By: Wes Nakama
Friday was moving day in the OIA Division II standings, and Roosevelt took a big step up with a convincing 28-7 Homecoming night victory over Kalani at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
The Rough Riders improved to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the OIA, good for a three-way tie for second place, which is significant since only the top four teams will advance to the league playoffs next month. Kalani fell to 3-3 and 2-3 with its third straight defeat, and is now in a three-way tie for fifth.
“Our team knows it’s win or go home for the playoffs, so we have that mindset against every (opponent),” said Roosevelt quarterback Ioane Kamanao, who completed 18 of 28 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns. “We gotta come out really strong every game. This game was really important, because it was Homecoming and we gotta bring it home for our fans, but we gotta take it home for our record, too.”
Kalani jumped out to a 7-0 lead after gaining possession at the Rough Riders’ 31-yard line, following a sack by Duke Corso on fourth-and-13 from the 45. Sonny Iaea’s 1-yard run on second-and-goal capped the short eight-play drive with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter.
But Roosvelt came right back, scoring just seven plays after the ensuing kickoff on Ioane’s 26-yard TD pass to Keawe Davis, with Journey DePeralta’s extra point tying it at 7-7 with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons then advanced to the Rough Riders’ 25 on the ensuing drive, but the drive stalled there after three straight incompletions and a 42-yard field goal attempt fell short and wide.
Roosvelt took over at its own 20 and quickly moved down the field, scoring just seven plays later on Ioane’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Dayten Tilton, with DePeralta’s PAT giving the Rough Riders a 14-7 lead with 9:31 remaining in the second quarter. That score stood until halftime, but Roosevelt pushed the lead to 21-7 on its first possession of the third quarter, with Ioane connecting with Wiliama Aarona for a 40-yard TD with 9:34 remaining.
“I knew once we got that boost of confidence that we needed, we could execute our plays, and it happened,” said Ioane, a 6-foot-3, 165-pound sophomore. “I trusted my line tonight, I took my time in the pocket and my receivers got open.”
The Rough Riders then effectively sealed the victory with Taimane Souza-Fautanu’s 7-yard scoring run five minutes into the fourth quarter. Led by Kaleikaumaka Akiona (14 carries, 54 yards), Roosevelt mixed a decent ground game (84 yards) with Kamanao’s passing attack to keep Kalani’s defense on their toes.
“We gotta run the ball, that opens up our passing game,” said Rough Riders coach Kui Kaho’oilihala. “For us, every game here on out is big, our kids know that. We cannot sleep on anybody — in this division, everybody is good. It’s gonna come down to the last two games, we all know this division is competitive. Our seniors, our captains did a great job the whole week to get these kids going, and we have a lot of sophomores who are gamers, just winners. We’re blessed to have these guys.”
Defensively, Roosevelt did not allow the Falcons into the red zone after that first scoring drive.
“Their ability to break down on the ball quick and stop our short game from getting off … it was a tough night for us,” said Kalani coach Quinn Griffiths. “They (ran) a lot of stunts, a lot of blitzes, they played that game really well. We couldn’t connect deep.”
The Falcons will face Kalaheo (2-3) on Oct. 7 at Kaiser in a must-win game for both teams.
“It’s do-or-die, I hope the kids can bounce back and not take this (loss) too hard,” Griffiths said. “They tried their best, and that’s all you can ask. This whole division is very competitive, very close.”
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