HAWAII GRID STARS TROUNCE AMERICAN SAMOA
By Brian Vitolio
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Jan. 4) - Quickness, agility and speed ruled Samoa Bowl IV on Tuesday night, and with a whole lot of emphasis on speed.
That's how the Hawaii All Stars manhandled American Samoa 28-6 at Veterans Memorial Stadium to even up the Samoa Bowl series 2-2 in front of a jam-packed crowed that included Governor Togiola and his wife, Lt. Governor Ipulasi Sunia and his wife and other dignitaries.
The local team fought for every yard and every inch of the field while the visitors gobbled it up in bunches.
There was the game's Most Valuable Player, 5'8" and 180-pound Gabriel Tuata (Kealakehe High School) turning and spinning and juking and, basically, making some excellent local defenders miss tackles.
When he left the field in came another 5'8" running back, Lene Auelua (St. Louis High School), to take a turn at sidestepping and stutter stepping and high stepping and, well, basically making more defenders grasp at nothing but air in their tackle attempts.
There were times that a lucky trip of the ankle brought down these elusive and shifty running backs; otherwise it would have been a much larger margin of victory for Hawaii.
Then there was the defense, small in size but with all of the qualities from above - quickness, agility and speed.
American Samoa High School Athletics Association's most lethal offensive weapons - RB Gideon Silafau of Faga'itua High School and quarterback Herman Sword - were held in check by defensive player of the game Tonu Tuimaleali'ifano (Farrington High School) and his buddies.
For one of those defenders, it was a bittersweet victory.
Solomona Aigamaua, a 6'3", 215-pound defensive lineman from St. Louis High School quarterbacked the Leone Lions to a perfect season and the junior varsity's championship title two years ago.
He is the son of local businessman, Ben Aigamaua, and left for St. Louis High School after his sophomore year.
"It felt really good to comeback home, but then when I got on the field, it's like it has to change," Solomona explained. "When we're out eating and stuff it's all cool, but then our coaches told us that when we get on the field it's all business.
"It's good to play against my brothers from Samoa, it was a privilege playing against them, it's really fun playing against some of the key players like Tui Siliva and Herman Sword - guys that used to play with me - it's really fun, good to see them."
Once he gets to Hawaii he will leave right away for a recruiting trip to Oregon State.
"I'm just trying to get through school and get to college," he said.
Most of these Hawaii players have ties to American Samoa through their parents, and once such pair is Gabriel Tuata and his father La'au.
La'au, or "Sticky" was a star running back for the Faga'itua Vikings and also represented the territory in the 100 and 200-meter dash at South Pacific Games' competitions.
"I was very proud of my son tonight and he played a great game," La'au Tuata exclaimed. "I played for Faga'itua so you know I root for these guys."
Gabriel Tuata was phenomenal on the field. A shifty runner, he broke the game wide open on the first play of the second half with a 90-yard touchdown run.
Nobody was better than him on this night and the MVP award was well deserved.
After the first two plays from scrimmage by Hawaii on their first series, you could spell disaster for American Samoa.
Auelua took a draw 16 yards on their first offensive play and Tuata followed it up with a 28-yard dive up the middle.
Tuata then helped set up the opening touchdown by turning a halfback screen into a 29-yard gain. A play later, Auelua hauled in a seven-yard pass from Maeli Siliga (Farrington High School).
The extra point gave Hawaii a 7-0 lead 5:33 into the first quarter after having marched 95 yards to score.
On the ensuing possession, the home team mounted a drive from their 24-yard line and it seemed as if they were well on their way to score an answering touchdown.
Quarterback-for-Tafuna-turned-receiver for the All Star match - Eljae Faoagali - showed what a perfect duo he and Sword could have been had they played for the same school by hauling in two amazing passes.
Sword let go of a pass with Faoagali still running his rout, and he was facing left when the ball was on its downward spiral. Faoagali turned back to his right just as the ball was at waist level and just managed to catch the ball below his knees and falling to the ground for a 22-yard gain.
