Photo courtesy Peter Caldwell/ScoringLive.com
By Wes Nakama
With his future defensive line
coach at Clemson University watching from a golf cart nearby, Moanalua defensive
tackle Scott Pagano notched four sacks, two tackles for loss, one forced
fumble, one pass deflection, one hurry and a crucial blocked extra
point Friday night to help Na Menehune hold off Waipahu, 31-20, in O'ahu
Interscholastic Association playoff action.
Moanalua, the No. 3
seed from the OIA's Red Conference Eastern Division, improved to 5-4 and
advanced to next week's quarterfinal at West runner-up Leilehua (6-2).
Waipahu's first season back in the Red ends at 2-7.
Na Menehune began the season at 0-2 but has won five of its past seven games since.
"We're coming together more as a family, we're tighter now," said Pagano, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior. "We just need to continue to move forward."
Waipahu offered a stern test despite its top playmaker, receiver/returner Dylan Pakau, being out of the lineup after a season-ending hip injury suffered in last week's loss at Mililani.
Moanalua jumped out to a 7-0 lead barely five minutes into the game after an impressive nine-play, 77-yard drive capped by Richard Parham's 20-yard touchdown run. But the Marauders answered with an equally impressive 11-play, 80-yard series culminating in Kaimi Paredes' 1-yard quarterback sneak.
The PAT attempt failed, and Na Menehune extended their lead to 10-6 on Landon Ogawa's 26-yard field goal 45 seconds into the second quarter. After an interception by Solomon Matautia, Waipahu assembled a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by Isaiah Alama's nine-yard run and followed by a two-point conversion run by Paredes to make it 14-10 with 1:32 remaining in the first half.
Moanalua then opened the third quarter by going 72 yards in just six plays, ending with Micah Kaneshiro's five-yard rope to Jon-Michael Sharsh on a slant pattern. Ogawa's extra point made it 17-14.
Na Menehune stretched the lead to 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter after marching 70 yards in 10 plays, capped by Kaneshiro's 21-yard rainbow connection to Chad Aragon in the back left corner of the end zone.
The Marauders were not done yet, however, and topped an 11-play, 69-yard possession with an eight-yard TD pass from Kai Mercado-Aiona to close it to 24-20 with 1:45 still left on the clock.
Pagano then bulled through the Waipahu line and blocked the ensuing PAT attempt, and Donald Lambert effectively sealed the victory with a 53-yard scamper to paydirt 20 seconds later.
"I had a lot of mistakes in the first half, but in the second half the coaches kept encouraging me, and I felt good," Pagano said. "In a way it was tough to prepare for Waipahu because they do the spread and also the triple option, but our coaches had a great game plan and in the second half we were able to shut them down more and our offense did a great job moving the ball.
"Waipahu is a great team, but we had just enough juice to get the 'W,' and all we need to do now is prepare for Leilehua."
Pagano's performance no doubt pleased Clemson defensive line coach Dan Brooks, who made the trip from South Carolina to do a home visit and watch Friday's game. Pagano is one of the nation's top defensive line prospects, having been recruited by the likes of No. 1-ranked Alabama and Louisiana State. He has made a verbal commitment to play for Clemson. WAIPAHU (2-7) 6 8 0 6 -- 20
MOANALUA (5-4) 7 3 7 14 -- 31
MOA -- Richard Parham 20 run (Landon Ogawa kick)
WAI -- Kaimi Paredes 1 run (kick failed)
MOA -- FG Ogawa 26
WAI -- Isaiah Alama 9 run (Paredes run)
MOA -- Jon-Michael Sharsh 5 pass from Micah Kaneshiro (Ogawa kick)
MOA -- Chad Aragon 21 pass from Kaneshiro (Ogawa kick)
WAI -- Jordan Mendiola 8 pass from Kai Mercado-Aiona (kick blocked)
MOA -- Donald Lambert 53 run (Ogawa kick)
RUSHING -- Waipahu: Alama 11-69, Matapua Tulafale 8-27, Mercado-Aiona 8-16, Paredes 11-64, James Nunuha 1-(minus-1), TEAM 1-(minus-4). Moanalua:Ishmil Scott 2-5, Kaleo Yanai 14-75, Sharsh 1-6, Parham 15-68, Sheldon Pagba 3-13, Kaneshiro 1-(minus-3), Lambert 1-53.
PASSING -- Waipahu: Mercado-Aiona 4-12-2--50, Paredes 6-12-0--83. Moanalua: Kaneshiro 12-18-2--141.
RECEIVING: Waipahu: Mataio Fualema 1-2; Tulafale 5-56, Mendiola 2-22, Nunuha 2-53. Moanalua: Pagba 4-72, Lambert 1-26, Aragon 3-22, Sharsh 4-21.