Once Kalani mastered the first step in its offense, the Falcons soared to their first win of the season.
The Falcons had been shut out in four of their first five games while being outscored 187-8, and Friday’s homecoming game against McKinley at Kaiser got off to another ominous start.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, a low snap skittered past Kalani quarterback Nicholas Sakamoto for an 18-yard loss back to the Falcons 6. Kalani’s second possession generated some forward momentum, but ended with three consecutive mishandled snaps, the last resulting in a fumble recovered by the Tigers.
But the Falcons eventually straightened out the center-quarterback exchange issues and Sakamoto threw three touchdown passes to lead the Falcons to a 22-16 OIA Division II win.
Sakamoto, who entered the game with one touchdown pass against 12 interceptions through five games, completed 15 of 26 attempts for 161 yards without a pick. Sakamoto also kept the ball 18 times for a net of 40 rushing yards. Noah Ah Sam caught two of his scoring passes with another going to Jerick Robinson.
McKinley took the lead when Jayden Victorino-Jay scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to cap a 6-play, 26-yard drive on the Tigers’ opening possession.
Kalani took some risks late in the opening quarter, going for it on fourth-and-2 from its own 28. The Falcons picked up the first down and although the drive ultimately stalled, the momentum turned when Rimington Hew recovered a fumble at the McKinley 17.
The Falcons missed a field goal attempt but the drive was extended on a roughing the kicker penalty and Sakamoto fired a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ah Sam.
McKinley’s next punt was caught by the wind and downed for a 7-yard loss to give the Falcons possession at the Tigers’ 28. Two plays later, Sakamoto fired a strike to Robinson for a 24-yard score.
The Falcons got the ball back on an interception by Rayce Manriki with 1:47 left in the half. Sakamoto took a sack on third down with less than 20 seconds left but the Falcons scrambled to get the field goal unit on the field and Kai Sigler drilled a 33-yard kick to give Kalani a 16-8 lead at halftime.
Kalani forced a punt to open the second half, then drove 99 yards in 15 plays while taking 7:18 off the clock. Sakamoto capped the march with a 31-yard scoring pass to Ah Sam on third-and-18.
The Falcons maintained the cushion until McKinley running back Migguel Camacho, the Tigers’ most productive weapon, turned a short throw from Victorino-Jay into an 80-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion pass was good to Leon Montgomery to bring the Tigers within six with 2:46 left.
The Tigers got the ball back with 1:44 left but Kalani pressure led to an illegal touching penalty and intentional grounding to effectively snuff the comeback and secure the Falcons’ third straight win over McKinley.