Fagaitua’s Manuita Sofeni looked like Kesi Ah Hoy on Friday night in the Vikings’ 29-8 loss to No. 7 Kamehameha at Kunuiakea Stadium.
Ah Hoy was the wildcat quarterback in the elephant package who led Kahuku to a victory over Saint Louis in Hawaii’s top-tier state championship game in 2015.
For those unfamiliar with that type of power running game, it’s a quarterback taking the snap and running behind a mass of horses for as much yardage the pile can move. It can work if a defense is not prepared or on the tired side.
For Fagaitua, it almost turned defeat into victory. The Vikings trailed 15-0 heading to the fourth quarter and then gave the ball to Sofeni, who ripped off 12 runs for 65 yards during a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He scored on a 6-yard run and then added the 2-point conversion.
Suddenly, the visitors from Samoa were smack dab in the middle of it — 15-8 with 7:01 left.
Then, the Vikings held on defense. But, instead of sticking to the ground game, they put it in the air and Kamehameha’s Harrison Donato and Taylor Scott Wong took advantage by returning interceptions to the house for the 29-8 final.
Vikings head coach Pooch Taase was asked why he didn’t use what the team calls its “heavy package” all game and why he put the ball in the air (disasterously) twice near the end.
“We used it in the beginning, but Kamehameha called timeout and adjusted,” he said. “We threw it (late) because we were trying to finish (and win it). I’m really proud of my guys. This is not the end of our season. We’re going to lose now instead of later on in the season. Those turnovers early in the second half … that didn’t help us.”
Kamehameha coach Abu Maafala was impressed with the visitors’ power game.
“Our kids played hard, but we made way too many mistakes,” he said. “We gotta get that cleaned up. What I appreciated all game was their (the Vikings’) toughness. They had maybe 35 guys and they were playing both ways. That was a very disciplined, focused football team. That was a great game plan they had. We practiced for it all week, but we haven’t seen that type of physical football in a while. It was good to see. It was also scary to see. It was exactly like Kahuku (with Kesi Ah Hoy four years ago).”
Ezra Evaimalo, a Warriors defensive lineman who is a University of Hawaii commit, had a sack and two other tackles for loss. He admitted to being worried about the possible successful comeback by Fagaitua.
“But I didn’t want my teammates to be worried, so I kept my composure,” he said.
Kawika Clemente piled up 73 yards rushing on 14 carries for Kamehameha. Jonah Yuen and Kiai Keone combined to throw for 199 yards.
The Warriors (1-2), who didn’t take full advantage of two early second-half lost fumbles by the Vikings (0-1), kicked three field goals in the third quarter — of 41 and 28 yards by Preston Rezentes and of 30 yards by Keaton Downing.
A third Kamehameha kicker, Precious Brown, scored with one extra point.
Brown was getting hugs and congratulations from a friend after the game.
“It was very scary,” she said. “It was different. I wasn’t expecting to be put in. I dream big and I got put in and THAT happened.”
Later, on the ensuing kickoff, she got hit pretty hard by an onrushing Fagaitua player.
“I went for it,” she added. “They nailed me real good, but I didn’t feel it.”
The Vikings will attend the University of Hawaii vs. Arizona game at Aloha Stadium on Saturday night. They return to Samoa from their two-week Hawaii trip on Monday.
At the end of the contest, Mililani coach Rod York banged on the glass window of the locker room to get the the Vikings’ attention and nod his congratulations on a game well played.
York and his Trojans (2-0, 2-0 OIA Open), who play at Farrington (0-3, 0-1) on Saturday night, visited Samoa to scrimmage against and have a cultural exchange with Fagaitua and another Samoan school in late July.
Last week, Fagaitua practiced at Mililani with the Trojans twice.
“I really appreciate this game (tonight), man,” said Sofeni, who finished with 91 yards rushing on 20 carries. “It was a great opportunity for me to play this game. I’m happy to be here to play against Kamehameha. We like to push our team. It’s (the loss) disappointing. We’ll go back to Samoa and work hard and get better.”