What can be said after a 104-0 football game?
When Hilo routed Waiakea by that score on Saturday afternoon, there was very little that could be said. The Vikings, dominant team in BIIF Division I for years, turned a plethora of turnovers into instant or near-instant touchdowns. Some of the takeaways gave Hilo the ball in the red zone. The Vikings led 83-0 by halftime.
Only then was the mercy-rule running clock implemented.
Like most leagues, the BIIF has gone to classification to increase competitiveness, to reduce blowout games. To increase morale, not reduce it. But there are events like this that have the unpredictable force of Mother Nature. Waiakea, as one of the larger enrollment schools on the Big Island, is in D-I with Hilo, Keaau, Kealakehe and new additions Konawaena and Honokaa. The new format has D-I teams playing each other twice in the regular season.
Lopsided Hilo wins aren’t unusual, but this one set a state record. With 9 minutes left in the first half, Hilo stopped throwing the ball. The Vikings had just nine offensive plays for the rest of the day, and all were run plays.
“I talked to the kids. It’s not something we’re proud of,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said.
Drummondo chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday morning.
HPW: I have to imagine, having seen my share of blowout games over the years, that no matter what you do, it piles up.
Drummondo: We have three goals each week. One, become better communicators. Two, play with more discipline. Three, improve on executing. The score got out of hand really quickly. We rotated in our second- and third-string players. I feel we did what was really necessary so the score wouldn’t get out of hand.
HPW: I remember hearing about a game in the 1980s when Konawaena beat Pahoa 84-0. Pahoa threw the ball on every down, clock kept stopping. Does the BIIF have a mercy rule?
Drummondo: We have the same one the rest of the state has. I asked if we could start running the clock at the start of the second quarter. It was 40-something to 0 early in the first quarter.
Drummondo: It’s an unfortunate situation. We’re not taking pride in scoring that many points. No matter who our opponent is we’re not going to disrespect them.
HPW: I remember when everybody played everybody in the BIIF, way before there was Open and Division I and Division II. There were rare upsets by small schools, but most of the time it was sheer physical superiority and a major depth advantage.
Drummondo: This matchup, that had a huge role with how things unfolded and unraveled. This year compared to Waiakea there’s a physical disparity and that played a big role in it. They’re a young team, they don’t have big numbers. Maybe high 20s, or 30. We suited up 35, 36.
HPW: I’ve heard that your numbers aren’t the same.
Drummondo: Our numbers are a little bit down. That plays a role. Our backups in some positions are our starters in other positions. We put a freshman quarterback in. He basically played at least a half of football. From 9 minutes left in the second quarter on we ran nine plays, no passes. There were a lot of fumbles, and if our players weren’t scooping them up and running them in, we recovered inside the 20 or 10 a bunch of times. We thought about taking a knee in general, but that’s also perceived as being disrespectful. So the decision was made to run the ball, let the clock run, and let the game play out.
HPW: It’s tough to gain anything on either side in a game like this.
Drummondo: We had a good conversation with the players. This game is going to be remembered and talked about, we need to have class and humility. We did everything in our power not to run the score up. At this point, it’s the middle of the week and we have to turn our focus to our next game against Honokaa.
HPW: You’ve had so many good and great defenses over the years. It’s impossible to coach athletes in any sport to stop playing defense.
Drummondo: What the game means to me personally, we don’t approach it in a disrespectful way, we don’t approach our opponents in a disrespectful way. Everyone will perceive things a certain way because of the score. For a certain percentage of people, there’s nothing we can say to change their opinion. We told our players, don’t go on social media to try and change what they feel about the outcome. We have to give Honokaa the same respect.
HPW: Was there any discussion about starting the running clock before halftime?
Drummondo: The sooner we can get to the running clock in those situations, the better. What’s always talked about is safety. If the score is that out of hand, just run the clock. Less opportunity for players to get injured. The conversation was brought up at halftime, if the game was forfeited, it would be a 2-0 forfeit. The AD and principal of Waiakea had the same thoughts we did. The plan was to just run the clock except for injuries.
HPW: I’ve seen on rare occasions coaches and officials make joint decisions for the best of everyone.
Drummondo: The league should allow coaches to decide in the middle of a game if they want to run (the clock) earlier. A coach has a good feel for his team. They players all work hard and want to compete and success. Prolonging a game like that doesn’t do them or their psyche any good.
