Nanakuli will kick off facing the Waianae end zone.
Jaren Feary at QB for Kaimuki. Three and out, Feary sacked on third down. Nanakuli gets the punt. Muffed but recovered by the home team. Nanakuli ball at its 31.
Third and 4, QB Nainoa Banks sacked by Kaimuki LB Sisifo Lauvao. Punt. Bulldogs ball at their 20.
Feary still in at QB, Bulldogs staying on the ground. Billy Masima with a positive gain on a fly sweep, but everything else is negative yardage. Golden Hawks have the ‘Dogs scouted well. Third down and long, Feary hurried, throws out of bounds. Flagged for intentional grounding.
Masima’s punt goes out of bounds. Nanakuli ball at the Kaimuki 45. Short field.
Banks keeps again on the zone read. Third carry already. Huge break for the Bulldogs. Banks gives on the read and the defense strips the RB. Daniel Nguyen recovers at the KAIM 40.
Keanu Pratt in at QB now for Kaimuki. Forced out of the pocket, gains one yard. Defensive battle shaping up. It was a blowout win for Nanakuli when they met during the regular season. NAN really testing the ‘Dogs. No safety back on that last play, screen pass for a loss of 2 yards to Masima. Feary back in, completion but short of the first down. Punt.
Short return by NAN. Ball at their 18-yard line.
Keanu Momoa 72-yard TD pass from Banks down the right sideline. NAN 7, KAIM 0, 3:16.
Personal foul called on NAN at the end of the ensuing kick return. KAIM ball at its 46.
Masima and Pratt fumble the handoff exchange and NAN’s Kawelo Kilakalua recovers at the 44.
Fourth-and-1 for NAN, RB Sunshine Anuenue stopped by Kaimuki LB James Gentile. Bulldogs ball at their 8-yard line. Masima starting to pick up steam. He runs about 8 yards, then lines up in the pistol formation for the first time and runs a stretch to the left for a first down.
Pistol again, this time Pratt fakes to Masima and laterals to WR Andrew Neves on a reverse for 9 yards. Next play, holding on Kaimuki to nullify a first-down pickup by Masima.
Masima also plays DE and still wears #99. He’s 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Quite a sight turning the corner and going full speed. Pratt with a nice play-action fake and first-down throw to Neves. Bulldogs getting into a rhythm. Pratt hits Torey Faimealelei for a first down, and then Masima barrels between the tackles for a 9-yard pickup. Injury time out with 7:23 to go in the first half.
Fourth-and-1, Masima rumbles for a first down on the left to the Nanakuli 18. But the ensuing snap rolls on the ground and Pratt dives on it. That’s three fumbles so far. Second-and-11, NAN comes with no safeties back and Pratt misses a wide-open target down the middle, Matt Faufata-Pedrina. That would’ve been an easy 6. NAN calls its second time out during this drive. 6:49 left in the half.
Third-and-11, pass by Pratt incomplete. Again, NAN goes zero coverage. I’m surprised Kaimuki doesn’t throw to Masima in the flat, or on a intermediate route. Fourth down, Pratt throws a swing pass to Masima, incomplete. NAN ball on its 20.
KAIM LB Cain Asiata with two sacks in a row, completely overpowering his man. Now Gentile makes a one-handed pick over the middle and returns it about 30 yards to paydirt. WOW. Heckuva play. KAIM 7, NAN 7, 5:20.
Chyson Morgan returns the ensuing kickoff roughly 70 yards down the left sideline to the KAIM 5. Next play, NAN fumbles on a run inside and LB Jahssaiah Maiava recovers for the Bulldogs. Major break.
Ball at their 5. KAIM gives it to Masima, he’s stonewalled. They try a swing pass to him — with Masima going in motion pre-snap — and his ankle tackled immediately. Three-and-out, KAIM will punt.
Punt goes directly to Morgan, who goes left, cuts back and scores on a 43-yard punt return. Not sure why they kicked directly to him after he had just returned a kickoff about 70 yards. NAN 14, KAIM 7, 3:36.
