Thanks to Kaimuki’s win over Pearl City on Friday, clarity in the OIA Division II race will have to wait.
Five teams entered the weekend in contention for four playoff spots and the Bulldogs prevented Pearl City from clinching the division title when Daniel Nguyen’s interception with 1:24 left sealed Kaimuki’s 20-17 win over the host Chargers.
The Bulldogs closed the regular season at 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the division and will track the division’s remaining four games to see where they’ll end up in the crowded race.
“That’s all you can do, win games and see how it plays out,” Kaimuki coach David Tautofi said. “Knowing how big this game was us, we knew we had to bring our best.”
Pearl City fell to 5-2 and 5-1 and into a tie with Waipahu for first place in the division, at least for the moment. The Marauders face Kalani (3-2) on Saturday at Aiea and can finish the weekend alone at the top of the division with a win over the Falcons.
A Kalani win keeps the logjam tight going into the final week of the season. The Falcons close against McKinley (0-5) on Oct. 14 while Pearl City takes on Waialua (3-2), which faces McKinley on Saturday. As of Friday night, the possibility of five teams finishing at 5-2 remained in play.
Kaimuki bounced back from a 36-28 loss to Waipahu last week to position itself for a playoff berth.
“Last week was definitely a tough loss for us,” Tautofi said. “But the good thing about last week’s game was it showed us a lot of wrinkles in our own offense and defense, things we needed to fix in order to play a team like Pearl City.”
Kaimuki quarterback Jordan Solomon threw for 155 yards and scored what turned out to be the decisive touchdown on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter. Pearl City answered with Joe Maneafaiga’s 12-yard touchdown run to close to within three and had two opportunities late the fourth quarter to tie or take the lead.
Kamuki held Pearl City to five rushing yards until the Chargers found some running room to spark a 14-play drive in the fourth quarter. A facemask penalty on third-and-11 extended the drive and Nguyen broke up a pass into the end zone. On fourth-and-1, the Bulldogs jumped offside to give Pearl City first-and-goal at the 10. After a short run and two incomplete passes, Pearl City sent kicker Zameer Khan, who hit a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter, onto the field for a 26-yard attempt.
But the snap went to Kasey Kikuyama, who rolled right and fired a pass to Isaiah Asinsin. The pass was broken up at the goal line and Kaimuki took over with 3:49 left.
“We were expecting the unexpected,” Tautofi said.
Kaimuki went three-and-out and punted the ball away with 2:16 left at the Bulldogs’ 48. After a 15-yard completion and a 1-yard run, Pearl City quarterback Kekainalu Simon took a hard hit as he released a deep ball down the left side and Nguyen — who scored on a 10-yard run in the second quarter — was there for the clinching interception at the Kaimuki 10.
“It’s just the resiliency of these kids,” Tautofi said. “We gave up three huge penalties that gave them too much life and were still able to have success.
“Daniel’s is one of our big-time playmakers and we’re definitely blessed to have him on our team. He’s come along way from a year ago.”