Saturday, August 20, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
Kapolei thwarted a late drive by visiting Aiea as time ran out and barely held on to a 27-24 victory Friday night in a nonleague football game.
The Hurricanes (3-0) held a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but that cushion evaporated fast and the Na Ali’i did everything in their power to try to turn the tables. But the comeback bid fell just short.
“We never gave up,” defensive lineman Sila Unutoa said about his Division I (middle tier) Aiea team that was trying to upset Open Division (top tier) Kapolei. “I was glad to see that in my teammates’ eyes that the game wasn’t over. We were just getting started and we just kept going and going and going.”
For sure. And it was a wild ending.
Trailing 27-10, Na Ali’i (1-1) made it a 10-point game on quarterback Ezekiel Olie’s 1-yard TD sneak with 6:41 to go.
Then, on Aiea’s next possession, a long march ended with Geronimo Ulgaran catching a 12-yard TD pass from Olie to make it 27-24.
Still, with only 19 seconds remaining, things looked dim for Na Ali’i, but Ulgaran worked to save the day by recovering an onside kick. Despite having momentum in its favor, Aiea failed at a final miracle on the four remaining snaps that included two long bombs and a hook and lateral.
“We gotta be focused for four quarters because we have two weeks to prepare for Waianae, our first league game, in a grudge match,” Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez told his Hurricanes afterward. “We made mistakes, but we didn’t quit.”
And then Hernandez told reporters: “You gotta rise above adversity. Bad things are going to happen. Bad calls, injuries, turnovers. You gotta have the guts to keep the lead. Tonight we did that and I was happy about that.”
At halftime, the Hurricanes held a 13-3 lead, thanks to their quarterback duo. Tuli Tagovailoa-Amosa threw a 12-yard TD pass to Halai Kamohaili, and then Liatama Amisone, who started at QB, scored on a 4-yard run.
But Aiea would not go away, making it 13-10 on Kaimana Lale-Saole’s 50-yard up-the-middle sprint for a TD early in the second half.
Riley Camarillo’s 11-yard TD catch of a Tagovailoa-Amosa pass upped the Hurricanes’ lead to 20-10. Then, when Kapolei stuffed Aiea on a fourth-and-1 play deep inside Hurricanes territory at the end of the third quarter, it looked as though the home team was about to sew things up.
Things got even worse for Aiea when Kapolei made it 27-10 on Diezel Kamoku’s 10-yard TD catch of an Amisone pass.
Over the final 8:51, it was all no-quit Na Ali’i.
“Unfortunately, we came out with a loss,” Olie said. “But it’s another lesson learned for us. It’s all mind-set. The first quarter basically wasn’t us. Second quarter, everything started to come back.”
Olie wound up throwing for 309 yards, with Ulgaran coming through with nine catches for 83 yards and Jayden Chanel adding six receptions for 97 yards.
Hernandez thought the Hurricanes’ two previous lopsided wins – 70-0 over Kealakehe and 42-0 over Farrington — may have given his team the impression that things would come easy.
“I think our kids came in thinking that, ‘We’re on a roll,’ ” the coach said. “But these guys (Na Ali’i) were ready to play. Our guys stood the test and ran the race and finished even though it was a nail-biter.”
Added Amisone, who finished 21-for-25 for 258 yards, including 117 on nine completions to Camarillo: “I think everyone was just letting off the gas. That’s pretty much it. We just gotta keep the pedal to the metal and gotta keep balling.”
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