BIIF investigates Kealakehe's intent in homecoming loss
With a playoff berth locked up, Kealakehe coach Gary Clark
made a decision that was simple in his eyes.
It was the final game of the regular season, a homecoming event, and he chose to give his reserve players every opportunity to get on the field.
However, in the aftermath of Kealakehe's stunning 28-27 upset to Waiakea, all of Clark's noble intentions have been pushed aside.
The BIIF is investigating first-round champion Kealakehe's improbable loss, which left Waiakea with the second-round title. The one team that did beat Kealakehe -- Keaau -- was nudged out of a playoff berth because the Waveriders lost.
The big question is, did Kealakehe truly play the game to win? Or did it lose intentionally to get a more favorable playoff matchup?
"People can say whatever they want whether we win or lose," Clark said. "After the game I didn't see a dry eye on the field. Our guys were cheering for our guys on the field. I'm just proud of our guys the way we played," he said. "My responsibility is to these kids. If we lose perspective of that, I don't think we should be in the game anymore."
Clark admitted playing his second string in the second half while the game was on the line.
"It was my decision. Some of our kids didn't play much during the season. It was a perfect opportunity to let everyone play and not hurt our starters," he said. "I told them at halftime, 'Starters, this is what I think we should do, but this is your team. Is this a smart thing to do? This is our 11th game. In 10 games, some of these guys haven't played that much. If anybody doesn't like it, stay back and we'll talk about it.' And nobody stayed back."
With the lead and the ball, Kealakehe opted to keep passing in the final 1:15 rather than take a knee. That led to Waiakea's last-second touchdown drive.
For Clark, it wasn't a matter of trying to run the clock out, as most coaches would.
"We're a passing team," he said. "That's what we do."
At the crux of Kealakehe's approach to the game was the offensive line, which lost four starters for the week because of injury, suspension and ineligibility, according to Clark.
"We understood even before we played the game that we'd have to bring up a JV guy because we didn't have enough linemen. We don't have everything in line yet with terminology because this is my first year," he said. "Our quarterback (Kawai Kanuha) is crucial to us. Even with our starters in there, he gets sacked sometimes."
Kealakehe led by three touchdowns in the first half.
"There's no sense in leaving a quarterback in there with a lead like that, especially when we know we're playing (next week). The most crucial game wasn't last week's game," Clark said.
"If we weren't playing to win," he asked, "how did we score 27 points?"
Keaau coach Leo Abellera didn't see the game and seemed a bit surprised by the controversy.
"I don't know what went on over there," the Keaau math teacher said, adding that his team should have beaten Waiakea when it had the chance. "We should've taken care of business on the field and put ourselves into the championship game."
After his team did all that it could to keep the season going, Abellera hopes that it fell short rather than had a playoff spot taken away from it.
"It's hard for me to believe a coach would go that far," Abellera said. "Hopefully, it's not the case. That would ruin the thing about sports."
A good Guy
Veteran coach Guy Enriques is already dreading the repercussions of the season change for his sport, boys volleyball.
"I lost three players to baseball," he said of the switch of boys volleyball from fall to spring.
"The silver lining? There's no Spencer McLachlin."
Enriques' Kamehameha-Hawaii team fell to McLachlin, the three-time Star-Bulletin player of the year, in last year's state final.
Enriques added that Iolani's Brad Lawson, the Junior Olympic standout, is still a force to be reckoned with come springtime. But he's more concerned about the impact of the season change.
"One of the guys I might lose is my No. 1 middle. You can't lose your No. 1 middle," he said. "Lucky it wasn't last year. I would've lost three starters."
Enriques also has a thought about game lengths.
"We should be going three out of five. We're separate now (from girls volleyball). We have no reason to play just two of three," he said.