Hilo's Lewis, 'Riders' Vea take D-I awardsPeni Vea made lots of highlights and tackles and dominated, while Kamaka Lewis was no less effective with smart decision-making and toughness.
Vea, a Kealakehe safety, and Lewis, a Hilo quarterback, capped their senior seasons in Big Island Interscholastic Federation football on the Division I level in style.
For his game-changing production, Vea was named the BIIF Defensive Player of the Year, after leading the Waveriders to the Division I title.
"It's truly exciting," he said. "It shows a lot. It shows that hard work does pay off. I tried to bring all that I could to the team, do something where everybody gets encouraged.
"I tried to be there where my team needed me the most, by making plays."
The 'Riders finished 7-1, losing to Waianae 34-16 in the first round of the Division I state tournament.
Lewis was picked as the BIIF Offensive Player of the Year, in a vote by the league's coaches in Division I, which includes Hilo, Kealakehe, Keaau, and Waiakea.
The Vikings finished 2-5, falling to Keaau 26-20 in the BIIF tournament semifinals.
Hilo coach Kalani Siliga felt Lewis' intangibles made him a top candidate for the honor, despite the team's subpar record.
"Kamaka's a hard worker, and a tough, tough kid," Siliga said. "He's a good kid, good athlete and gave his 100 percent all the time. He made really good decisions during games because we ran the option. He had a lot of quick decisions and was able to recognize things in the passing game that allowed him to get the passing yards that he did."
Lewis completed 90 of 177 passing attempts for 1,435 yards for 51 percent. He also accounted for 19 touchdowns and had seven interceptions.
Vea not only put up big numbers, but his play also attracted the attention of the University of Idaho. He recently gave a verbal commitment to the Western Athletic Conference school.
He compiled 85 tackles, eight tackles for losses, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and four interceptions, returning two picks for touchdowns. In his spare time, he added another score on an 89-yard kickoff return.
Kealakehe coach Gary Clark can't vote for his own players, but figured Vea was a slam dunk for the honor because of his big-play capability.
"Whenever we needed a big hit or a big play, he provided a big hit or a big play," Clark said. "He led the team and, to me, he led the league.
"Peni's tenacity on defense had a lot to do with his ability on the field. He loves the game of football. He's also a leader, led by his play, but also a great student, leader at practice and in school. He scored every way possible for us. There's no question he should be the Defensive Player of the Year."
Clark added that Vea's physical play is only one part of the package. Good grades -- a 3.0 grade-point average -- and high character marks are included, too.
"He's the type of kid every team needs," Clark said. "He's a great leader, great individual, great student and comes from a good family."
The family theme is a constant with the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Vea, whose lasting memory is not winning a BIIF championship or making a hard-hitting tackle.
"It's having my family and people who support me at my football games, and seeing their faces after the game," he said. "I'm really thankful for that. Those are the people who have always been there for me in my life.
"I've learned a lot from the sport, like discipline. It's made me a better person. If not for sports, I wouldn't be who I am today. Sports motivated me to stay on top of my grades.
"And my family is my motivation, and getting taught by my parents how to be a good person and a respectable person and being a good role model for others. If kids want to look up to you, you have to make right decisions."