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Game of the Week
Stacy Kaneshiro | ScoringLiveOctober 7, 2018, 12:13am
Sat, Oct 6, 2018 @ Leilehua [ 6:00 pm ]
WAHIAWA — On a night when defenses took control, Akoni Tom-Makue proved to be special.
Leilehua's senior kicker/punter booted three field goals and dropped precision punts inside the 7-yard line twice in the fourth quarter to help the No. 11 Mules hold off No. 13 Damien, 23-17, Saturday night at Hugh Yoshida Stadium.
The win propelled the Mules to 7-2 and dropped the Monarchs to 4-4.
Tom-Makue accounted for all of the Mules' first-half points with two 40-yard field goals and one from 22. That gave Leilehua a 9-7 lead at the half. But in the fourth quarter, just after the Monarchs pulled to 23-17 with nine minutes, 57 seconds left, Tom-Makue put Damien in miserable field position by dropping punts at the Monarchs 7 and 1 yard lines. Also, four of his five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Damien punted after the first and lost the ball on downs in the waning seconds on the latter.
"That guy killed us," Damien coach Eddie Klaneski said. "Two times we got pinned back there on those punts. He's a great kicker. We had one chance to return a kickoff all night. He did a hell of a job. We knew he had a big leg and we were trying to get after him, but they did a good job of blocking up front as well, so we couldn't even block him. That kid is a talent. He'll probably be playing at the next level. He has a huge leg."
Tom-Makue's value is not lost on Leilehua coach Mark Kurisu.
"We are so fortunate to have him," Kurisu said of his senior kicker. "Everything he's done, he's earned it. He, his dad and his mom, they really sacrificed a lot. He trains, he lifts weights. He has his own schedule, but he comes to play."
More impressive is that Tom-Makue's field goals — all of which cleared the cross bar with room to spare — are kicked without the aid of a kicking tee.
"He's kicking it off the ground to show that he can kick at the next level," Kurisu said. "He's turned some heads. We wished some other coaches would jump aboard, but if they come too late, he'll get something on his own."
Tom-Makue credits his parents for allowing him to improve his kicking skills by attending Chris Sailer Kicking camps around the continental U.S. He has been to camps in Las Vegas, California and Florida, as well as here.
"It's just basic little tips about placing your eyes on the ball, just making sure you keep your eyes down," Tom-Makue said.
Ironically, Damien got off on the wrong foot, when it tried an onside kick on the opening kickoff. But Kiaka Pio leaped into the air, tipped the ball and caught it and raced down to the Damien 22, setting up Tom-Makue's 22-yard field goal to give Leilehua a 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Later in the first, the Monarchs had a 34-yard TD pass nullified by an illegal block. They eventually had to settle for a 39-yard field goal try, but Christian Souza missed.
Actually, Tom-Makue had one bad punt that went only 18 yards to the Mules 35 that set up the Monarchs first score of the game on Logan Lauti's 5-yard run. Souza's PAT gave Damien a 7-3 lead with four seconds left in the first.
But the Mules were able to get a pair of 40-yard field goals by Tom-Makue before the half. The first came with 3:44 left and the second with no time showing on the clock to end the half with a 9-7 lead.
Tom-Makue's kickoff to open the second half was a touchback and two plays later, Damien lost a fumble at its own 28. Two plays later, Max Nichols hit Jeremy Evans on a 28-yard TD pass to make it 16-7.
Damien closed the gap on its ensuing series on Souza's 43-yard field goal to pull the Monarchs to 16-10 with 8:07 in the third. But another onside kickoff backfired when Jaeden Chow returned the ball 51 yards for an apparent TD that was nullified by a post-possession penalty that gave Leilehua the ball at its 45. Three plays later, Nichols connected with Kalei Akagi for a 48-yard TD to make it 23-10 with 6:34 left in the third.
Nichols finished the game completing 16 of 37 passes for 232 yards and two interceptions.
Damien pulled to 23-17 with 9:57 left in the game on Jake Holtz's 10-yard TD pass to Makanalea Meyer.
Damien's defense continued to play tough on the Mules in the fourth that resulted in two punts, the ones that Tom-Makue placed precisely with the help of his coverage team.
The loss mathematically eliminated Damien from claiming the ILH D1 title, which brings the league's sole D1 state berth that will go to Iolani. Damien closes its season Saturday at Castle.
"We got a really young group of guys and we have to see what they can do to finish the season," Klaneski said."It's a big deal for them and it kind of gets them ready for next season, being able to finish strong, even though we don't have anywhere to go after this. It's an opportunity to push themselves for the next season."
The win had no bearing on the Mules (5-1), who have clinched the second seed for the four-team OIA D1 tournament. They close the regular season Friday by hosting Radford.
Crusaders remain at No. 1 with Punahou and Mililani right behind.
Moanalua will face Mililani, who moved up to No. 3, Monday night in OIA D1 semis.
Damien junior Logan Lauti rushes for 175 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
The Sabers claim Sledge Hammer trophy and OIA Open Division second seed.
The Bulldogs recorded seven sacks to rally from an early deficit against the Chargers.
Elena Oglivie paced Raiders with 24 kills and 4 blocks.