'Aiea qualifies for OIA playoffs
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
'AIEA — Even after an 0-3 start, 'Aiea had no doubts about itself.
Na Ali'i secured the fourth and final berth for the O'ahu Interscholastic Association White playoffs with a 26-8 win against Moanalua last night at 'Aiea stadium.
'Aiea (5-3, 5-3) and Moanalua (6-3, 5-3) finished tied for fourth in the White, but Na Ali'i advances to the playoffs by the head-to-head tiebreaker. 'Aiea will play the White top seed in a semifinal next weekend. Na Menehune ends their season, as only the top four qualify for the White tournament.
Tonight's Campbell-Kaiser and Radford-Waialua games will determine the order of the top three seeds. Campbell and Radford are 6-1; Kalaheo, which has a bye, is 6-2.
"It started off with those three losses," 'Aiea senior defensive lineman Miah Fa'atoafe said. "It haunted us, but it brought us together as a team. We never lost our focus. day-by-day, game-by-game."
'Aiea's defense really set the tone of the game, accounting for eight points directly on Fa'atoafe's 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a safety. Na Ali'i's defense also recovered two fumbles that the offense recycled into a touchdown and field goal.
"Defense has kept us in all season," 'Aiea coach Wendell Say said. "When our offense struggled, our defense was keeping us in games. Our defense really did a good job for us tonight."
A 42-yard punt by Mason Puckett backed Na Menehune to their 5 and they eventually punted from their 4 to the Moanalua 38. From there, 'Aiea needed just six plays before running back Sean Malepeai scored on a 1-yard run with 2:33 left in the first quarter with Puckett's PAT making it 7-0.
In the second quarter, Fa'atoafe picked up a fumble by quarterback Michael Egami and returned it 15 yards for a TD with 5:30 left in the half.
Moanalua then took the ensuing kickoff at its 3. After a false start penalty backed Moanalua to its 1, Egami was sacked by a group of Na Ali'i players for a safety to make it 16-0 with 5:12 left in the half.
Moanalua fumbled the ball away on its first series of the second half at its own 16. Malepeai ran it in on first down to make it 23-0 with 6:17 left in the third quarter.
Yet another fumble by Moanalua was recovered by 'Aiea at the Na Menehune 38. Na Ali'i got a 36-yard field goal by Puckett to make it 26-0.
Moanalua's only score was a 13-yard TD pass from Adam Francisco to Xavier Peterson with 8:39 left in the game.
MOANALUA (6-3, 5-3) 0 0 0 8— 8
'AIEA (6-3, 5-3) 7 9 10 0—26
'Aiea—Sean Malepeai 1 run (Mason Puckett kick)
'Aiea—Miah Fa'atoafe 15 fumble return (Puckett kick)
'Aiea—Safety, ball carrier tackled in end zone
'Aiea—Malepeai 16 run (Puckett kick)
'Aiea—FG Puckett 36
Moan—Xavier Peterson 13 pass from Adam Francisco (Clinton Wise run)
RUSHING—Moanalua: Michael Egami 13-(minus 27), Tahje Canyon (7-18, Francisco 2-(minus 3). 'Aiea: Freddy Taliulu 2-(minus 16), Tony Cabalar 3-0, Malepeai 16-88, Titan-Otto Salausa 18-71, Team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Moanalua: Egami 4-9-0—49. Francisco 1-5-1—13. 'Aiea: Taliulu 14-25-0—180.
RECEIVING—Moanalua: Josh Pedro 2-4, Tyler Pinkney 2-45, Peterson 1-13. 'Aiea: Dalton Alcantra 6-62, Matt Fa'alele 2-48, Zach Hannemann 1-14, Puckett 4-47, Tupu Faumuina 1-9.
JV—'Aiea 0, Moanalua 0
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.