Time stood still for a few seconds at Aloha Stadium with St. Francis’ season hanging in the balance.
Down by six points to Damien with 1:10 left, Saints junior quarterback Bubba Akana lofted a deep ball to Scott McLeod, who had a one-on-one matchup down the left sideline. The physically imposing McLeod, who stands at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, streaked down the field and simply snatched the ball at the 10-yard line, where he eased his way to pay dirt.
Lachmann Atoa’s extra point was good after the initial extra point was blocked, but a flag was thrown, and the St. Francis defense held on for an enthralling 15-14 win, setting up a winner-take-all rematch on Friday for the ILH Division II title and state Division I berth.
As the top seed in the ILH playoffs, Damien needed just one win to advance while St. Francis had to win twice. Any hope St. Francis had of continuing its season started to fade before their top playmaker was summoned.
“I was just thinking ‘throw it to my best receiver’ and he’ll probably catch it and score,” Akana said of McLeod. “He means a lot. You can just throw it up and he’ll catch anything. That’s why we trust him the most. That’s why we went to him.”
McLeod finished with 87 receiving yards on three receptions, but he made them count. His 39-yard reception to end the third quarter put the Saints in the red zone to start the fourth quarter before Akana was intercepted.
But on that fateful play in the fourth quarter, MeLeod sensed that an opportunity to change the game — and his team’s season — was coming his way.
“I wasn’t getting the ball so I was kind of anxious to get it,” he said. “Once they said to me it was guaranteed coming to me, I had to make it happen.”
The touchdown marked the ninth consecutive game for McLeod with a receiving score. Through 11 games, he has 51 receptions for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Despite his college-ready frame and physicality, McLeod, who is a senior, admitted that he has “no idea” about his prospects for the next level.
“Just proving people wrong and representing for my family and my team,” McLeod described as his motivation. “I haven’t been able to shine for the past three years. They gave me a chance, so I might as well shine with it.”
McLeod overcame a thumb injury to play on Saturday, but there was no mention of it until St. Francis coach Kip Akana pointed it out to the Star-Advertiser’s Paul Honda afterwards.
“He’s a tough kid. I believe he’s one of the best in the state,” Akana said. “Hopefully he showed the state why we believe he is one of the best receivers in the state.”