HPW: I know the BIIF goes far and beyond when it comes to sitting down and coming up with different options, thinking outside the box. But even with divisional formats, it’s hard to avoid this scenario. The avalanche effect is that some programs will lose numbers. Kids will avoid playing football because of blowouts like this.
Drummondo: I don’t know where the league goes from here. I know the three-tiered format was discussed before the season. With the scores being what they are, a similar situation maybe next year, that might be strongly considered. Maybe Konawaena, Kealakehe and Hilo play each other more. The current situation is not good for the game or the athletes.
HPW: In the past, I remember chatting with coaches in similar situations about mid-season inter-island matchups. When Cliff Walters was at Kealakehe, and later Sam Papalii, they were so dominant. Coach Cliff wanted a chance to play off-island during the season. And way, way back in the 1960s or so, Hilo actually played in the MIL.
Drummondo: Every league will do what’s right for its league. Lessen the amount of times we play or open up to other possibilities. A chance to play a team, for example, Lahainaluna, even in the middle of the season, that would be fun. During a bye week, go search for a game. The biggest thing is who will travel. You’ve got to fund-raise a lot. I don’t know what the answer is without being able to brainstorm. But even 70-0 or 60-0, that is not good. It’s a tough situation.
HPW: As a team, do you think this could become the best defense you’ve had? Are they on that track?
Drummondo: I think we have a collection of players, the potential is there. Honestly, on a day-by-day basis, just looking at the film without looking at the score, we’re still a far ways off still from being the best team we’ve had. Are we disciplined and lessening our unforced errors? We have a ways to go. Are players coming to practice excited about getting better? We have two to three months to become a better team. With the makeup of the schedule, we play everybody home and home, and we will play somebody three times. We want to be in a position where we don’t travel for the championship game.
HPW: There is a history in the BIIF of some programs forfeiting games to a dominant team rather than risk a huge loss and injuries. It seems like a real possibility in BIIF D-I now.
Drummondo: I don’t see or expect (forfeits) to happen where the coaches or admin will make that decision. What worries me is numbers island-wide, where teams sustain injuries in weeks 6-9, and always, academic probation.
HPW: I can’t help remembering when Waiakea struggled for years, and Tim Lino took over as coach and within two years, they had a championship run that lasted for four seasons during his watch. Do you think the program is at a point where it could potentially fold?
Drummondo: I wasn’t here when Coach Lino had his dynasty going. I hear a lot of stories. We have a lot of guys who played for Lino or coached under him. It’s still a prideful program. The state just invested millions of dollars in their stadium. They have great athletes at that program. I don’t see them folding.
HPW: The other factor is Waiakea is so good in baseball, a perennial Top 5 program that produces Major League draftees. They have Kalai Rosario and Safea Mauai, two Star-Advertiser Baseball All-State players back as seniors who also play football. Big guys with speed. Are they playing football this season?
Drummondo: The two baseball kids are not playing football. I know those two boys, they’re talented. We had the luxury in 2017 of just having (future MLB draftee) Micah Bello fall into our lap. He didn’t play football his freshman, sophomore, junior year and his parents allowed him to play football as a senior. The athleticism of a Division I baseball player, his ability to track balls, close distances, it was a luxury to have.
HPW: Kalai and Safea are arguably the two best athletes at Waiakea, period. That had to be a major loss.
Drummondo: Coming into this season with them as our crosstown rivals, I was looking forward to seeing them. If Waiakea has them, that’s two athletes at their disposal, that’s a huge void for them this year.
HPW: It’s a very daunting task, to train for baseball and still play football, especially in Hilo with the tradition, talent, coaching, work ethic.
Drummondo: I know for sure, Micah was the same way. There were certain days right when (football) practice was done, he literally had to be out and go to batting practice and take cuts. I know it’s a demanding sport, trying to juggle that with football, there’s so much on your plate. Early mornings, late nights, preparing for baseball. And you still have to do your academics. Micah made it work. He found the time early in the morning and late at night.
HPW: Where is Micah now?
Drummondo: I believe he’s in the rookie league for the Milwaukee Brewers.
HPW: Can’t blame athletes who have a good shot at making the pros and big leagues. To go from high school to getting paid professionally within a year, that’s unlike football and basketball.
Drummondo: Here on this island the last 10 years or so with Kolten and Kean Wong, Micah, and other players like the (Gehrig) Octavio boy (Waiakea), all good players who made good football players, all went to college. You can do both. It depends on where you prioritize your time.