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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 10:35 p.m., Friday, November 24, 2006

Kahuku stuns Baldwin on final play in state semifinal

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

In one of the most fantastic finishes in state football tournament history, Pelefoni Soliai caught a 43-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from fellow receiver Shiloah Te'o on the game's final play Friday night to lift Kahuku to a stunning 22-20 victory over Baldwin.

The touchdown capped a astonishing comeback for Kahuku, which scored twice -- a safety and touchdown -- in the game's final 10 seconds.

The defending champion Red Raiders (10-2) will try for their fifth state crown in seven years next Friday against Saint Louis, which defeated Wai'anae, 10-7, in the other semifinal Friday at Aloha Stadium.

Baldwin, which led 17-7 in the third quarter and was up 20-14 with 15 seconds remaining, ends its season at 10-1-1 after attempting to become the first Neighbor Island team to advance to a state title game.

"When Bruddah (Soliai) caught the ball and I saw the referee signal 'touchdown,' I was stunned for a couple seconds," said Kahuku quarterback Richard Torres, who started the final play by throwing a swing pass to Te'o near the left sideline. "I didn't know what to do — I was speechless."

So were the several hundred fans in the Baldwin cheering section, but the 3,500 or so on the Kahuku side of Aloha Stadium were jumping for joy in a deafening roar as soon as it was apparent Te'o's perfect spiral was headed to an open Soliai.

Soliai caught the ball ahead of three defenders at about the 5-yard line, then dashed into the end zone, setting off a wild celebration as the Baldwin defense was left sprawled on the turf in disbelief.

The play was set up by Gary Nagy's 16-yard punt return on a free kick after a high punt snap by Baldwin rolled out of the end zone for a safety with 10 seconds remaining, which made the score 20-16.

The Bears had gained possession after the Red Raiders lost the ball on downs at the Baldwin 19 with 1:33 left. Kahuku had one timeout left, which it used after the Bears took a knee on first down. Baldwin took two more knees before setting up in punt formation from the 11.