No team wants to have its season end in September, but no team wants to end its season with a loss, either.
With full knowledge that Friday night’s contest would be its last of the season, Kalani rode the electric arm of Seth Tina-Soberano and kept its foot on the pedal in a 41-13 rout of Kalaheo in what doubled up as homecoming and senior night for the Falcons.
“It’s great to end the season like this. It’s great to go out with a win. The kids worked hard this year, I’m really proud of them in everything we did,” Kalani coach Scott Melemai said. “It was a wonderful year. We came up short again but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
A Kalani-partisan crowd at Kaiser watched Tina-Soberano light up the Mustangs for a career-high 327 yards and four touchdowns. The senior finished 16-for-28 with two interceptions, but made almost every play exciting with his escapability in the pocket, adding 51 rushing yards on five carries.
“I just wanted to finish off my senior year strong with my boys and go out on a high note, and leave something to be remembered,” he said. “I love my brothers. I hope they go on to better lives and do great things.”
No sequence was more symbolic for Kalani than the last 16 seconds of the first half. With the ball on their own 15, most teams would prefer to take a knee in that situation with a 14-7 leading heading into the intermission. Instead, after a short completion, Tina-Soberano went deep and left a ball up for grabs. Travis Tagad came down with it and took it to the house for a 79-yard touchdown as time expired, doubling the Kalani lead.
“We were trying to go deep at times and it just happens that we caught the ball and made it happen,” Melemai said of the Hail Mary.
Melemai was proud of the way his team closed the season after missing out on the final spot in the OIA Division II playoffs. The Falcons opened the year with a pair of one-possession losses to Pearl City and Kaimuki, and its last two losses were without Tina-Soberano at full strength.
“That was basically our identity. A lot of games, almost all the games, came down to a couple plays,” Melemai said. “But that’s what’s great about football and that’s why we love it.”
Kalani finished 4-4 overall and 3-4 in OIA D-II play, while the win over Kalaheo (2-5, 2-4) knocked the Mustangs out of playoff contention.