Sunday, August 21, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
Moanalua got back on the winning track at home Saturday night, but it took all the way until the late stages to finally shake off upset-minded Damien.
After building a big lead, Na Menehune sputtered in the second half and almost let it slip away before holding off the Monarchs for a 16-7 nonleague football victory.
“They made us work for it,” Moanalua coach Vince Nihipali said about pesky Damien. “We had to earn that. That was not an easy game. We got up on ’em early. I thought maybe in the second half we could pull away a little bit, but we started struggling offensively and couldn’t capitalize off the turnovers our defense got.”
After building on a 16-0 early third quarter lead, Na Menehune found themselves bracing for a Monarchs all-out attack.
That forthcoming Damien onslaught went on pause for a moment when Moanalua made a crucial stop on downs of the Monarchs, who who got all the way to Na Menehune 8 after a Shason Tomisa fumble recovery.
But, soon after, a short Moanalua punt allowed Damien to proceed to their first and only touchdown — Sylas Alaimalo’s 5-yard run for the 16-7 count with 3:15 to go in the third quarter.
And, despite their continued all-out effort, that was as close as the Monarchs would come. Two fourth quarter Na Menehune interceptions of AJ Tuifua passes — by Joshua Acidera and Josiah Kahue-Antone — sealed it for the home team.
“I love the grit, the fight we had,” Damien coach Anthony Tuitele said. “I love the fact that we had adversity and stood together and kept on fighting no matter what. We didn’t back down. I told ’em straight. These guys (Na Menehune) are gonna come and they’re going to try to bully us around. We were able to stand our ground and threw our own punches.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Moanalua (1-1) struck for a 13-0 first half lead on freshman quarterback Tayden-Evan Kaawa’s touchdown passes of 9 yards to Gabe Wells and 17 to Eric Stephens.
Then, early in the third, Andy Nguyen’s 25-yard field goal upped the count to 16-0.
“It was a good game,” said Tuifua, the Monarchs’ freshman quarterback. “We could have done better, but we gotta try to keep our heads up and go back to the drawing board and fix this stuff.”
Alaimalo, aside from his TD for Damien (2-1), also had an outstanding defensive game with 10 tackles, an interception, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Teammate Zion Vea also made 10 tackles and added a fumble recovery.
Among Moanalua’s defensive standouts were Kahue-Antone, who finished with two interceptions, defensive lineman Colby Casinas (2.5 tackles for losses and a fumble recovery), Kahoku McLellan (three tackles for losses, including a sack), and Ruben Chavez (two pass breakups and a sack).
Despite the second half offensive struggles, Moanalua’s Kaawa, who is in a close competition with senior Cade Rodrigues for the starting QB job, thinks it’s imperative that Na Menehune continue to play as a team.
“Too many penalties on both sides,” he said. “But everything goes up (from here). We’re a young team and we just gotta keep improving.”
Photgrapher: Grant Shishido
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