POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012
With a handful of huge, game-turning plays in the second half, the Radford Rams wrapped up the OIA White football championship Friday night at Aloha Stadium with a 21-6 comeback victory over Nanakuli.
After a first-half punt-fest, the two teams got down to business after the break. Nanakuli scored first and Radford took a 7-6 lead before the Golden Hawks (6-4) drove for what looked like a go-ahead touchdown.
Nanakuli running back Brandon Felisi rumbled for 15 yards and was about to break the plane of the end zone 1 yard ahead when he was stripped of the ball by Radford's Amu Poe. Rams teammate Cayman Conley recovered in the end zone and returned it out of danger. Instead of a one-touchdown lead with 9:29 left in the game, Nanakuli allowed the Rams to nurse their one-point edge and eventually add to that margin.
"Nothing at all against Nanakuli. They were scrappy and we knew they were going to bring it," Radford coach Fred Salanoa said after winning the school's first conference crown since 2005. "But with their low numbers and guys going both ways, we knew we had to play four quarters and (tire them out)."
Felisi, who rushed for 101 yards and also had 65 yards on six receptions, was dismayed by the mistake.
"I was very disappointed that I didn't hang onto the ball," he said. "I lost my grip. We played with a lot of heart, though, and we'll come together even more (for the upcoming state Division II tournament) and forget this loss."
Poe, on the other hand, was elated.
"It feels amazing," he said about the title. "We started slow, but came back in the second half. (On the forced fumble), I ran after him, caught up, held him and stripped it."
Another strip of Felisi, this time by Logan Soakai, led to the Rams' next touchdown. The ball bounced right into the hands of Radford's Devin O'Neal, setting up Helaman Kakiva's 10-yard touchdown run up the middle. Kakiva lined up as a running back, shifted to where the shotgun quarterback would normally be, took a direct snap and charged up the middle into the end zone to make it 14-6.
"He (Kakiva) is the best player on our team," Salanoa said. "And in such an important situation like that, we thought it was a good idea to give him the ball."
Kakiva also had two sacks, and his contributions didn't stop there. After his second sack with about two minutes to go, he chased Nanakuli quarterback Chazz Troutman all the way back into his own end zone. Troutman bobbled the ball on the goal line and dropped it when he was hit by Kakiva. The Rams' Erik Lutali jumped on the loose ball in the end zone to make it 21-6 to effectively wrap it up with 1:58 left.
Kakiva also intercepted a pass to end the Golden Hawks' final possession.
Radford (10-1) had the best chance to put points on the board in the scoreless first half, driving to the Nanakuli 19-yard line, but the march fizzled. The Rams opted to go for it on fourth and 9 instead of trying what would have been about a 35-yard field goal to break the scoreless tie.
Midway through the third, the Golden Hawks marched to the Rams 28, but Troutman's third-down pass was picked off by Ammon Seei. Two plays later, Nanakuli's Branigan Santiago-Merseberg got the ball back with an interception of Cody Lui-Yuen, leading to the game's first TD -- Troutman's 23-yard pass to Joseph Shelton for a 6-0 Nanakuli lead.
Radford went ahead 7-6 on Chris Jackson's 1-yard plunge after Lui-Yuen found Jamison Pasigan for a 37-yard connection.
"This is great for the kids," said Salanoa, whose team will get a first-round bye in the D-II state tourney. "They've worked so hard with their bleeding and sweating for this."
Skippy Lopes, the Nanakuli coach, kept a smile on his face after the loss.
"It must be the coach not doing his job," he said, somewhat jokingly. "You cannot ask for more than the effort the kids gave tonight."
At Aloha Stadium
Nan--Joseph Shelton 23 pass from Chazz Troutman (kick failed)
Rad--Chris Jackson 1 run (Cayman Conley kick)
Rad--Helaman Kakiva 10 run (Conley kick)
Rad--Erik Lutali fumble recovery in Nanakuli end zone (Conley kick)
RUSHING--Nanakuli: Brandon Felisi 18-101, Troutman 14-19, Eric Au Hoon-Garcia 1-8, Khade Paris 9-7, Nyenoa Ulangca-Kauwelo 1-(-3). Radford: Jackson 17-58, Kakiva 1-10, Jordan Murao 3-5, Zach Tinao-Rabellizsa 1-(-2), Cody Lui-Yuen 3-(-4).
PASSING--Nanakuli: Troutman 11-20-3-152. Radford: Lui-Yuen 8-32-1-107.
RECEIVING--Nanakuli: Felisi 6-65, Shelton 3-38, Nathan Kipi 1-26, Ulangca-Kauwelo 1-23. Radford: Jameson Pasigan 3-42, Tinao-Rabellizsa 2-36, Jackson 1-15, Mason Manuma 1-11, Dre'ell Blackwell 1-3.