A ray or two of hope may have just pierced the dark cloud that’s been hovering over McKinley football.
A program that hasn’t won a game since 2013 — the Tigers took their 18th straight loss on Friday, 41-14 at Roosevelt — had some reason for optimism as players and coaches departed under the dim lights at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
Sure, the Tigers (0-2, 0-1 OIA D-II) struggled mightily early in the game as they missed some key starters due to academic reasons. They had trouble locating snaps, especially to their punter, and it resulted in enviable field position for the Rough Riders the whole first half.
The second half was markedly better; it included the Tigers’ first two scores of 2016.
Second-year coach Sam Cantiberos is trying to change a losing culture, week by week.
“We played with a lot of boys that are just playing football for the first time,” Cantiberos said. “They played their hearts out and I’m damn proud of them.”
McKinley trailed 41-0 by the end of the third quarter. Things were in running-clock mode, something all too familiar for Cantiberos, who tried to keep the Tigers intact last year through several blowouts, including 90-0 to Waianae. McKinley ended up forfeiting two games down the stretch for sheer lack of bodies.
But then something happened to start the final period Friday. Quietly, the Tigers advanced the ball over midfield.
Sioeli-Keola Lopes-Liutolo followed up a 22-yard carry by Anthony Jim, plus a Roosevelt late-hit personal foul, by bulling his way in from 12 yards, getting the Tigers on the board for the first time this season.
By doing that, McKinley averted a sixth straight shutout, including those two forfeits in 2015.
They weren’t done. Two Roosevelt possessions later, McKinley’s 6-1, 270-pound sophomore lineman Iulio Antonio had his compatriots jumping for joy. His rumbling scoop-and-score fumble-return touchdown from 62 yards may not have given the Tigers that elusive victory, but it was definitely a moment to remember.
“It did. It did (pump our guys up),” Cantiberos said. “It was a nice momentum change. Getting on the board, playing as a team, feeling how that exhilaration of succeeding is. Hard work paying off. It was awesome.”