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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Kawai Kanuha & Sione Polota BIIF Players of the Year

Kealakehe (Kailua-Kona) Kawai Kanuha quarterback was named Big Island Interscholastic Federation (BIIF) Division I Offensive Player of the Year and Kea'au linebacker Sione Polota was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 10:10 AM HST

Keaau's Polota named BIIF D-I defensive player of year

by Brendan Shriane
Stephens Media

He threw for 3,018 yards and 32 touchdowns, leading Kealakehe to the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I title. So it was really no surprise that Kawai Kanuha, the Waveriders' prolific passer, was named the Division I Offensive Player of the Year in balloting released Tuesday.

"That's pretty awesome," Kanuha, a senior quarterback said. "That's sick."

Kanuha said he benefited from playing in first-year coach Gary Clark's spread offense, which gave him extra time to make his reads.

"I didn't have to run back eight yards to make my reads -- I could see the defense before the play even started, and I could see the field a lot clearer," he said.

Clark also worked one-on-one with Kanuha, who transferred from Konawaena for his senior season, to improve his mechanics and keep him focused this year. Kealakehe went 10-3, winning its fourth consecutive BIIF title.

"Coach Clark is a huge reason we did so well this year."

Kanuha, who completed 200 of 347 attempts with just 12 interceptions to go along with his 32 touchdowns, was also quick to credit his teammates.

"We have a great line and receivers," he said. "You look good when you have a bunch of great guys helping."

Kanuha's Waverider team dominated the Division I first team, with six selections on offense and five on defense.

Senior offensive lineman Misinale Kalavi, junior lineman Tala Alapai, senior running back/quarterback Keoki Limahai, senior receiver Kenneth Whiting and junior receiver Jordan Ursua joined Kanuha on the first-team offense. Kanuha and Whiting made the Division II first team as juniors at Konawaena last year.

Waiakea and Keaau each had two first-team selections -- the Warriors with senior lineman Jacob Tavares and senior running back Isaac Nihoa and the Cougars with senior linemen Fekita Feki and Nainoa Kalahiki.

Fekita and Kealakehe senior kicker Lanakila Ynigues made the first-team offense for the second consecutive season.

On defense, four Waverider juniors made the first team: linemen Bulla Malakaua and Afa Tualaulelei, linebacker Andrew West and defensive back Jacob Kimi.

Three Keaau seniors -- Division I Defensive Player of the Year and linebacker Sione Polota, lineman Damien Bentosino and defensive back Troy Darby -- were repeat first-team picks. Junior defensive back Bryson Bangloy joined them on the first-team defense.

Keaau's Leo Abellera earned Division I Coach of the Year honors after leading his team to a 6-4 record, including a dramatic 27-21 overtime win over Kealakehe. Abellera could not be reached for comment.

Two Waiakea seniors, defensive lineman Matt Kekaualua and defensive back Kuran Murata, made the first team for the second straight year -- Murata was a first-team selection as a punter in 2006.

In Division II, league champion Kamehameha-Hawaii earned five first-team selections on both offense and defense. A pair of seniors made both teams for the Warriors (8-2 BIIF, 8-5 overall) -- Kamaka Tauati as punter/kicker and Hogan Rosehill as defensive lineman/tight end. Tauati also made the first team as a kicker last season.

Senior defensive lineman Kyle Lonokapu, junior linebacker Kaiser Iuta, senior defensive back Micah Cockett, senior offensive lineman Mike Pohina, junior quarterback Nick Miyasato and senior running back Kolten Wong joined Rosehill and Tauati on the first team.

Wong rushed for 1,431 yards and scored 22 all-purpose touchdowns, leading Kamehameha to its second straight Division II championship. It marked the third straight season in which Wong rushed for 1,000 yards and made the BIIF's first-team offense

However, Hawaii Prep senior running back Mana Purdy, who rushed for 1,610 yards and 19 touchdowns and compiled 1,801 all-purpose yards for Ka Makani (8-3), edged out Wong in the Division II Player of the Year balloting.

Purdy, used primarily as an offensive player this year after playing both ways the last two seasons, said he benefited from playing just on offense, giving him more energy. He said the line in front of him made a huge difference this year, too.

"They made a huge improvement," said Purdy, who said he dived into small holes before plays developed in the past, keeping his yardage down. "This year I could relax and see the holes -- the line gave a huge push and gave me time to see things a lot clearer."

A trio of those linemen, all juniors -- Keoki Phillips, Honu Look and Elliot Kastner -- were rewarded for their hard work, joining Purdy on the first-team offense.

Konawaena senior receiver Kalii Kunitomo and junior tight end Sam Unger and Kohala senior lineman Shandon Stevens rounded out the first team.

On defense, HPA senior outside linebacker Junior Fischer, who led HPA with 75 tackles -- 56 unassisted -- got the nod as player of the year.

Purdy and Fischer, four-year starters for HPA, were weightlifting partners -- especially this past offseason. Last year, Purdy made the Division II first team as a running back, while Fischer earned first-team honors as a defensive back.

"I'm happy for those two guys," HPA coach Geoy Purdy -- Mana's father -- said. "They've always been like two peas in a pod and to have this happen to them. It's outstanding."

Geoy Purdy said Fischer tore his meniscus in the third game of the season but played hurt nearly all year long.

"He was playing in a lot of pain."

But Fischer, who moved from safety to linebacker this year, went out

and played through the pain.

"It slowed me down a lot," Fischer said. "It was always painful -- but I couldn't stop playing football."

Defensive lineman Kastner, also an offensive first-teamer, and senior defensive backs Jake Chancer and Alex Bell joined Fischer on the first team.

Two Konawaena players made the first team in junior lineman Kawika Karratti and senior linebacker. Kohala senior defensive back Tryston Corotan also was a first-team pick.

The Cowboys' Billy Rodrigues, who led his team to a 5-6 record in his first year, was named Division II Coach of the Year.

"This was a big year for us," said Rodrigues, who took over a program that had only won five BIIF games in the last three years. "I told (the players) they had the talent and the ability. If they put in the work they could compete with anybody."

Rodrigues credited his six-man assistant coaching staff, led by defensive coordinator Victor Regidor and offensive coordinator Kamon Kupkaa, with much of the Cowboys' success this year.

"The coaching staff was huge this year," Rodrigues said.

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