Sloan Fuller returns for KAIM to their 29-yard line. Bulldogs trying to work Masima between the tackles, but NAN has the box stuffed. Third-and-8. Pratt’s pass is off target. The solo coverage is there, NAN DBs getting the job done. Masima cranks this punt sky high this time. Fair catch, NAN ball on its 30, 1:38 left in the half.
First down, NAN, Lauvao sacks Banks. Nguyen picks off a deep sideline pass by Banks, who had rolled out of the pocket. Flag down. Illegal block by KAIM on the INT return. KAIM ball, :51. Ball is away back on their 30.
Pratt sacked by NAN LB Chyson Hoopai. Third-and-10, time out KAIM, :28. Pratt’s slant pass is almost picked off by LB Randy Manewa. That should’ve been a pick-6. Big break for KAIM. Masima’s punt goes out at the NAN 27 with :13 left. NAN ball.
Nanakuli kneels to kill the last 13 seconds. We’re at the half.
Morgan returns the opening kickoff for the second half to the KAIM 44. Hawks pick up a first down, then go backwards on a screen pass that is fumbled, recovered by NAN. Third-and-10, draw play to RB Shandon Laa for 5 yards. Fourth-and-5, Banks has a receiver wide open down the right sideline, but throws off-balance and misses him. KAIM ball, 9:26, at its 30.
First down, handoff to Masima and he appears to have a chance to turn the corner on the left side for a big play, but is brought down for a 5-yard gain. Feary back in the game at QB, runs left for 4 yards. Third-and-1. Pratt returns and hands the ball to ol’ faithful, Masima, who rumbles for a first down. Saw former longtime Mililani coach James Millwood here. He must be loving this ground-and-pound attack.
Pratt misses again to the left on a pass, single coverage but NAN has it covered. Ivan Maio in the game at RB, no gain. Third down, Pratt sacked for a 1-yard loss. Had three receivers downfield in single coverage. Masima’s funky, line-drive punt bounces all the way to the NAN 1-yard line, 5:45.
WOW. Nanakuli decides to pass out of its end zone on second down and Kaimuki brings the heat. Maiava sacks Banksand forces a fumble, which Ronnie Akau recovers for a TD. The PAT snap is high and the kick is short. NAN 14, KAIM 13, 4:49.
(Note: Correction fumble recovery made. The previous version listed Gentile incorrectly as the player who recovered.)
Squib kick by KAIM. NAN bal at its 37. Another botched handoff exchange and Maiava makes his second huge fumble recovery of the game. KAIM ball at the NAN 35, 4:29.
Feary back in the game, keeps the ball, fumbles. DB Brennon Weiss returns the ball to the KAIM 11-yard line. Another crazy swing in momentum.
First down Nanakuli, and now it’s a shotgun snap that loops over Banks’ head and he ends up with a 13-yard loss. Bulldog down on the field again. Two injuries in the last two plays. Looks like a leg cramp for Nguyen. I remember seeing one of the Bulldogs get leg cramps during warmups.
Banks goes deep to Momoa but he can’t come up with it. Feary defending. Third down, Asiata sacks Banks, holding call declined. Fourth-and-23, Banks tries the long ball to Momoa again, but he catches it out of bounds. KAIM ball on its 25, 3:17.
First down, Pratt with the play-action fake to Masima, completion to Maiava. First down. Then it’s Masima off left tackle for about 20 yards. Here they come. No-huddle, hurry-up mode. Another play-action pass to Maiava, who makes a diving catch for a first down. Masima drags tacklers for a first down, but fumbles and NAN recovers at its 13. Big break for the Hawks. First down, 2:18.
Hawks going hurry-up now. Big gain up the gut by La‘a. Kaimuki calls time out. They’re using a bunch of two-way guys and they need to catch their breath. It was 41-6, Nanakuli, the last time they played.
