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Prep Football Preview Special
Michael Lasquero | ScoringLiveNovember 18, 2023, 11:42pm
Sat, Nov 18, 2023 @ Konawaena [ 7:30 pm ]
KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii — Uno, dos, tres.
Make it three rushing touchdowns for the Konawaena player donning the No. 3 jersey.
Keawe Navas Loa recorded a touchdown hat trick with a score in three different quarters as the Wildcats bested Kapaa, 37-19, before a crowd of 1,217 at Julian R. Yates Field Saturday night in the semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I Football State Championships.
Navas Loa, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior, also made a game-high 13 tackles (seven solo) and recovered two fumbles as reigning state champion Konawaena (11-1) notched seven takeaways to advance to next Saturday's title game against Waipahu at Mililani's John Kauinana Stadium in a rematch of last year's championship final.
"It feels great, back to states again, hoping to run it back," said Navas Loa.
The Konawaena senior rushed for 67 yards on 10 carries, a larger workload than his 2.9 touches during BIIF play. Navas Loa scored on a pair of 21-yard runs to bookend the Wildcats' scoring and had a 3-yard scoring plunge in the second quarter to jumpstart a string of 23 unanswered points.
"He's so physical, and I kept looking at him on the sideline just wondering how much he had left for us offensively," Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto said of Navas Loa. "It's a testament to the work they put in. He never said no when we put him in and he ran the ball hard every single time, broke tackles. Proud of that kid, he had a great career."
It was the second straight weekend in a row that the Warriors (9-1) traveled during the state tournament. They traveled to Maui to play Lahainaluna last Saturday and edged the Lunas, 29-28.
The trip to Konawaena was a bit harder however.
Traveling from Kauai, the Kapaa football team were split up between four different flights that required a stop over in Oahu for a connecting flight. Then after they landed in Kailua-Kona, the team bus broke down on the way to Kealakekua, which delayed the 7:30 p.m. kickoff by 10 minutes.
The effects of the rough journey was evident early on in the game. Fumbles on the Warriors' first two possessions led to two Konawaena scores and a 14-0 deficit midway through the first quarter.
Kapaa coach Mike Tresler made sure not to use the travel as an excuse for the turnovers.
"It's always tough going on the road for sure, but all that stuff is part of it, no excuses," he said. "We did OK last time we traveled. You can't turn the ball over against a good team. That's the bottom line. They played better than we did, we had more turnovers, we didn't play well at all."
To their credit, the Warriors did bounce back.
Kapano Na-O threw a 48-yard TD pass to Evan Daligdig late in the first quarter and scored on a 1-yard run at the 6:12 mark of the second quarter to make it a 14-13 game.
But mistakes continued to be a theme for the Warriors.
A dropped snap on a punt attempt in front of its own end zone saw Konawaena take over on downs in prime field position. Navas Loa then scored on a 3-yard run to capitalize on the change of possession.
"We got momentum back, and then again that's where special teams mistakes," said Tresler. "Taking his eyes off the ball, snap was low, but still, you got to be athletic and punt it out of there. We've been in that situation before, and when you don't execute like that, that's what happens against a good team."
This started a run of 23 straight points of the Wildcats as Kapaa never saw the end zone again until Waikahekili Makepa scored on a 6-yard run with 3:05 left in regulation.
"We made some adjustments after they adjusted their front, we found some creases and made some big plays," said Uemoto.
Reigning All-Hawaii Division I Offensive Player of the Year Zedekiah Anahu-Ambrosio (six receptions, 86 yards) did not find the end zone against Kapaa, but he showed he could get it done on the defensive end as well with two interceptions and a tackle for loss on fourth down.
"All week my coach made me play linebacker and safety," said Anahu-Ambrosio. "They wanted me to play downhill and I did it tonight."
Austin Takaki (seven receptions, 77 yards) and Abraham Ogata (three receptions, 71 yards) were responsible for the scoring passes of Keoki Alani, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 234 yards.
Nakoa Ige had a solid all-around game playing in all three phases of the game. On offense he starts as the left tackle, defensively he made seven total tackles (five solo) with one tackle for loss and he kicked four PATs and a 18-yard field goal on special teams.
Na-O rushed for 152 yards and threw for 111 in the season-ending loss.
Nash Burkart led the Warriors defensively with six tackles, one fumble recovery and
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