Open Mic
Competitive spirit drives Konawaena's Ewing

There is no challenge that Austin Ewing isn't willing to face.

Most of the time, the Konawaena senior quarterback accomplishes his task.

Sometimes, he comes up short or runs out of time.

But one thing is for sure: He always gives his best effort no matter what the situation is.

The competitive spirit that Ewing possesses has done wonders throughout his high school career. The 6-foot-1 quarterback never gives up on any play and is always looking to make the best decision possible, even if he has to create that option himself.

Ewing's resume speaks for itself. He led the Wildcats to two state tournament semifinal appearances, was selected as an All-Hawaii Division II First Team quarterback in back-to-back seasons and has already thrown for 5,022 yards and 33 touchdowns before he takes the first snap of his senior year.

Austin Ewing poses with ESPN Radio's Josh Pacheco and ScoringLive founder Brien Ing during SL's annual Distinguished Athlete Awards.

"He's just such a dynamic player that even if you pressure, he'll try to make things happen," said Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada. "He just doesn't give up on a pass play. He will try to scramble and wait for the receivers to get open."

The reigning D2 Offensive Player of the Year played on the junior varsity squad for most of his freshman year before making his first-ever appearance in a varsity game in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation D2 title game.

Like with any young player, it was a learning experience.

The young quarterback mishandled a couple of snaps early on before settling down to lead the Wildcats on a touchdown drive. Konawaena would lose the game, but it was a necessary setback that Ewing used to improve his game.

"When I played in that game, I knew that I had to step up a lot to start my sophomore year, and it helped me to strive to get better," said Ewing.

The young quarterback backed up his words with his actions. As a sophomore, Ewing helped the Wildcats reclaim the BIIF D2 title, led Konawaena to its first-ever state tournament win and gave eventual state champion Radford all it could handle in a 48-46 semifinal loss.

"For Austin, when he's in a situation where he has to prove himself, I think that's when the best comes out in him," said Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach before Ewing's sophomore year.

"With his sophomore season being his first varsity season, it was something where he had to put his name on the map. He had to prove himself and show everybody what he was about."

Austin Ewing attempts a pass against Radford in the 2015 Division II Football state semifinals.

By the time Ewing's junior season came around, the rising star was trusted with the ability to make audibles and calls at the line of scrimmage.

"It creates a different dimension for our offense, to me that's invaluable," said Uemoto. "He sees coverages, changes routes and different things like that. He lines people up, he tells people where they should be, what they should do. It's something you can't coach."

Ewing added that the pressure doesn't faze him, but pushes him to strive for greatness.

"There's a lot that is expected out of me, and I like it," said Ewing. "I just feel that I need to make everyone proud, especially my teammates. They rely on me a lot when times get hard. They push me everyday to always get better."

Always active
Ewing's competitive nature isn't just limited to football however. The Konawaena senior is also an exceptional guard on the basketball team, a track and field relay member, and more recently, a standout baseball player.

Like on the gridiron, Ewing directs the offense on the court as a point guard. Uemoto said that the same effort that his quarterback puts out on the field translates in his play on the hardwood floor.

Austin Ewing puts up a lay-up attempt against Punahou in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 Boys Basketball Division I state tournament.

"He plays basketball like he plays quarterback, he's just running around at full speed," said Uemoto. "He's just a competitor. He doesn't want the ball to get stolen from him, he wants to steal the ball from somebody else. Everything is just a small battle, that's just how he plays."

After the winter sports season, Ewing usually runs track to stay in shape, but this year he decided to play baseball for the first time since middle school. The long layoff had people doubting Ewing's skills on the diamond, which just added more fuel to the competitor's fire.

"Everyone was like I don't know if you can take off baseball that long, and it was something like where he said ‘OK, I'm going to prove this,'" said Uemoto.

And just like in everything else, Ewing gives his all at every moment in the game.

"He would ground out to second base, but he does a full 90-foot sprint to the bag," said Uemoto. "Everything is just hustle and it's the same thing with everything he does."

It wasn't just an effort thing for Ewing however; there were actual results. He batted 0.511 during his junior year and was an All-Hawaii D2 Second Team selection as an outfielder.

It runs in the family
If you ever need a reason why Ewing works hard in everything that he does, look no further than to his older sister Gabbie, who was an outstanding multi-sport athlete for Hawaii Preparatory Academy.

The older Ewing starred in two different sports during her four-year career at HPA, earning league POY honors in both girls volleyball during her junior year and girls soccer in her senior season. She also helped guide Ka Makani to their first two girls soccer state titles. For her efforts Gabbie Ewing was inducted into the 2015 class of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Hall of Honor.

Hawaii Prep's Gabbie Ewing (16) tries to get the ball past a Mid-Pacific defender in the 2014 Division II Girls Soccer championship game.

Austin Ewing said his older sister set the example for success growing up.

"She's a good big sister helping me out with sports, and getting me into the right path so I could follow in her footsteps," said the Konawaena athlete. "She was a good athlete and she wanted me to succeed."

He also added that the hunger for a state title is even greater knowing that his sister won two while he has yet to win one.

"It's been there since she won her first one. Just seeing how much she put into soccer and how happy she was when she won that first one, I know I wanted to get one for myself and the Kona community."

Austin Ewing poses for a photo with his family on the red carpet of the 2017 ScoringLive Distinguished Athlete Awards. From left to right: Pete Ewing, Austin Ewing, Gabbie Ewing, Kathy Ewing.

One last ride
To help Ewing achieve his goals, Uemoto promised that he would be harder on his quarterback during his senior year.

"Because Austin has been such a good player for us, I haven't personally as his head coach been really hard on him because he does so many things well," said Uemoto. "This year I'm going to expect more from him, and he's going to have to explain why he did certain things. I think that will make him a better player."

The Konawaena coach pointed to something that former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said regarding 2016 All-Hawaii D1 Offensive POY Tua Tagovailoa — who is now at the University of Alabama — during an Elite 11 quarterback camp clip as the motivating factor for this change.

Saint Louis QB Tua Tagovailoa attempts a pass against Punahou in an ILH Division I contest in 2016.

"He was saying part of Tua's progression is if someone is going to get after him, is someone going to be hard on him, because if they will, he's going to develop into something special. If they just let him go because he's so talented, he might not reach his full potential.

"That's something I heard and it made sense. I said ‘hey, you know what, Austin is a senior, he's a guy that did everything well for us. I can't just let him slide out his senior year and get to college.'"

Accountability and discipline is going to be the mantra for Ewing this year, said Uemoto.

"That's kind of the big point with him this year. The fine line is every time the ball is snapped, he's so competitive, and in his mind, he can complete anything and can make a play out of dog food. Sometimes an interception is a result of just being over competitive.

"The challenge we'll have this year is we have to kind of child him back a little, without losing what makes him Austin Ewing, which is that competitive fire and making that extra play, giving that extra effort that opens something up."

Austin Ewing attempts a pass during a 2016 tri-scrimmage against Kealakehe and KS-Hawaii.

Uemoto added that he brought in a quarterback coach for Ewing this season to help him along during the season. In the past, Ewing would just check in with Uemoto or his dad Pete on the sideline, but now he will have a position coach in Erik Clement to report to.

"I like it a lot, having an individual coach this year," said Ewing. "Now I can sit down and go over film with someone, talk offensive schemes."

Regardless of the changes, Ewing knows one thing: it's now or never to win a state title.

"Our mindset is different this season," he said. "We feel we're right there, but we just have to continue to work harder than we ever did before just to get over the hump."

The Wildcats open their season against Kapaa Saturday night at Vidinha Stadium.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].



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