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STATE FOOTBALL PREVIEW


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Surprising Kona faces Lahainaluna

By Paul Honda

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:22 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011

He’s been described by old-time watchers at Julian Yates Field as anything from a younger version of Ray Lewis to a recent version of the late Jesse Mahelona.

That’s how good 6-foot-2, 260-pound linebacker/defensive tackle Mike Andrade is, if you believe the descriptions. If you don’t, well then, it’s all just hype. Andrade wears No. 45 for the Konawaena Wildcats, who will travel to meet perennial Division II powerhouse Lahainaluna on Saturday in the opening round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships.

LAHAINALUNA (6-4)

Aug. 13: Pac-Five L, 14-0
Aug. 20: Keeau W, 26-6
Aug. 27: King Kekaulike W, 22-0
Sept. 2: Baldwin L, 40-0
Sept. 16: Maui W, 29-10
Sept. 24: Kamehameha-Maui W, 21-7
Oct. 15: Kamehameha-Maui W, 25-0
Oct. 21: King Kekaulike W, 14-13
Oct. 29: Maui L, 14-13
Nov. 4: Baldwin L, 41-0
State tournament history
2010: Did not qualify
2009: Lost to Aiea in first round
2008: Lost to Radford in first round
2007: Lost to ‘Iolani in second round

KONAWAENA (11-1)

Aug. 13: Keaau W, 32-0
Aug. 26: Hilo W, 20-6
Sept. 3: Hawaii Prep W, 28-21
Sept. 10: Kamehameha-Hawaii L, 28-0
Sept. 16: Ka’u W, 41-0
Sept. 24: Kohala W, forfeit
Sept. 30: Honokaa W, 57-0
Oct. 7: Hawaii Prep W, 21-14
Oct. 15: Kamehameha-Hawaii W, 21-11
Oct. 21: Ka’u W, 61-0
Oct. 29: Kohala W, 68-0
Nov. 5: Honokaa W, 49-14
State tournament history
2010: did not qualify
2009: Did not qualify
2008: Lost to Campbell in first round
2007: Did not qualify

“He’s so valuable to me on that D-line. He runs a 4.7 40, and it’s legit,” Konawaena coach Cliff Walters said. “He’s the real deal. He should be the league’s MVP on defense this year. He was standing up (as a linebacker) for a while, but he’s been back down the last five games. He likes being down, a physically strong kid. He’s a cowboy, a bulldogger. He’s been a Hawaii state rodeo champion two or three times. All he says to me is, ‘Coach, I just want to hit somebody.’ “

Andrade teams with Michael Rabara (5-11, 170) and Gunner Nagata (5-10, 167) to give the Wildcats a solid linebacker crew.

On paper: Like many teams statewide, Lahainaluna (6-4) went through a rebuilding process with a surplus of underclassmen. While past teams had stalwart two-way stars such as Lake Casco, this year’s team is still building toward the future. Injuries at quarterback derailed the Lunas, who turned to sophomore Taylor Kohler-Fonohema.

Running backs Jared Rocha, Semisi Filikitonga, B.J. Pagdilao-Bala and Tytus Lucas have shared the load in the deceptive, run-oriented attack.

Guard Feleti Taufa (6-2, 225) and tackle Osaiasi Tauulaki (6-4, 245) have been a mainstays up front. Taufa, like the other guards in this system, are required to do a lot of pulling.

Konawaena averaged 33 points per game against a mostly D-II schedule, but two nonconference wins came against D-I programs (Keaau, Hilo). Sophomore Kahoalii Karratti is a speedster at quarterback.

The skinny: No team has operated the wing-T as effectively as Lahainaluna over the decades. The unique, old-school offense poses big challenges for teams that don’t see it weekly, though Tihada doesn’t believe it’s a major advantage.

“Even when we get to states, they do a good job of preparing even if they have a hard time replicating it at practice,” he said of past opponents. “The caliber of teams we face is tough. I don’t care what kind of offense you run, it comes down to blocking, tackling.”

X factor: The Wildcats invest plenty of time in special teams.

“It’s all about field position. I want the ball at the 50-yard line,” Walters said. “We don’t have that explosive offense. I like to throw, but at a small country school, our defense is our offense.”






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