POSTED: 9:22 p.m. HST, Aug 11, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 9:45 p.m. HST, Aug 11, 2011
Down 13 points with 2 minutes left, the Leilehua Mules rallied and came through with two scores, including a 3-yard strike from Kenan Sadayaga to Cole DeCorte with 2 seconds left to tie Alaska powerhouse Service 34-all Thursday night at Hugh Yoshida Stadium.
The highly entertaining game was the season opener for Leilehua, ranked No. 4 in the Star-Advertiser Preseason Top 10. Service, led by dual threat Aukusitino Viliamu, is ranked No. 3 in Alaska by MaxPreps.com. The Cougars suited up 36 players.
"They're a really good team. Good coaching," Viliamu said.
"It's tough when you have a lead, few minutes left. Leilehua, respect to them," Service coach Jason Caldarera said. "You have to play a full four quarters, and our kids had to overcome the elements, playing in 85 degrees."
Sadanaga, a senior, passed for 355 yards (28-for-46) and four touchdowns. He was picked off twice, including one by Viliamu, who raced 102 yards for what appeared to be a game-clinching touchdown and a 34-21 lead with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Leilehua rallied, however, in typical fashion. Sadanaga connected with reserve Larry Paas for a 6-yard touchdown with 1:03 left. The PAT snap was high, however, and Viliamu intercepted a desperation pass by holder Josh Jenks.
Down 34-27, the Mules got a huge play on an on-side kick recovery by Roger Luafalemana at the Cougars' 45-yard line. On fourth-and-10, Leilehua used a classic 1980s, Dallas Cowboys style line shift to draw Service offside. Leilehua did it again on fourth-and-5 to draw another encroachment call, and got first down.
Six plays later, DeCorte found a seam from the slot and hauled in Sadanaga's spiral in the back of the end zone. Momiyama's PAT was good and the game was tied with 2 seconds left.
The ensuing squib kickoff burned off the final 2 seconds.
Viliamu ran the Cougars' patient, run-first offense.
Going for the tie was fine with the Mules.
"There's no doubt. We were already preparing for the extra point," interim coach Mark Kurisu said. "If this was regular season, we'd go for it. I know they felt disappointed because they had a 14-point lead, but we dug deep. This is why we start practice with a 2-minute drill."