Griffin Motas didn’t mind ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look using his final two timeouts to try to get into the Moanalua kicker’s head Saturday night.
The senior gets much the same treatment from his own coaches on a daily basis.
“It’s an everyday thing in practice,” the Na Menehune senior said. “Coach tries to ice me minutes at a time. But he’s like, it’ll all pay out at the end.”
Usually a set of sprints for the entire team is at stake during the field-goal period in practice. This time Motas lined up a 27-yard attempt with Moanalua trailing ‘Iolani 20-18 in its OIA-ILH Division I opener at home.
After Moanalua took possession at its 31 with 1:39 left, Na Menehune quarterback RJ Javar drove Na Menehune 59 yards in nine plays, picking up 20 yards on two completions and another 35 on two scrambles. Moanalua used its last timeout after Javar kept it a final time and slid to the turf at the ‘Iolani 10 with 4.3 seconds left.
Motas lined up his kick a first time before Look called timeout. Look burned his last timeout just before the next snap and Na Menehune went through the entire operation and Motas knocked his kick through in what amounted to a practice run.
Setting up a third time, Na Menehune again executed the snap and hold and Motas drilled a line drive that went through to give Moanalua a 21-20 season-opening victory over the No. 8 Raiders. It’s the first win for Moanalua in four tries all-time against ‘Iolani.
“It was a moment of relief,” Motas said. “I was thankful for everyone who blocked for me and taught me all I learned.”
— Jason Kaneshiro (@jasonkaneshiro) August 11, 2019
Motas, who was hit low after the kick and was on the ground when the celebration began, has been responsible for much of his kicking education. Primarily a soccer player, he was asked to come out for football as a sophomore. He taught himself the nuances of kicking a football and Moanalua coach Savai’i Eselu’s mind games in practice prepared him for his opportunity on Saturday.
“He’s come a very, very long way,” Eselu said. “Right now I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Griffin.
“I tell him all you do is kick off and literally just run off the field. Don’t do no tackles, soccer is your priority sport. Kick it and we’ll handle with 10 guys. … I’m glad it came down to him. I could hear the crowd cheering his name. It’s that old phrase, nobody knows the kicker until you need him and we got him.”
Motas made a 21-yard field goal in the second quarter and had a 46-yard punt downed at the ‘Iolani 2 in the first quarter. Na Menehune defense came up with an interception by Christian Sison on the next play to set up Moanalua’s first scoring drive.
After ‘Iolani took a 20-16 lead on touchdown runs by Brock Hedani and Brody Logan Bantolina, Motas and got a third-quarter punt to roll to the Raiders’ 15 for a 59-yard net. The Moanalua defense then dropped the Raiders for two losses back to the 4 and a snap into the end zone resulted in a safety to cut into the deficit.
Following the touchdown runs by Hedani (59 yards) and Bantolina (23 yards), Moanalua’s defense limited ‘Iolani to one first down over the Raiders’ next three possessions, which accounted for a total of negative-3 yards.
In his Moanalua debut after transferring from Mililani, Javar completed 32 of 39 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns with his receivers primarily working underneath the ‘Iolani coverage.
Rudy Kealohi, who Eselu likened to New England Patriots slot receiver Julian Edelman, came up with 14 receptions for 149 yards. Lawsen Lee had seven catches for 77 yards and the game’s first touchdown and Jansen York had six grabs for 73 yards.
“We’re not a bazooka like Saint Louis,” Eselu said. “We come to the battle with a butterknife and try to cut you up.”
Javar was dropped behind the line of scrimmage nine times, often after looking downfield. He was also involved in two lost fumbles deep in ‘Iolani territory in the fourth quarter. But he still finished with 78 yards on 20 carries, the most meaningful coming on Moanalua’s final possession.
After completing a throw to Lee for 5 yards and another for 15 to York on third and 5, Javar pulled it down and scrambled for 22 yards to get to the ‘Iolani 27. Two plays later, he took off again for another 13, getting to the ‘Iolani 14 with 18.6 seconds left.
“As he’s running I’m looking back at the clock like, ‘dude what are you doing?’ ” Eselu said. “But he made it pop, he made it hit more, and I was like, ‘OK, that works, Let’s go.’ ”
After two incomplete passes, Javar kept it one more time, gaining his final 4 yards to set up Motas.
“He’s been practicing hard this whole week and we trust him every time,” Javar said.