Defense helps No. 8 Konawaena overcome six turnovers to turn back Leilehua


Sat, Sep 2, 2023 @ Leilehua [ 6:30 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
Konawaena (11-2-0) 14 7 7 028
Leilehua (5-6-0) 7 6 6 019
Logan Peters 160 yd 1 TD
Keoki Alani 234 yd 2 TD
Cole Northington 82 yd 1 TD
Keawe Navas Loa 87 yd 1 TD

WAHIAWA — Elias Malapit recorded four sacks and seven tackles for loss to lead No. 8 Konawaena to a 28-19 non-league win over host Leilehua Saturday. 

The Wildcats (3-1) overcame six turnovers to record their third consecutive win since a season-opening loss to southern California powerhouse Long Beach Poly. 

The Mules (2-2) dropped their second in a row since a 2-0 start in front of a crowd of about 900 fans on a cool evening at Hugh Yoshida Stadium. 

Malapit, a junior defensive lineman, led a Konawaena defense that tallied seven sacks and 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The unit limited Leilehua's rushing attack to a mere 20 yards on 35 carries (0.6 yards per rush). 

Wildcats coach Brad Uemoto credited defensive coordinator Kalae Lee for his work in preparing the unit for the Mules. 

"Defensively, we give different looks. They're well coached and it allows our playmakers to make plays and Elias had a helluva game tonight; I'm proud of him," Uemoto said. 

Elias Malapit recorded four sacks and seven tackles for loss to lead No. 8 Konawaena to a 28-19 non-league win over host Leilehua Saturday. Brian Bautista | SL    Purchase image

On the other side of the ball, it was hardly pretty for the defending Division-I state champions. The Wildcats lost three fumbles and All-Hawaii quarterback Keoki Alani was picked off as many times. 

"We didn't take care of the ball tonight and it is what it is," Uemoto said. "It's still early, but at the end of the day we just can't make those turnovers in big games like this."

Four of Konawaena's turnovers came in a sloppy second half for both teams. 

Uemoto, who is also the offensive coordinator, rated his unit at a six out of 10 at this juncture of the season. 

"We gotta clean a lot of stuff up and our tempo is not where it should be, obviously, and so we'll work on that throughout the season and get playing faster and executing better," Uemoto said. 

Alani, who threw for more than 3,400 yards and 50 touchdown passes as a junior last year, was intercepted on his very first pass of the night. On the Wildcats' second possession, however, Alani look more the part of a seasoned veteran. Alani completed five of six passes on the 11-play, 89-yard drive that culminated with his 8-yard touchdown pass to Aliimanu Tan. 

Konawaena converted three third downs on its scoring drive, with two of them going for long pass completions of 22 and 49 yards from Alani to Zed Anahu-Ambrosio. 

Anahu-Ambrosio, last year's All-Hawaii Offensive Player of the Year in D1, set-up his team's next score with a 53-yard punt return inside the Leilehua 10-yard line. Three plays later, Keawe Navas Loa punched it in from a yard out. Nakoa Ige's extra point made it 14-0 for the visitors with 3:47 left in the opening quarter. 

Konawaena's Zed Anahu-Ambrosio puts a stiff arm on a Leilehua defender. Brian Bautista | SL    Purchase image

However, the Mules answered with a nine-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by a Cole Northington 7-yard touchdown run. They picked up a big chunk of yards — 49 of them — on a short screen pass from quarterback Logan Peters to wideout Timothy Arnold, who slipped his way between a number of defenders after the catch just a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. 

It was one of just four catches for Arnold, who finished with 92 yards. 

Uemoto said limiting Arnold and Northington were keys defensively for his team. 

"They're good athletes and obviously we're going to pay more attention to those guys and try to stop them scheme-wise, but they're so athletic. When they get the ball in their hands, it's still tough to stop them," Uemoto said. 

Leilehua got a big play from its defense when Alani lost the ball on a strip-sack and linebacker Gabriel Liua picked it up for a 30-yard scoop-and-score. The ensuing PAT was no good and the Wildcats' clung on to a 14-13 lead with 7:54 to play in the first half. 

Konawaena got a score back a few minutes later, after it capitalized on a miscue by the Mules' special teams unit. Punter Zaeven Newman was forced to cover up the football after a loss of 29 yards due to an errant long snap well out of his reach. On the very next play, Alani scrambled his way into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown. 

The Wildcats led at the half, 21-13. 

Uemoto's offense found success in the run game early in the second half. Navas Loa gashed the Mules on runs of 11, 12 and 31 yards; His nine-yard pick-up set-up a 1-yard TD pass from Alani to Abraham Ogata, who made a spectacular leaping catch against the sideline on the play. 

Alani's second pick of the night led to Leilehua's other touchdown. Three plays after Chaystin Senas came up with the interception and subsequent 49-yard return, Peters found Layton Domingo on a back-shoulder throw for an 11-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. The extra point was no good to keep it a two-score game in Konawaena's favor, 28-19, with 7:35 to play. 

Early in the fourth quarter, Leilehua marched downfield on a promising possession, but Peters had his pass intercepted by Anahu-Ambrosio in the end zone. 

It was the Mules' lone turnover of the night. 

Leilehua had a chance to cut it to a one-score game, but missed a field goal wide right from 27 yards out to give the Wildcats the ball back with 5:07 remaining. 

Konawaena eventually turned it over on downs near the goal line, but the Mules were able to run just one play after they regained possession with only six seconds left. 

Alani entered the game having completed 75 percent of his passes on the season. He finished 18 of 34 for 234 yards Saturday. 

Anahu-Ambrosio recorded eight receptions for 111 yards. 

The Wildcats tallied 388 yards of total offense, including 154 rushing, led by Navas Loa's 11-carry, 87-yard night. 

Leilehua was held to 180 total yards. Peters completed 16 of his 32 passes for 160 yards in his first start. 

Matteus Ioane came up with one of his team's three interceptions, recorded its only sack and forced a fumble for the Mules defensively. 

Leilehua will host Aiea Friday, while Konawaena will take on Keaau Saturday at Julian R. Yates Field in Kealakekua.  

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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