Ball control was the winning formula in what may have been the most exciting football game of the season in Hawaii so far.
Waianae wound up tripping Moanalua in overtime 43-37 with a steady diet of between-the-tackle runs in the game that also featured a dash of everything else.
When the game was on the line, the Seariders (1-1) didn’t veer much from their pound, pound, pound plan, adding in an occasional pass to keep Na Menehune honest in the Oahu Interscholastic Association cross-division contest.
The boys from the westside could not hold leads of 30-20 and 37-27. Moanalua’s Michael Feliciano bolted to an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to make it 30-27, and then it appeared the Seariders were ready to finish them off, driving 65 yards and scoring on Javen Towne‘s 3-yard run on fourth down with 4:58 left in the game.
Towne would come up huge later. But Na Menehune weren’t done. They struck back to within three at 37-34 when quarterback Nevin Yuen found a wide-open Kaimi Kinni with a 38-yard scoring pass.
The Searidrers had another chance to put it away, driving as far as the Moanalua 3 — thanks to a 71-yard pass from Jaren Ulu to a wide-open Isaiah Freeney — before Na Menehune’s Dalton Nascimento stuffed Waianae’s Jorell Borge-Pontes on fourth down with 2:24 to go.
This is where the two-minute drill comes in, right? Moanalua put it to work effectively as Yuen drove them downfield, connecting with Kinni for 20 yards to the Waianae 25. In stepped Blake Tom, who drilled a 42-yard field goal as time expired to send it to overtime.
That’s when fortune shined on Waianae. Feliciano, who rushed for 129 yards on 18 carries, picked up 12 yards on second down in overtime for Moanalua, but he fumbled on the play and the Seariders’ Justin Kikila recovered.
After the game, Feliciano’s face was filled with disappointment. He piled up 262 all-purpose yards and scored three times, yet he was a six-point loser.
“It was a tough loss,” he said before trying to come up with and failing to give a good explanation for the fumble.
He did say, however, that losing such a back-and-forth, hard-fought game would make Na Menehune (1-1) hungrier.
Borge-Pontes, a slotback, running back and quarterback, was a major force in getting Waianae to the promised land in overtime. He lined up at quarterback and bootlegged for an 18-yard run that also included a fake pass that froze Na Menehune defenders. He appeared to hurt his knee on the play and received attention from the trainers as the day’s clock reached about 11:05 p.m.
About 11:10 p.m., more than three hours after the game started, Waianae had the ball at the 2. Towne was held for no gain and then lost a yard on two runs up the middle before running in for the 3-yard winning touchdown.
“That was strong right 32,” he said about the name of the play. “I saw a gap and hit it as fast as I could.”
Towne also talked about how tough the game was physically and mentally, as did Feliciano.
Borge-Pontes finished with 100 yards rushing, exactly, and that total included a 62-yard TD run in the first quarter that was made possible by a clearing-out block by Mililani Misipati.
Towne, the workhorse, finished with 55 yards on 15 carries. Freeney, his teammate, wound up with 110 yards on four receptions, and Ulu threw for 196 yards.
Yuen, the poised Na Menehune quarterback who can make people miss, threw for 187 yards and ran for another 50 for Moanalua.
An interesting battle developed between Freeney and Na Menehune defensive back Kea Rodrigues. Early in the game Freeney beat him for a TD on a fade, but Rodrigues came back strong and made a bunch of breakups on Freeney later. Rodrigues also made some big tackles, including a TD-saving variety on Freeney’s late-game 71-yard reception.
Rodrigues nearly stopped Freeney on a key Waianae fourth-down play, but it ended up as a 10-yard gain and was a first down by about an inch. A little later, Waianae’s Towne scored for that 37-27 lead with 4:58 left.
A game of inches, yes. One inch in this particular case.
Moanalua won the turnover battle 2-1. Noah Amian had a fumble recovery and Pita Tiave added an interception.
Among Waianae’s defensive movers and shakers were Josiah Viliamu and Grey Solofua with one sack each.
Waianae, under first year head coach Walter Young, visits Castle next Friday for the two teams’ first OIA Red game of the season. Moanalua, under head coach Jason Cauley, travels to Aiea to play Na Alii on the same night in the two teams’ first OIA Blue game of the seaosn.