By: Wes Nakama
In a stunning and statement-making victory, Damien routed ‘Iolani, 69-35, Saturday night in a brilliant show of offensive fireworks at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium.
Sylas Alaimalo rushed for 216 yards and six touchdowns on 31 carries and Alani Tuifua completed 16 of 19 passes for 262 yards and three TD’s as the Monarchs improved to 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the ILH Division I standings. ‘Iolani fell to 5-2 and 4-1.
The defending champion Raiders will play host to Kamehameha II at 3:15 p.m. Friday, and Damien will wrap up its regular season against Saint Louis II on Oct. 27. If ‘Iolani and Damien both win, they will play a winner-take-all tiebreaker playoff game in November to determine the DI title and the state tournament berth that comes with it.
Based on Saturday night’s performance, the Monarchs believe this could be their year.
“I think this game just put Damien football on the map,” said Alaimalo, a shifty, strong and fast 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior. “After this game, it’s just staying disciplined and executing, in coordination with each other. If we just keep doing that, I think we’ll have the same outcome.”
The Monarchs certainly were clicking on all cylinders throughout the game, starting with their first drive which covered 65 yards in just nine plays, capped by Tuifua’s 14-yard scoring pass to Nalu Chinen-Zablan. The extra point attempt was blocked, but Damien quickly got another scoring opportunity when AJ Kanae, Jr. recovered a fumble and returned it 39 yards to the Raiders’ 4.
Alaimalo ran it in from there on the very next play, and Samuel Kawakami’s extra point gave the Monarchs a quick 13-0 lead with 7:30 still remaining in the first quarter.
‘Iolani fumbled again on the ensuing possession, with Micah Neizman recovering at the Damien 25. Six plays later, Alaimalo broke free and dashed 55 yards to paydirt, extending the lead to 19-0. The PAT attempt was again blocked, but the Monarchs forced a four-and-out on the next series and again cashed in quickly — just four plays later on Alaimalo’s 7-yard touchdown run followed by his successful two-point conversion scamper to make it 27-0 just 90 seconds into the second quarter.
“Our offense knows that when our defense gets stops, we need to capitalize, and that’s what we did,” Damien coach Bones Tuitele said. “That kept giving us momentum.”
The Raiders finally broke that momentum — at least temporarily — by piecing together a seven-play, 60-yard drive culminating in CJ Villanueva’s 9-yard scoring pass to Jones Vierra. Marcos King then converted the extra point, cutting the lead to 27-7 with 8:22 remaining in the second quarter.
On the next series, Brody Sagawa’s interception gave ‘Iolani possession near midfield, and the Raiders scored three plays later on Villanueva’s 46-yard pass to Kekama Kane. King’s PAT closed it to 27-14 midway through the second quarter, but the Monarchs responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by Alaimalo’s 1-yard plunge, and Kawakami’s extra point pushed the lead to 34-14 with just under three minutes left before halftime.
After forcing another four-and-out, Damien extended the lead to 41-14 with 40 seconds on the clock after Tuifua’s 35-yard scoring pass to Ian Sera, but ‘Iolani quickly responded by covering 62 1yards in just four plays, ending with Villanueva’s 5-yard TD pass to Kane, beating the halftime horn by 11 seconds to make it 41-21 at the break.
The Monarchs opened the second by scoring on their first drive, a 66-yard march in seven plays capped by Alaimalo’s 13-yard catch-and-run from Tuifua, with Kawakami’s PAT making it 48-21 with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter. Niela Taliauli returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to start ‘Iolani at the Damien 39, and six plays later, Villanueva found Keon Preusser in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 3.
King’s extra point cut the deficit to 48-28 with 4:21 left in the third, but that would be as close as the Raiders would get, as Tuifua scored on a 3-yard keeper just under the two-minute mark to help push the lead to 55-28, and then Alaimalo ran it in from 3 yards out to help extend it to 62-28 with 10:46 remaining in the game.
‘Iolani made one last push and closed it to 62-35 on Villanueva’s 12-yard touchdown toss to Kane with 8:28 left, but Alaimalo sealed the victory with a 5-yard scoring run just under the four-minute mark.
“Now we’ll see if we can lick our wounds and regroup,” Raiders coach Wendell Look said. “We haven’t had our okole’s whupped like that in a while … Damien did a heck of a job. We had no answer for it tonight, no answers.”
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