Three plays later he hauled in another pass up the middle for a 16-yard gain and two plays after that American Samoa was knocking on the door as they were just an inch away from breaking the goal line plane for a score.
But they ran a bootleg around left end with Sword trying to cut back to his right. But right on the cut back he was swarmed by three defenders for a loss of a yard-and-a-half.
That was third-and-goal, and on the next down the home team was stopped at the two for a turnover on downs after a great defensive goal-line stand.
They handed the ball to the offense, and the offense delivered by marching 98 yards to score on a 31-yard catch by Leaualofa Li'ili'i (Aiea High School).
Another successful PAT and American Samoa was facing a 14-0 deficit.
Li'ili'i was closely covered but managed to create a yard of separation with the cornerback just as the ball dropped perfectly into his hands. The defender tried to leap for the ball but fell on the play, thus allowing Li'ili'i to stroll into the end zone unmolested.
This last touchdown came with 3:59 remaining in the second quarter and the sky opened up to some heavy showers.
The heavy rain and wet conditions made the game into a turnover fest.
First, American Samoa fumbled on the exchange only to get it back after Hawaii fumbled the snap. Then Hawaii picked off a pass only to fumble the ball away again. Finally, American Samoa fumbled it away only to get it back by recovering a Hawaii fumble to close out the first half.
Tuata then took-it-to-the-house with his 90-yard kickoff return touchdown to start off the second half, and the PAT made it a 21-0 game.
American Samoa's only score came about three possessions later after Lewis Tuiavi'i (Leone High School) picked off a pass near midfield.
From there Faoagali connected with Jameson Manuma (Tafuna High School) on a 31-yard touchdown pass for American Samoa's only score of the game.
Manuma caught the ball about seven yards shy of the goal line and then split two defenders to score the touchdown. They failed on the PAT attempt but were now on the scoreboard with a 21-6 score in the third quarter.
Hawaii's last touchdown came on a play-action fake, and the quarterback then calmly threw to a wide-open Max Papali'i for the score. The PAT completed the game's final score 11:55 into the fourth period.
The Hawaii team was led by head coach Jim Higgins (St. Louis), offensive coordinator Siuaki Livai (Kahuku), assistant coach Sam Papali'i (Kealakehe), assistant coach Amosa Amosa (Aiea), assistant coach Mika Li'ili'i (Aiea), assistant coach La'au Tuata (Kealakehe), assistant coach Alema Te'o (UT), assistant coach Ta'i Papali'i (Kealakehe/UH) and team managers Iva Tiave (Farrington) and Esther Reid Trani (Kapolei).
Leading the American Samoa All Stars were head coach Pati Pati Jr. (Leone), offensive coordinator Suaese "Pooch" Ta'ase (Faga'itua), assistant coach Arona Samoa (Leone), assistant coach Vaosa Tofa (Tafuna), assistant coach Time Tagoilelagi (Samoana), assistant coach Jay Poti (Saints), assistant coach Levi Suiaunoa (Poly-Tech), assistant coach Solimio Aoelua, assistant coach Jason Magalei (Tafuna) and Maselino Tautu, DOE Athletics Director.
During halftime, Blue Sky, Hawaiian Airlines and Poponut Travel raffled off prizes that included phones and round trip tickets to Hawaii and Apia, Samoa.
Spectators in the crowd were invited by BlueLink Manager Ethan Lake to take part in a 100-yard dash, punt and field competition to determine the winners.
Raynor Whitcombe and Rambo Tapui were the winners of the round trip tickets to Hawaii from Hawaiian Airlines while David Manu won round trip tickets to Apia, Samoa courtesy of Poponut Travel.
Winners of Blue Sky cell phones were Nick Peters (Motorola V220), Johnny Saelua (Nokia 6800) and Scott Stanley (Nokia 6800).
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