Aiea players celebrated with the Division II state championship trophy after beating Damien 9-7 last night at Aloha Stadium.

Aiea beats Damien
for Division II title

The play is called "go special left." And the execution of that play drove Aiea across the finish line last night at Aloha Stadium, where Na Alii edged Damien 9-7 in the inaugural First Hawaiian Bank State Football Division II championship game.

Aiea quarterback Kali Kuia's 34-yard scoring toss to Alden DeMello with 4:43 remaining in the fourth quarter lifted Na Alii to a win that longtime Aiea coach Wendell Say termed "the biggest" of his coaching career.

Ironically, the play that produced the winning score was one Na Alii had hoped to set up throughout the game, but couldn't against a rugged Damien defense.

"We tried to build up to it (the play), but their defense was giving us a hard time and we had a hard time getting the play called," Say said. "It's a chess game. They came at us with a lot of different things and we made the right call on that one.

"Damien is a good team -- you can't take anything away from them because they played good football," he continued.

"We were lucky we came out on top tonight."

While Aiea delivered big offensively, Na Alii needed a big defensive play to turn the tide. It came with 5:32 left in the game on an interception by Charles Tausaga at the Damien 46. Only one play earlier, Damien appeared to have solidified its command when Andrew Canoy picked up a crucial first down for the Monarchs on a 20-yard pass play.

But Tausaga's pick gave Tuia and the Aiea offense sudden life -- and a first down at the Monarchs' 46.

"(In the huddle) I told the guys, 'This is our last time on this field together as a team,' " Kuia said. "I said, 'This is our last game and our last drive and we need to go out and try our best.' "

Aiea's Alden DeMello pulled in a reception in front of Damien's Kealoha Pilares in the second quarter.

Na Alii lost 4 yards in two plays, but got a huge break on third down when a dead-ball personal foul penalty on Damien gave Aiea a first down at the Monarchs' 35. After gaining a yard on first down, Kuia called "go special left."

"He (DeMello) was the first read and I was happy he was open," Kuia said. "The safety came over and when he came open, I just told myself to let the ball go."

Added DeMello: "I saw the safety come over and I just kept going and was open. I was thinking to myself, 'Just catch the ball.' "

Damien co-head coach Dean Nakagawa praised his team's defense afterward.

"Our guy was there, but didn't make the play," Nakagawa said. "I don't know where our free safety was. I'll have to look at the film. Our defense was outstanding. Except for one play, we played well enough to win."

For a moment, it looked as though Damien would answer Aiea's score when Ranson DeCosta went 97 yards for an apparent touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but a holding penalty nullified the play.

"It didn't cost us the game," said Nakagawa of the play. "We still had a chance. We ran it (kickoff) back for a touchdown and a flag was thrown. It (the flag) was behind the ball, which was unusual. The majority of the flags were going against us, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse. Aiea played a great game."

Until Tausaga's interception, Damien seemed poised to hold its lead. Although trailing 3-0 late in the second quarter, Damien roared back behind Canoy, whose 37-yard punt return in the second quarter pumped life into the Monarchs. While Damien failed to get points from the possession, Canoy was just beginning. He figured big in Damien's scoring drive later in the quarter, which helped the Monarchs assume their 7-3 halftime lead. After Damien took over at its own 17, DeCosta burst up the middle and cut to his left en route to a 56-yard run. Following an incompletion, Damien quarterback Tevita Williams completed a 14-yard pass to Canoy and, on the following play, the pair hooked up again from 13 yards out for the score.

Aiea grabbed a 3-0 lead with 8:14 remaining before intermission on a 37-yard field goal by Brandon Puckett.

Aiea 9, Damien 7

At Aloha Stadium
Damien (5-6) 0 7 0 0 -- 7
Aiea (10-2) 0 3 0 6 -- 9

Aiea--FG Brandon Puckett 37
Dam--Andrew Canoy 13 pass from Tevita Williams (Cory Mullen kick)
Aiea--Alden DeMello 34 pass from Kali Kuia (kick failed)

RUSHING: Damien, Ranson DeCosta 17-92, Fehi Sevelo 1-11, Vaa Faualo 2-6, Williams 5-(-18). Aiea, Ben Ah Mook Sang 8-24, Donny Mapusaga 10-21, Raymond Tauala 9-16, Kuia 10-6, DeMello 1-1, Lawrence Leovao 1-(-4).
PASSING: Damien, Williams 12-33-3-129. Aiea, Kuia 10-20-3-125, Ah Mook Sang 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Damien, Canoy 6-102, Faualo 2-13, David Tuiasosopo 2-8, Landen Dela Cruz 1-4, DeCosta 1-2. Aiea, DeMello 4-76, Ah Mook Sang 4-31, Jonathan Burgos 1-9, Tauala 1-9.


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