In ancient times, the wall of shields — skjaldborg in Old Norse — was a tactically effective means of success in warfare for Vikings. The Wikipedia description:
A shield wall was formed by soldiers standing in formation shoulder to shoulder, holding their shields so that they about or overlap. Each man benefits from the protection of his neighbor’s shield, as well as his own.
On Friday night, the Hilo Vikings brought their own lockdown wall of defense.
Hilo brought defense to Aloha Stadium, a place that had been populated by prolific passers and runners all fall. The Vikings shut out and shut down Kahuku for a half. Their 10-0 lead was stimulated by a defense that limited the third-ranked Red Raiders to 43 yards of total offense in 24 plays.
At the end of three quarters, Kahuku has some momentum offensively after going to its power, smashmouth game featuring three running backs, but Hilo still led 10-3. And that’s where a brilliant defensive game plan and execution was derailed by plain, simple fatigue.
With the offense stagnant — leading rusher Tristan Spikes was out with an injury — and defensive end/linebacker Kiliona Pomroy sidelined by double leg cramps — all the Vikings had to give had been given. The defense fought, battled and ultimately was worn down by the rejuvenated Kahuku offense.
In all, the Vikings finished with eight tackles for loss, an impressive number considering Kahuku kept the ball on the ground almost exclusively in the second half. Linebacker Ofa Fahiua, one of the stalwart defenders who shined in last year’s state-tourney matchup with Campbell, led with six tackles and two for loss, plus a forced fumble and sack.
Melvin Kikau was a busy man with six tackles and two pass deflections. He also hustled to down a punt at the Kahuku 2-yard line. Rylen Kaniaupio had six tackles, 3.5 for loss, and forced a fumble.
Kui Mortensen (4.5 tackles, fumble recovery), Craighlen Lapilio (3.5 tackles, fumble recovery), Dallas Mata (three tackles, pass deflection), Kanen Longakit (fumble recovery), Haili Mahoe (TFL), David Pakele (sack), and on and on. There were so many contributors defensively.
Last year’s offensive sparkplug in the Campbell game, Donavan Faoa-Kelly, played defense, strictly, this season. He came up with a fumble recovery (17-yard return) and pick (18-yard return). He left me wondering why he didn’t play any offense this season, especially with a unit that could’ve used his pass-catching skills and speed.
There aren’t a lot of questions about Hilo’s defense, which I think is probably Top 5 in the state. The Vikings have a proud history of standout defensive units over the years. I got to see Tod Bello rule at linebacker (BIIF defensive player of the year) in the 1990s. During that era with the late David Namau‘u and then Starold Mitchell at the helm, Hilo was tough, strong, physical. The same is true today under coach David Baldwin and his staff.
Defense was their brand since the start of BIIF football in 1956. The ’58 squad under Edmund Toma allowed just 35 points in league play (six games) and the ’59 team permitted only 32 (six games). In ’75, Ted Ura’s squad allowed just 29 points in eight games. The ’79 Vikings, under Leroy Simms, surrendered just 24 points in seven games.
Since Waiakea, then Kamehameha-Hawaii and Keaau opened their doors over the years, Hilo’s enrollment hasn’t been large by any means. But pride remains, as well as generations of football families in Hilo town and nearby Keaukaha. Defense. Tough-nosed linemen and running backs.
It was an anomaly, a defensive game with plenty of action. Hilo (10-1) utilized a lot of deception and surprises to keep Kahuku off balance. In the end, few teams will have played as close to their potential as the Viks did in 2014. It all started with a great wall of defense.