Defending champ Mules rally past Kahuku in OT
|Photo gallery: Leilehua vs. Kahuku football|
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Leilehua receiver Cheves Aberilla Ramento caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Manley in overtime and the Mules held off Kahuku on the ensuing possession last night for a thrilling 17-10 victory in the First Hawaiian Bank Division I Football State Championships.
A crowd of about 8,500 at Aloha Stadium watched defending state champ Leilehua improve to 11-2 and advance to Friday's title game against Punahou. The top-seeded Buffanblu defeated Farrington, 35-28.
"It felt great to get that one (touchdown in OT)," Manley said, "and I'm glad we get to play for the championship again next week."
Kahuku, the O'ahu Interscholastic Association champion, ends its season at 10-2.
The Red Raiders led 10-2 from midway through the second quarter until 1:37 remaining in regulation, when Manley completed a short pass in the flat on fourth-and-10 to running back Rico Newman, who ran it 14 yards into the end zone. Manley then completed a slant pass to Edieson Dumlao for the two-point conversion to tie it at 10-10.
Kahuku misplayed the ensuing kickoff and ended up being pinned at its own 5-yard line, and a false start penalty pushed the Red Raiders back to the 3. They ran on three straight plays before the clock expired.
"Our backs were against the wall and we didn't want to turn it over," Kahuku coach Reggie Torres said. "If you give Leilehua even 30 yards, they'll put themselves in a position to score."
That proved true in overtime, as the Mules took first possession. On first-and-10 from the 20, Newman ran for a 2-yard gain. On the next play, Aberilla Ramento lined up on the left flank and ran a streak route to the end zone, where he caught a perfectly placed rainbow from Manley just ahead of cornerback Triton Oto.
"I thought our guy had him covered well," Torres said. "But Manley just threw a great pass."
Aberilla Ramento said Oto had him covered well for most of the game in the Red Raiders' nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six DBs) packages.
"He had me all day, but one-on-one I felt I had a chance on the streak (route)," Aberilla Rameno said. "I made a quick move in, then went back out and I felt I could beat him."
Maika Kunioka's extra point made it 17-10, but Kahuku gained first-and-goal from the 8 on the ensuing series.
A running play then went for a loss of 2 yards, and two passes fell incomplete. On fourth down after a timeout, quarterback Sage Kaka threw a pass to Jray Galeai on a corner route, but it was knocked away at the last second by defensive back Chase Acohido.
"Our defense had our back the whole game," Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said. "(Defensive coordinator) Mark Kurisu and the boys did a great job, so our offense said, 'We gotta get one for them.' "
With Red Raiders starting tailback St. John Lessary III (711 yards in 11 games) nursing a sprained knee and limited to kicking and punting duties, Kahuku was held to just 82 yards on the ground. Starting quarterback A.J. Kubota also suffered a leg injury in the first half and backup Kaka was used the rest of the way.
The Red Raiders took a 3-0 lead with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter after an eight-play, 77-yard drive culminating in a 21-yard field goal by Lessary. But the Mules closed it to 3-2 two minutes later when Kahuku was flagged for an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone.
The Red Raiders then went up 10-2 with 5:22 left in the half after Aulola Tonga stripped the ball loose from a Leilehua receiver, allowing Irwin Ah-Hoy to scoop up the fumble and run it in 5 yards for a touchdown.
Lessary's extra point gave Kahuku the lead it would hold until the game's closing moments. In between, the Red Raiders bent but did not break until the fourth-down touchdown pass from Manley to Newman with 1:37 remaining.
"Our defensive coach (Kimo Haiola) had a great scheme, and the guys played a great game on defense," Torres said. "We just didn't get to Manley on those two plays, and he hit 'em (the receivers)."
LEILEHUA (11-2) 2 0 0 8 7-17
KAHUKU (10-2) 3 7 0 0 0-10
Kah — FG St. John Lessary III 21
Lei — Safety
Kah — Irwin Ah-Hoy 5 fumble recovery (Lessary III kick)
Lei — Rico Newman 14 pass from Andrew Manley (Edieson Dumlao pass from Manley)
Lei — Rament Aberilla 18 pass from Manley (Maika Kunioka kick)
RUSHING — Leilehua: Austin Schmidt 1-3, Newman 5-3, Manley 10-25. Kahuku: Alapeti Magalei 17-68, Viliami Pasi 12-45, Fonoivasa Mataafa 3-15, A.J. Atuaia 1-1, Blaze Kubota 1-0, Sage Kala 1-0, Allan Kubota 5-0.
PASSING — Leilehua: Manley 26-48-1-291, Newman 1-1-0-55. Kahuku: Kala 5-13-0-83, Kubota 1-4-1-50.
RECEIVING — Leilehua: Newman 7-76, Dumlao 7-74, Aberilla 3-93, Kaipo Ke-a 3-41, Matt Reyes 3-26, Kamana Akagi 2-11, Blaine Furtado 1-15, Fred Padrones 1-10. Kahuku: Aulola Tonga 4-77, Jray Galeai 1-38, Siatima Tapusoa 1-18.
Reported by HHSAA
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.