The Konawaena Wildcats are putting together the type of regular season that has many in the state believing they can hoist the Koa Trophy for the 1st time in program history. The offense is averaging over 55 points a game and 400 yards of total offense. The defense is holding opponents to under a touchdown a game and just 60 yards of offense.
It should not surprise you that the ‘Cats are 9-1 with the number-2 seed in the D1 HHSAA State Tournament after securing their second straight BIIF title.
“It feels very great because you’re accomplishing things that you visualized before the game and it feels really good, just our playmakers that we have. I can just throw a little short route and they’ll break it open for like a 50-yd touchdown,” Junior quarterback Keoki Alani said.
“This year of any year that we’ve had in the past we sort of fit and we’ve had those position groups kind of come to together. We’re well experienced. They all went to the state tournament last year. I feel like this season our groups kind of fit together and I’m excited for them,” head coach Brad Uemoto told Cover2’s Alan Hoshida this week.
Konawaena is on a nine-game winning streak. Their lone loss came in the season opener. On face value, everything during this stretch has gone perfectly for Uemoto and his team, but that is not the reality.
A month ago, They lost a former teammate. 2021 graudate, Maui Ellis-Noa fatally crashed his car into a tree in the Captain Cook area on October 16th. He was eighteen years old.
“We came back to practice the following Monday and obviously everybody had known by Monday. It was tough because the 22 seniors were his teammates last year. He had just graduated last year and he was so close to the team that it effected all of us – players, coaches, administrators, teachers,” Uemoto remembers.
Ellis-Noa was one of three seniors on the team a year ago that led the Wildcats to the state semifinal game. He would still come out to practices this season to check up on his former teammates.
“Last year, he was our heart and soul. He was like a brother to all of us, always checking on us, making sure we were great. I spent a lot of time with him this summer working with him. I’ll miss that guy, just the smile and laughter he brought to this team and everyone around him,” Alani said.
“He had this hunger for this game that it wasn’t just about winning or losing. It was about playing with your heart out. He was really the heartbeat of this team, on offense, defense, where ever he played,” Maui’s cousin Torrance Ro’o Satta-Ellis added.
“When we lost to Lahaina, I remember him walking off the field it being his last game and putting my arm around him and saying ‘Next season’s success is going to be a part of yours. You had a lot to do with what’s going to happen next season’ He still felt like he was a part of this group,” Uemoto recalled.
The team is doing their best to remember their fallen brother with decals with his initials on their helmets. Some players have words or stickers on their backplates that honor Ellis-Noa. This season has been dedicated to him.
“We’re definitely try to pick up after that semifinal loss against Lahaina. He definitely felt that. We wanted to bring that championship back for his family and my family,” Satta-Ellis said.
“In the back of our heads, our coaches always say you never know when its going to be your last so we’re going to play like its our last every time,” Alani said.