A lot of the hype surrounding second-ranked Leilehua focuses on quarterback Andrew Manley, and rightfully so.
But the real heroes in the Mules’ season opener against Radford were the 11 guys on the other side of the ball.
Zach Coffin scooped up a fumble on one of Leilehua’s four sacks and returned it for a touchdown to help the Mules hold off Radford 23-20 in the Spirit of Freedom Bowl last night at Hugh Yoshida Stadium.
Rams running back Phil Hogan, one of the top rushers in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, was held to 59 rushing yards on 14 carries, and Radford finished with less than 200 total yards for the game.
“Our defense scored one for us and we gave up one on offense, so our defense played lights out,” Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said. “Most teams, if they play like this on offense, they actually lose the game, so we’re lucky enough to win it because of our defense.”
Nevertheless, Radford, which advanced to the Division II state title game a year ago, gave the Mules everything they could handle.
Third-string quarterback J.B. Fontenot hit Noah Rehs with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 8 seconds remaining to pull the Rams to 23-20. The game wasn’t sealed until Kamana Akahi recovered the ensuing onside kick.
“We don’t have the normal amount of guys we usually have, but I’ll take these kids any day of the week,” Radford coach Fred Salanoa said.
The Rams started Chris Parmer at quarterback, but rotated him with backup TJ Reid until Reid was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
Salanoa said afterward it was a week-to-week situation, but it enabled Fontenot to enter the game and nearly pull off a comeback.
“Those two touchdowns were just mental errors,” said Coffin, who came up with the game’s first score on a fumble return. “We’ll bounce back.”
Manley, the reigning Star-Bulletin Offensive Player of the Year, finished 18-for-37 for 262 yards and a touchdown and two interceptions.
“We started slow and it happens,” Manley said. “We got it all now and know what we need to work on and we’ll be all right.”
Reid completed only two of 13 passes, but one of those was a 30-yard touchdown to Zach Lagier in the second quarter for Radford’s first score. Matthew Kitiona followed with a 74-yard interception return on a Manley pass to pull the Rams within one.
Manley quickly answered by completing his next three throws, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to Kamana Akagi for his only TD pass of the game.
Tyler Boone booted a 31-yard field goal to put the Mules up 23-13 in the third before the Rams nearly pulled off the comeback.
–Billy Hull, Star-Bulletin
No. 2 Leilehua 23, Radford 20
At Hugh Yoshida Stadium
Radford (1-0) 0 13 0 7 — 20
Leilehua (0-1) 7 13 3 0 — 23
Lei–Zach Coffin 26 fumble return (Tyler Boone kick)
Lei–Austin Schmidt 6 run (Boone kick)
Rad–Zach Lagier 30 pass from TJ Reid (Cody Spraker kick)
Rad–Matthew Kitiona 74 interception return (kick failed)
Lei–Kamana Akagi 20 pass from Andrew Manley (kick failed)
Lei–FG Boone 31
Rad–Noah Rehs 20 pass from J.B. Fontenot (Spraker kick)
RUSHING–Radford: Phil Hogan 14-59, Fontenot 5-21, Reid 4-16, Chris Parmer 4-14, team 3-(-13). Leilehua: Blaine Furtado 4-24, Schmidt 8-14, Edward Lani 1-0, team 1-(-1), Manley 5-(-22).
PASSING–Radford: Parmer 7-15-0-39, Reid 2-13-0-31, Fontenot 2-4-0-23, Hogan 0-1-0-0. Leilehua: Manley 18-37-2-262.
RECEIVING–Radford: Lagier 5-63, Rehs 2-21, Bobby Wolshlager 2-3, Warren Carter 1-5, Hogan 1-1. Leilehua: Akagi 5-77, Fred Padrones 3-72, Boone 3-32, Lani 3-18, Schmidt 3-17, Furtado 1-46.
Junior varsity — Leilehua 43, Radford 0