Facemask call on Kaimuki moves the football to the KAIM 38. Banks keeps and picks up a first down. Hawks in a groove now. Sunshine Anuenue gashing the Bulldog defense up the middle, then Banks scrambles for a nice gain to the KAIM 5.
Bad snap to Banks and the Hawks barely manage to recover way back at the 20. Loss of 15, third and goal. Banks sacked by Masima. Fourth and goal, long pass to Isain Wong-Lonzanida is incomplete. He dove for that, couldn’t finish the catch. KAIM ball at its 25.
Pratt keeps and is sacked in the backfield. Not sure if he could’ve handed off to Masima on that one. Third-and-9, play-action to Masima and the pass to Maiava is overthrown.
Alexcio Meyers with a punt return of about 30 yards. Bulldogs starting to look a little tired. La‘a picks up 5 yards and a flag on Kaimuki for helmet contact moves it to the KAIM 15.
Third-and-3, Anunue is stonewalled by Suliveti Nisa. Fourth-and-4, Banks scrambles up the middle for a first down, but NAN flagged for holding. Ball moves back to the 24. Brandon Sevelino enters at QB and throws an incompletion. KAIM ball at its 25, 7:33.
Bulldogs go to Masima, who picks up 10 yards, dragging tacklers along the way. Play-action, Pratt’s pass is a second late and broken up deep down the right sideline. Masima picks up 7 yards on the right, third-and-3.
Masima drags the entire pile an extra 15 yards for a 19-yard gain to the NAN 39. 6:37 to go. NAN has gone with a more traditional defensive look (cover 2) and Masima is enjoying the space. He runs for 7 more yards, then fumbles on the next play. Pratt recovers. Masima has to be exhausted playing both ways, punting and carrying the load. Third-and-4, Pratt to Neves for a short gain, and flags go flying on the Kaimuki sideline. Personal foul on NAN. Ball moves to the 16-yard line, 5:03 remaining. Huge error by the Hawks. That would’ve been fourth-and-2 or so.
Hawks back in zero coverage, but Pratt hands to Masima on a draw and he rumbles downfield before being upended at the 2-yard line. Time out, NAN, 4:53. Looks like 4:53 or 4:33. The scoreboard a little tough to read sometimes.
‘Dogs line up in very tight splits, Pratt sneaks to the 1. Second down. Kaimuki huddles. If this was Madden, most guys would’ve lined right back up without hesitation and done the sneak again. Kaimuki lines up in a power-I, but the substitutions took awhile. Coach David Tautofi calls time out just in the nick of time, avoiding a delay call. 3:39 left.
Power I again, and this time Pratt sneaks over. Officials took a while to decide on that. Kaimuki has the lead and will go for 2. Power I, big fullback is Nisa (302 pounds), who scores easily up the middle. KAIM 21, NAN 14, 3:39.
Kaimuki unsure what to do on the kickoff. Two procedure calls for kicking the ball out of bounds. Finally, a pooch kick is picked up by La‘a, who nearly breaks it up the left sideline. Flag on NAN, holding is declined, but another call, illegal block is accepted. Ball moves back to the NAN 21.
Hawks stay on the ground, a short gain and then a face mask call (5 yards) on the second run. Second-and-2, Banks to Wong for a first down. Banks goes to Momoa, but he’s hit and drops the pass. Feary doing good work covering one of the top receivers in the state. Second-and-10, Hawks run again and get stonewalled by Asiata.
NAN has Sevelino at QB again, and he scrambles for 8 yards. Fourth-and-2. Time out, NAN, 1:50. Sevelino’s pass to Momoa good for a first down at the KAIM 45. Sevelino looks downfield, dances in the backfield, but is sacked by Asiata.
Sevelino to Momoa for a first down, then to Keliko Amaral-Palakiko for a first down near the 15. NAN runs for a short gain and calls time out with :39 left. Ball at the 10. Now Kaimuki calls time out. Both teams now out of TOs.
Sevelino’s pass to Wong across the middle incomplete, :34 left.
