Makoa Cooper‘s absence last week in a 20-7 loss to Lahainaluna was felt by everyone on Pearl City.
Defensive back Kasey Kikuyama, who filled in at running back for Cooper against the Lunas, might have been the happiest to see his good friend back on the field Saturday night at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium for the Chargers’ OIA Division II opener against Kalani.
Kikuyama broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to hold Kalani scoreless on its first offensive possession in overtime, and then watched Cooper score the game-winning 15-yard touchdown run to give the Chargers a 22-16 victory over the Falcons.
“I felt proud because (Cooper) has been my boy since elementary (school) and I always count on him any time it comes to those kind of moments,” Kikuyama said.
Cooper finished with 94 rushing yards and allowed Pearl City to escape with the win after the Chargers gave up 13 points in the final 2:25 to allow the game to go to overtime.
Kikuyama admitted the defense was “a little gassed” after chasing Kalani quarterback Seth Tina-Sobarano around for the entire fourth quarter.
Kalani trailed 16-3 midway through the fourth quarter and had the ball on its own 1-yard line when Tina-Sobarano seemed to improvise on nearly every play, running and spinning and making any plays he could to get the Falcons’ offense going.
He faked a punt on fourth down from the Falcons’ own 8-yard line and picked up 14 yards to move the chains. He found an open Ryu Yamane for 28 yards on a big play over the middle that setup another nifty Tina-Sobarano juke move before finding Logan Matsuoka for a 4-yard TD to cut the lead to 16-10.
The Falcons recovered the ensuing kickoff when Matthew Yu came up with the ball and Tina-Sobarano went to work again, hitting Joshua Titialii for a game-tying 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal.
Kalani had a chance to take the lead but missed the extra point after a delay of game penalty on the celebration following the TD. It was a missed chance, but the Falcons were still back in the game with a chance to win in overtime.
“That quarterback for Kalani carried the team,” Cooper said.
Tina-Sobarano had a chance to quickly get back to work as Kalani got the ball to start the overtime period, but the Chargers came up with a big stop on Kikuyama’s pass breakup.
That finally gave Cooper a chance to get out there and make a play for his team after spending nearly all of the second half of the fourth quarter and the first part of OT on the sideline.
“I knew I needed to make something happen for my team and it happened,” Cooper said.
“Football games are peaks and valleys,” Chargers coach Robin Kami added. “Lucky we get the overtime rule now and get a chance to come back and win the game.”