.
Defense remains a staple, led by lineman David Pakele (5-10, 300).
“He’s an anchor for our front four. He played a big role last year and we need him to play big Friday night. Our front four is our most experienced group on the defensive side of the ball,” Drummondo said.
That veteran D-line includes sophomore Karesa Toledo (5-8, 260), Malu Lapiliio (5-9, 220) and Tausala Pola (5-10, 200).
Kaale Tiogangco has passed for 1,520 yards and 20 TDs.
The O-line is led by three seniors.
“They’ve come along. They’re going to have to come up big and protect Kaale,” Drummondo said.
For Hilo, getting to this point is an accomplishment in itself. Drummondo and his staff never expected to be without Baldwin this long.
“Coach Baldwin put together a great staff. It was a shock to us when this all happened. We just tried to pull together to keep the on-field stuff that same as before. We had our struggles. You don’t lose a head coach and such a great organizer and football mind and not go through struggles. The team has become stronger,” Drummondo said. “It was hard for a lot of the student-athletes at the beginning, but we had to get used to the new normal. At a certain point, hey, we had to go out there and compete, and things turned for us. We’re back where we want to be, and now we have to get ready for Goliath on Friday night. The kids have an opportunity to do something special.”