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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, September 1, 2000

Prep Football 2000
Fifth in a series: BIIF

BIIF title will
be up for grabs

Konawaena begins defense
of its Big Island crown tomorrow

By Tim Crouse
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Hilo tailback Hayden Stevens had a shot at reaching 1,000 yards the last game of the 1999 season.

But numbers weren't the most important thing to him, and he volunteered to move to wide receiver for the final game because the Vikings were short-handed at that position.

That team-first attitude made an impression on coach Albert Kawelu.

He said early on in his coaching tenure at Hilo he would ask players to switch, and they would refuse.

But that's not the case with his current team.

"We've got a whole group of kids willing to play wherever they're needed," Kawelu said.

Their best efforts will be needed tomorrow night when Hilo opens its season hosting two-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Konawaena.

The BIIF season begins tonight, with Honokaa hosting Hawaii Prep Academy and Waiakea traveling to Kealakehe.

Two teams -- Waiakea and Konawaena -- have captured the past six BIIF titles, but the league is wide-open this year.

"We should have a pretty good four-way race," Waiakea coach Ed Rocha said.

Kawelu said it there may even be five teams in the mix. "To me, it's up for grabs," he said.

Stevens, who finished with 920 rushing yards last year for Hilo, returns as a junior.

The Vikings, 7-3 a year ago, return several all-league players on both sides of the ball, including two-time honoree and co-captain, Michael Baji, a defensive back and wide receiver.

Co-captain Kalani Siliga (5-9, 230), who was all-league at center last year, will play guard this season.

Sophomore Ikaika Naipo (6-1, 160), whom Kawelu describes as a good all-around athlete who can throw and run, steps in at quarterback.

Besides Baji, Hilo's defense also features junior linebacker Ed Daog.

"If things work out, we expect to be contending (for the BIIF title)," Kawelu said. "We've got to knock off No. 1 first."

They'll take on that challenge of facing Konawaena without 11 team members who aren't eligible to return until next week because of grades.

Konawaena blitzed through the '99 regular season unbeaten and lost to Kahuku in the first round of the state tournament, finishing 10-1.

Roy Aukai has only three returning starters, all on defense: linebacker Darrell Grace, cornerback Garrett Acasio and rover Shayne Wong-Yuen.

Aukai will decide on a starting quarterback after today's practice.

Juniors Eric Rabara, last year's backup, and Gio Griffey are battling for the starting nod.

The Wildcats will attack out of the I formation, with a running game by committee -- a transition from last year's run-and-shoot.

Rocha said the key for Waiakea will be quarterback, where junior Jomo Young starts.

The Warriors, 6-4 last year, run a spread-option, and the quarterback has to make quick decisions.

Senior backs Robert Gouveia (457 yards in '99) and Bertram Silva (also the backup quarterback) and fullback Levi Naehu add to the rushing attack.

Rocha said most of the returning experience is on defense.

He said his defensive backs love to hit, especially junior free safety Kamalu Keawe (6-2, 180).

"I have to remind them sometimes to stick to their assignments and remember the run," Rocha said.

Defensive end Kimo Akaka (6-1, 225) should have a big season.

Kealakehe is playing just its second year of varsity football, but coach Joe Nahale does have the benefit of a team that been together for four years, starting on the JV level.

Running backs Hailama Anakalea and Toa Fakatoumafi and two-way lineman Jesse Mahelona are key for the Waveriders, who were 2-7 in '99.

Hawaii Prep Academy looks to improve on last season's 4-6 mark. All-BIIF defensive back Ryan Gleed (5-10, 170) will also carry the football for coach Tom Goodspeed.

Honokaa finished 6-3 in '99, but missed moving on to the second round. The Dragons are a young team and coach John Kainoa looks to junior quarterback Lukela Decker to guide the offense.

Ka'u, 3-6 last season under coach Greg Rush and Kohala, 0-9 with Beldon Kealoha, round out the league.

After the first round of play, the top four teams play-off, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.

Next Friday: the KIF

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