Photos by Andrew Lee (http://www.twitter.com/HISportsPics
)By Wes Nakama
Nanakuli quarterback Chazz Troutman threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Shelton with 27 seconds remaining and then ran in the two-point conversion Saturday night to cap a stunning 28-21 comeback upset of Kaiser in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association White Conference semifinals.
The Golden Hawks overcame a 21-0 third-quarter deficit to improve to 6-3 and will face Radford (9-1) for the title on Nov. 2. Both teams have earned berths into the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai'i High School Athletic Association Division II State Championships. Kaiser, which finished atop the OIA White regular season standings, sees its year come to an abrupt end at 7-3.
"It's a tough loss, it'll hurt a long longer than the 48 hours you usually allow for these things," said Cougars first-year coach Rich Miano. "Nanakuli played outstanding in the second half, they played with a lot of heart, and we just couldn't reverse the momentum."
Kaiser had routed the Golden Hawks, 47-14, just five weeks ago in the teams' regular season meeting and appeared to on its way to another sound victory after Fitou Fisiiahi's 1-yard TD run and Christian Clapp's extra point gave the Cougars a 21-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
Nanakuli went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, but got the spark it needed shortly afterward when Dezmond Ka'aihue blocked a Kaiser punt and then ran it in two yards for a touchdown. Shelton's PAT cut it to 21-7 with 4:17 left in the third.
With leading rusher Kai Gonda out of action due to a strained back muscle suffered late in the first half, the Cougars' offense stalled again the Golden Hawks capitalized with an eight-play, 70-yard drive topped off by Troutman's 13-yard scoring pass to Lansen Liki on a fade pattern to the back right corner of the end zone.
Shelton's extra point closed it to 21-14 with 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Branigan Santiago-Merseberg intercepted a Kaiser pass to set up a nine-play, 55-yard drive culminating in Troutman's 1-yard sneak to close it to 21-20 with 8:25 left in the game, though the PAT attempt failed.
The Cougars failed to gain a first down on their next two series after two dropped passes on fourth down, and Nanakuli took over at its own 40 with 2:05 remaining. Nine plays later, Troutman connected with the 6-foot-4 Shelton on a quick hook pattern and then ran in the two-point conversion on a quarterback draw to stunningly put the Golden Hawks ahead, 28-21.
Gonda, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, had taken off his shoulder pads in the third quarter and was not expected to return, but he suddenly put the pads back on and lined up as kick returner, but Shelton booted the kickoff into the end zone for an automatic touchback.
Two complete passes advanced the ball to the Nanakuli 42, but a Hail Mary pass on the game's final play fell incomplete, setting off an exuberant celebration among Nanakuli's 30-man roster.
Miano said his training staff advised him to not reinsert Gonda -- who also plays defensive back -- earlier.
"(Gonda) went in for that last kickoff because he thought he could make something happen," Miano said. "But (the trainers) told me at halftime that he was done, and I don't want to endanger him. Winning a game is not more important than a player's health ... Yes, losing Kai was big, but that's part of football. When we watch the film, we will see that there are more than enough mistakes to go around. Each and every player and coach is responsible for this loss, just as each and every one of them was responsible for us winning seven in a row.
"But my hat's off to Nanakuli -- we got the lead on them, but their adrenaline was amazing and they played a lot better than the last time. Give them credit." NANAKULI (6-3) 0 0 14 14 -- 28
KAISER (7-3) 7 7 7 0 -- 21
Kais -- Kai Gonda 10 pass from Makana Lyman (Christian Clapp kick)
Kais -- Ikona Makaneole 14 pass from Makana Lyman (Clapp kick)
Kais -- Fitou Fisiiahi 1 run (Clapp kick)
Nana -- Dezmond Ka'aihue 2 blocked punt return (Joesph Shelton kick)
Nana -- Lansen Liki 13 pass from Chazz Troutman (Shelton kick)
Nana -- Troutman 1 run (kick failed)
Nana -- Shelton 8 pass from Troutman (Troutman run)
RUSHING -- Nanakuli: Nyenoa Ulangca-Kauwelo 7-53, Troutman 13-47, Brandon Felisi 8-21, Nathan Kipi 5-15, Khade Paris 4-14, Jaryn Paris 1-0, Eric Au Hoon-Ka'awa 1-0. Kaiser: Gonda 11-55, Jeshua Bitanga 7-19, Fisiiahi 3-6, Vidijay Kannys 1-3, Justin Isobe 2-2, Lyman 3-(minus-19).
PASSING -- Nanakuli: Troutman 9-19-0--91, Ulangca-Kauwelo 0-1-0--0. Kaiser: Lyman 22-37-1--212.
RECEIVING -- Nanakuli: Liki 4-58, Shelton 2-19, Au Hoon-Ka'awa 1-7, Felisi 1-5, K. Paris 1-2, Charles Garcia 1-0. Kaiser: Destin Moss 6-70, Elima Haole 3-44, Makaneole 2-29, Justin Ikei 3-15, Bitanga 1-13, Trevin Kahananui 1-12, Fisiiahi 2-12, Gonda 1-10, Clapp 1-5, Kannys 2-2.