Get Nainoa Machado the ball and chances are he will do something with it.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Waianae wide receiver did something that’s quite difficult to do in this day and age. Despite being on the losing team, he won the MVP award in the first game of the JPS Senior Bowl Classic doubleheader Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
Machado caught eight passes for 88 yards and scored all three of Team Liberty’s touchdowns in a 23-21 loss to Team Freedom.
One of those scores was of the spectacular variety. On that one, he cut across the front of the South end zone from left to right. Quarterback Makana Canyon of Pearl City let one fly and it appeared that Machado would go out of bounds if he jumped for it. His only option was to jump horizontally, so he did it and somehow kept part of his leg in bounds for the touchdown.
That play pulled Liberty to within two points, 23-21, with 0:55 left in the game. After an onside kick try failed, the game ended quickly after that.
“I give it all up to my quarterback,” Machado said. “He trusted me, throwing it to my area, somewhere where I can grab it.”
Machado’s 88 yards were nearly one-fourth of the 400 yards he had during the regular season for the Seariders.
“It was a great experience,” he added. “I got to meet new people and see different levels of high school players. It was my first JPS bowl game.”
Canyon finished 18-for-29 for 191 yards, but he also threw an interception into the hands of Moanalua’s Christian Sison early in the fourth quarter.
But with a 74-yard march later in the fourth, Canyon guided Liberty back from a 23-14 deficit, capping it with that aforementioned throw to Machado.
“Our plan was to execute our jobs all around and work as a team,” Canyon said. “It was a really good game and I built really good relationships and learned how to work as a team with guys coming from different teams. It was a great experience for everyone over here, not just me, but the coaches and all my brothers over here.”
Machado will never forget his final two games as a Waianae senior. In his final regular-season game with the Seariders, he set the school record, breaking a mark that has stood for 31 yards, with 197 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a loss to No. 1 Saint Louis. The previous record was 146 yards by Larry Rhoads in 1988.