KALIHI — Are the days of 40–50 passes a game a thing of the past for PAC-5?
If the Wolfpack's 27-6 win against McKinley Saturday night at Edward 'Skippa' Diaz Stadium at Henry Kusunoki Field is any indication, it appears they will keep the ball grounded this season.
Led by running back Kaikea Gonsales' game-high 102 yards rushing, including an 81-yard TD run, Pac-5 (1-0) rushed for 230 of its 290 yards of total offense to hold off the Tigers (0-1).
"It's a little bit of everything," PAC-5 coach Kip Botelho said of the more balanced offense against the Tigers. "We have three (players) on the Mainland playing baseball right now, our quarterback, too. Yeah, we have to go with what we got out here and what's our strength and it was a little bit of running tonight."
It was hard enough that PAC-5 was without QB Cade Rapozo and receivers Jett Uechi and Breyndon Nakamura, but the team sustained a major blow with the loss of DB Makana Bertelmann. He suffered a broken leg in the first quarter. The game was delayed 47 minutes, most of the time waiting for an ambulance. He will be out for the season, Botelho said.
"That's the thing I don't like about this game," Botelho said. "He's just a good guy and I feel bad for him because he wanted to play so bad. He didn't play last year and he came out this year and was ready to go. We had big plans for him. I'm just sick about (the injury).
"We were going to work him at quarterback, too; he's a good athlete. That hurt us."
Also contributing was PAC-5's defense. PAC-5 turned over the ball on three consecutive series to start the second half, yet did not allow the Tigers to capitalize on any of the giveaways.
Two-way players Kaiwi Ahina (QB/DB) and Emilio Paul (RB/DB) picked off PAC-5 QB Tyler Fukuroda and Siolei Lopes-Liutolo (TE/RB/LB) recovered a fumble for the Tigers.
But one of the reasons the Tigers could not convert on the turnovers was the play of two-way lineman Leif Fautanu, Jr. (6-foot-3, 290 pounds). The center helped pave the way for the running game on offense and made big plays on defense at defensive tackle. He had three tackles for lost yardage, including a sack/forced fumble.
PAC-5 wasted little time scoring on its first two series. Running back Nathan Bek capped a seven-play, 38-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run. Fukuroda booted the PAT. Later, the Wolfpack scored on Gonsales' 81-yard run to make it 14-0 with 1:54 in the first quarter.
On McKinley's ensuing series, Bertelmann suffered his injury after a 5-yard pass play by the Tigers. When play resumed 47 minutes later, the Tigers surprised the Wolfpack with the 5-foot-10, 260-pound Lopes-Liutolo hitting Ahina on a 62-yard pass to set up the Tigers' only TD of the game. Ahina hit Lopes-Liutolo for a 6-yard TD. Hieu Huyhn's PAT cut the Tigers' deficit in half, 14-7, with 12 seconds left in the first.
The Wolfpack responded quickly, scoring on their next series with Fukuroda hitting AJ Ulufale on an 11-yard TD pass to make it 21-7 with 9:29 left in the half.
PAC-5 would turn over the ball on its first three series of the second half, but McKinley could not do anything.
Later, an interception by Chyson Pena returned to the McKinley 15 set up the Wolfpack's final score of the game: a 10-yard run by Ulufale. PAC-5 missed the PAT.
PAC-5 will travel to Kauai to play Waimea Saturday night in non-league play. The Tigers will open the OIA season at Roosevelt Friday night.
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