It was David against Goliath on Friday night.
For a second time, Goliath prevailed, but it took all the Radford Rams had to get past the Kaimuki Bulldogs, turning a 7-6 halftime score into a 28-6 win in the OIA Division II title game. What the deeper team, Radford, used to get an edge was the speed of Blaise Manabe and the craft of coach Fred Salanoa.
It also took vast patience, sitting on plays for an entire OIA season.
Manabe moved from wide receiver to QB for several snaps and was effective, especially in the second half. The senior transfer from Kalani rushed for 63 yards on six carries, and he was also instrumental in the kicking game. He had key kickoff returns to set up good field position, and his presence as a punt return led the Bulldogs to punt out of bounds several times. That set Radford up near midfield numerous times.
One of the key stretches came in the third quarter with Radford clinging to a 7-6 lead. Salanoa unveiled a gadget play with quarterback Quintin Iriarte tossing the ball to running back Ace Faumui in the backfield. Faumui took just one step, then stopped and lobbed a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Faumui, one of his younger brothers.
The play was nullified by a penalty, but Salanoa unleashed another sneaky play with the ensuing snap. Iriarte lined up under center, and before the snap, went in motion to the right, lining up next to a tight end. The direct snap went to Faumui, who ran left, lateraled to Manabe on a reverse.
“We practice it all week. We knew it would work. I had the option of running or passing it,” the senior said.
Salanoa and his offensive coaches bided their time.
“We practiced all of these plays for 10 weeks. We just try to find the best time to put it out. Tonight, they executed it,” he said.
In the midst of the misdirection, Iriarte had stayed at his spot for a moment, completely ignored by the defense. As Manabe raced toward the right sideline, Iriarte released into the secondary.
“I saw my quarterback open so I passed it,” Manabe said. “We just put that play in this week.”
Iriarte’s TD catch opened the lead to 14-6 with 7:45 to go in the third quarter and gave the Rams some precious breathing room.
Manabe later lined up as a wildcat QB for the first time this season and finished with 63 rushing yards on six carries to help Radford sustain some key, time-consuming drives. That was key; Kaimuki had already shown the ability to rally two weeks ago in a miraculous 27-22 win at Nanakuli.
“We always practice it, for 10 weeks. This is the first week we actually put him back there (in a game),” Salanoa said. “it’s a plus-plus for us every time we do those things.”