Griffin Motas didn’t actually see the result of his final kick Saturday night.
The jubilant reaction of his Moanalua teammates told him all he needed to know.
The Na Menehune senior was hit low after the ball left his foot and was on the ground when his 27-yard field-goal attempt split the uprights on the final play of a 21-20 victory over eighth-ranked ‘Iolani in an OIA-ILH Division I matchup at Moanalua.
“It was a moment of relief,” Motas said. “I was thankful for everyone who blocked for me and taught me all I learned.”
The ensuing celebration capped an undulating season-opener for Moanalua. Na Menehune saw a 16-7 lead early in the third quarter turn into a 20-16 deficit in less than three minutes when ‘Iolani (1-1, 0-1) roared back with touchdown runs of 59 yards by Brock Hedani and 23 yards by Brody Logan Bantolina.
Moanalua crept closer thanks to a safety but saw two drives deep into ‘Iolani territory end in lost fumbles. But Na Menehune got the ball back at their 31 with 1:39 left and quarterback Richard James “RJ” Javar powered a nine-play drive with his arm and his legs to get to the ‘Iolani 10 and set up Motas for the game-winner.
“Clawing back with your back against the wall in every facet in that situation, that speaks volumes with the overall grit of our boys,” Moanalua coach Savai’i Eselu said.
Motas acknowledged feeling some nerves going into the final kick — delayed twice by ‘Iolani timeouts — but also felt prepared for the opportunity.
“If we have to run after practice, (Eselu will) make me kick to determine how much we run, and the more I make the less we run,” said Motas, primarily a soccer player who joined the football program as a sophomore when the team needed a kicker. “He’ll ice me every practice, so it’s a daily thing for me.”
Javar, a transfer from Mililani, turned in an efficient passing debut in completing 32 of 39 attempts for 314 yards and two touchdowns. Rudy Kealohi was his most productive target with 14 completions for 149 yards.
“This is my new family now and getting in a groove with them, and practicing all summer I got a feel for them already and trust them 100 percent,” Javar said.
After it went ahead in the third quarter, the Moanalua defense held the Raiders to just one first down in their next three possessions and gave the Na Menehune offense one more chance for a comeback.
“They made plays when they had to and we didn’t. So they deserved to win,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “We didn’t play smart. We came up with some turnovers there, but they were resilient enough to come back from those and be able to make plays, and that’s why they won the game in the end.”
On the final march, Javar completed two throws to get the ball to midfield, then broke free for 22 yards on a keeper. He pulled it down again for a 13-yard run to the ‘Iolani 14 with 18.6 seconds left.
“As he’s running I’m looking back at the clock like, ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ ” Eselu said. “But he made it pop, he made it hit more, and I was like, ‘OK, that works, Let’s go.’ ”
After two incomplete passes, Javar kept it to the 10 and Moanalua called its final timeout with 4.3 seconds left.
“(At the start of the drive) I told my coordinator, ‘Get Griffin warm, it’s going to come down to his foot,’” Eselu said. “And it did and I’m glad it did.”