Hawaii Prep full of surprises


POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There's no flash in the pan at tiny Waiaka.

The pristine little neighborhood on the outskirts of Kamuela is layered with pastures, green hills, cows and horses. There also happens to be a pretty good football team there. Not a bit flashy, either.

When Hawaii Prep, enrollment around 350, came to Oahu and knocked off Moanalua 17-14 on Friday, it was a demonstration in no-frills football. Ka Makani—the wind—blew away any notion that a tiny school would be overwhelmed by a bigger team and a capacity crowd in the big city.

Instead, HPA played well enough in all three phases, scoring touchdowns on offense and defense, and when Kalei Konrad's 30-yard kick split the uprights with 2 minutes left, his team went ahead for good.

For just the second time in school history, Hawaii Prep is in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II State Football Championships, facing Kauai. HPA did it with execution and precision, not sheer power and size. On a roster of 38 players; only three Ka Makani weigh more than 200 pounds, and seven weigh 135 or less.

“;I just kind of laugh it off,”; HPA coach Jordan Hayslip said. “;As far as areas where you've got to have big guys, (assistant coach) Bern Brostek does a great job working with the linemen and getting the most out of them.”;

On paper: Hayslip is in his second year at the helm. Kauai has won seven league titles in a row, including the last three under Derek Borrero. Kauai reached the D-II final once, losing to 'Iolani in 2005.

HPA played well enough, but didn't completely shut down Moanalua's potent ground attack, which finished with 236 yards on 27 attempts. Tahje Canyon rushed for 141 yards on just 14 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown. Ka Makani will see another elite running back in Peleku Yasay, who gave Kauai reason to balance its run-and-shoot offense. Yasay has regularly surpassed the 100-yard mark this year and can be a workhorse, too, with 32 carries as a single-game high.

Ka Makani mustered 31 rushing yards against Moanalua, but quarterback Keanu Yamamoto was efficient enough (12-for-20, 146 yards, one pick) to keep the defense honest.

Kauai, the No. 2 seed in D-II ('Iolani has the top seed), drew a bye last week. Coming into this week's game, the Red Raiders are rested. They haven't played since Halloween, but rust shouldn't be a huge factor. Senior Trey Shimabukuro leads a crew that is highly focused on winning the state crown. Shimabukuro spreads his passes around. His targets include Taran Tani and Puna Hanohano.

“;Kauai's passing offense is very strong. Shimabukuro can thread the needle,”; Hayslip noted.

The skinny: HPA's multitude of three-way ironmen is like no other team still in the state-title hunt. Linemen Shane Brostek (6-3, 300, Soph.) and Onipa'a Stevens (6-2, 220, Jr.) have opened more eyes. Are they among the elite linemen statewide?

“;Absolutely,”; Hayslip said. “;They have a great combination of size and speed.”;

Twins Isaiah Adams, a running back/linebacker, and Nathaniel Adams (wide receiver/defensive back), and free safety/wide receiver J.J. Higginson are among the HPA starters who came through.

HPA has seen a lot of run-first teams in the BIIF, and again with Moanalua. How Ka Makani react to a run-and-shoot team that has a tradition of success through the air remains to be seen.

Borrero credits defensive coordinator Mike Tresler for master-minding a tough, if unheralded, unit.

“;He does an incredible job preparing our kids,”; Borrero said. “;And also, special teams. We get wonderful field position most of the time.”;

X factor: If HPA's ironmen still have enough gas left in the tank—they might be the best-conditioned team in the state—Konrad could be the deciding factor again. Konrad's counterpart, Shea Shimabukuro, has range. Shimabukuro drilled a 38-yard field goal in Kauai's regular-season finale, a 45-0 win over Waimea.

Kauai's special teams has played well of late, scoring on a fake punt in that win over Waimea.

“;Both teams do have good kickers,”; Hayslip said. “;I think we have to play a really solid game to be in that type of position. I would hope it would come down to a field goal.”;