WONG STADIUM – Not many people can brag about having a football field in their front yard, but Brad Kaono, coach of the Hamakua Cougars can do just that.
Kaono is in his sixth year of coaching the West Hamakua Cougars Pee Wee football team and on Sunday they took to the field playing in the Big Island Pop Warner Football Conference Semi Finals Championship.
“I like coaching and I do it for the kids,” Kaono said. “Most of the kids grew up around me and have played football in my front yard as I have a full sized, 120 yard field.”
The Cougars went undefeated during the regular season and on Sunday beat the Wailoa Razorback 14-0, the second seed from East Hawaii, with the winner gaining the opportunity to play for the island championships.
“We did great today and it’s hard for me to acknowledge just one kid as football is a team sport,” Kaono said. “Nobody can do their job without the rest of the team.”
The Cougars scored both of their touchdowns on end around sweeps and they allowed their defense to do the rest in shutting out the Razorbacks.
The Pee Wee division feature kids between the ages of 9 and 12 with a weight limitation of 120 pounds at the beginning of the 10 week season and 130 pounds for the championships.
In the second Pee Wee game it was the Puna Panthers, winners of the East Division, matched against the Westside Eagles the number two seed from the West.
Puna, in their first year of competition under Coach Keven Lee, could not get their offensive moving and were shut out by the Eagles, 16 to 0.
“Our kids came to play today,” Eagles head coach Bo Waite said. “They worked hard on both sides of the ball and played well.”
Waite noted the key play of several of his youngsters as being instrumental to their success.
“Palama Lewis is our workhouse and played both sides of the ball,” Waite said. “Riggs Kurashige also played both offense and defense and is considered our go to guy.”
Waite also had high praise for Hiilawe Manoi who he considers a stud on defense.
“Hiilawe played great at linebacker, but I guess I should be calling her a studette,” Waite said with a wide grin.
Waite also had high praise for the Puna Panthers saying, “they’re a really good team that held us back from scoring. Hats off to them.”
Ten Pee Wee teams from around the island began the season with the top two Westside and top two Eastside teams advancing to the Play Off Semi Final Championships.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years,” Charles Nahale, Big Island Pop Warner Football President said from the Wong Stadium Press Box.
“Throughout the day we are expecting between 1,500 and 2,000 spectators watching the four games,” Nahale said.
Nahale believes that the biggest challenges he faces each year comes from dealing with the adults.
“I enjoy the kids and the ability to provide a structured program for them to enjoy the sport of football,” he said. “These teams that are playing against each other today did not play each other during the regular season. We’re seeing the best on the Big Island.”
The second half of the day featured games in the Midget Division with the Waiakea Nakoa, winners of the Eastside, going against the number two Westside team, the Kohala Chargers.
Kohala, under coach Clyde Igarashi, came out from the start and poured on the offense on way to defeating Waiakea 34 to 14.
Despite the humid conditions Igarashi’s Chargers were able to mount a full throttled offense in making it to the Midget championship finals.
“We just had to get the feel for the game and once that happened our quarterback, Makani Kualii did the rest,” Igarashi said. “We’re basically a running team and we let our QB call most of the plays himself and our two running backs, Israel Victorino and Willie “Boy” Perez did the rest.”
In the final game of the day it was the Westside top seed, Kailua Raiders, bucking heads against the Eastside second seed in the Wailoa Razorbacks.
Raider’s eighth year head coach, Bryan Ellis, made it a clean sweep for the Westside teams as they rolled over the Razorbacks 22 to 6.
“We scored two touchdowns on deep post pattern plays over the middle,” Ellis said. “The same receiver caught both touchdown passes, Makana Ibanes, and our quarterback, Koa Ellis, ran it in for the other score.”
Pop Warner rules provide two points for the kick after touchdown and two points for a pass after touchdown. Only one point is awarded for a run following touchdown, according to Rules Official, Malia Lewis.
“It’s difficult at this age to kick an a point after touchdown, so we give them two points to encourage special teams to try kicking,” Lewis said.
The Big Island Pop Warner Football Championships will be held on Sunday, Nov. 14, at the Kealakehe High School starting with the Pee Wee Consolation game at 9 am., followed by the Pee Wee Championship Game between the West Hamakua Cougars and the Westside Eagles.
At 1 pm the Midget Consolation game will be held followed by the Midget Championship Game between the Kohala Chargers and the Kailua Raiders.
Gate fee is $3 for those 16 years and older and free to 15 and below.