Third down, Sevelino’s lob to the corner is caught by Momoa, but he’s ruled out of bounds. That was CLOSE. Fourth down, :27 left.
Sevelino’s pass into the end zone is picked off by Feary, but KAIM called for holding. Ball moves to the 4, :18. Sevelino spirals a TD pass to Wong-Lonzanida with :13 left. They’re down 21-20, going for 2.
Flag: delay of game. Hawks still going for the win. Sevelino lobs it to the pylon and Momoa hauls it in. WOW. That was gutsy! NAN 22, KAIM 21, :13.3.
Kickoff: NAN offsides. Yes, it’s going to take a minor miracle for Kaimuki now.
Holy moly! Neves returns the kickoff down the right sideline for a touchdown. That was roughly 80 yards. Time has expired.
Heartbreak for Nanakuli and a miracle finish for David Tautofi and his scrappy Bulldogs. FINAL: Kaimuki 27, Nanakuli 22.
The Golden Hawks and their fans are absolutely stunned. They managed to give Kaimuki a round of applause, but how could anyone not be shocked? The Bulldogs are in the state tournament.
Epilogue: The past 15 or 20 minutes have been almost surreal. Our writer here, Jason Kaneshiro, probably was ready to start interviewing Nanakuli players and their outstanding coach, Keala Watson. And within 11 seconds, it all changed. I’m not kidding when it felt sort of like an out-of-body experience to see the fate of one team seemingly locked up, taken away, and then sealed with a miraculous play via Andrew Neves.
He is, by the way, a nephew of former Kaimuki standout QB Larry Neves, who was an OIA East first teamer in 1980.
Is what we saw just now real? It’s oddly stunning to see Kaimuki’s excitement and Nanakuli’s shock simultaneously. Coach Tautofi said in the post-game interview that Neves NEVER returns kicks. He just had a premonition and managed to holler just loud enough (his voice is shot) to get the speedy wide receiver on the field.
Kaimuki (6-3, 6-2) at Nanakuli (7-2, 7-1)
The Golden Hawks want a few basic things, I’m sure.
Beat Kaimuki tonight, which would mean a state-tourney berth.
Win the OIA Division II title.
Win the state championship.
And always, always defend the valley. It is a sprawling valley. Hot. Sometimes gusty. From the mountain to the sea, serene. The water off the shore is aqua blending into deep-sea blue. A place well worth defending. I think of Nanakuli football, I think of former Nanakuli and UH player Clayton Mahuka, one of the top running backs and sprinters of his era. I also think about the countless number of homegrown athletes who opted to transfer out to places like Waianae or, in more recent years, Kapolei. More power to them. For the guys and girls who stuck it out and represented the black and gold, kudos to you.
Win or lose, it’s great to see pride in Nanakuli High School and its athletic program. It took a homegrown talent like Keala Watson to carry the torch and make it burn more brightly.
The same is true of David Tautofi, Kaimuki’s first-year head coach. He gave up life on the continent when he saw the turmoil in his old ‘hood during a visit earlier this year. He, his brothers and the rest of the staff are doing all they can to hold the Bulldogs to the standard that previous student-athletes lived up to over the decades. Some people talk about making a change. Coach Tautofi and his staff are living it.
It seems to be working. The two teams will meet tonight at Nanakuli for the right to play in the OIA D-II title game against the Radford-Waialua winner. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., or 25 minutes after the JV game ends. Not sure who’s playing in the JV game.
This may sound a tad bit cliche, but it’s the truth: I hate to see either team lose and miss out on a chance to play in the state tournament. Love both programs and what their coaches and players stand for. Both teams have already overcome much adversity to get to this point, so that’s victory in itself.
Update: JV game between Nanakuli and Pearl City is at the half. Nanakuli 13, Pearl City 6.
Update, 7:37 p.m. JV game almost pau. Nanakuli leads 28-7.
Update: 7:42 p.m. JV game is final. Nanakuli 28, Pearl City 7.