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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Samoana Sharks win back-to-back J-V football titles

by Brian Vitolio

The play that did them in was one of their own doing, an onside kick after just scoring their second straight touchdown to take a 13-6 lead over the Samoana Sharks in the first quarter.

The culprit was the J-V championship game's most valuable player, Henry Fola, who received the short kick and took it to the house when he returned the kickoff 58 yards back for the score. Fola also rammed his way into the end zone on the two-point attempt to give his team the go-ahead score, 14-13, with 5:14 to play in the second period, just 16 seconds after Faga'itua went up 13-6.

That score by the Vikings was a sweep right with quarterback Ene Ili running it himself to score from nine yards out on the 12th play of a 66-yard drive with 5:30 to play in the first.

Later, with the Sharks ahead by 15, Faga'itua marched from their 35 to score from a yard out on a run up the middle by Adam Leutele in a drive that took seven plays to complete. The Vikings needed a successful two-point conversion to bring the deficit down to seven but the Sharks swarmed the ball carrier to make it a nine-point game with 3:08 left to play in the fourth.

That was basically it for the Vikings because they needed one more touchdown and a miracle to take the lead with only three minutes remaining in the game - the miracle being a successful onside kick.

But the Sharks were able to recover the onside kick with 3:04 left and ate up 1:24 off of the clock before they fumbled the ball away when quarterback Livingston I'aulualo was sacked inside Samoana territory.

The Vikings took over at the Sharks' 40 but they ended up fumbling the ball away five plays later with 12.8 seconds to play, and a Samoana knee later allowed the Sharks to celebrate their back-to-back championship title for the junior varsity division with a 28-19 score.

The Vikings' third score that made it 28-19 was helped along by a 51-yard hookup between receiver Spencer Alaisulu and quarterback Ili, then followed by a 17-yard run by Arona Tuiafono before Adam Leutele punched it in three plays later to make it 28-19.

During Fola's run back on the kickoff, the ball was kicked straight ahead with the intention of making it bounce off of the first line of Samoana players at the 50. However, the ball bounced right through that line and into the hands of Fola at Samoana's 42.

He caught the ball near the right sideline of the field and one Faga'itua defender got through the first line of blockers and made straight for Fola who was running towards the right.

The defender dove at the ball carrier and almost brought him down, but instead managed to veer him off of his course or running towards the right, and this turned out to be a blessing for Fola and the Sharks because the Vikings' players were caught off guard when the ball carrier started running to the left side in a sudden change of direction.

One defender had a shot at tackling Fola but the ball carrier easily avoided him by turning on the boosters, and from then on it was a foot race and prayers from the Sharks' sideline that no flag come flying out to negate the run.

As soon as Fola crossed into the end zone the referees, after looking around for any flags, signaled touchdown, and the momentum shifted over to Samoana.

That score revitalized the defensive unit as they started to play more aggressively by forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and then coming up with an interception that almost turned into a scoring drive for the Sharks, but instead ended in an interception at Faga'itua's seven.

They took over at the 50 with 1:16 remaining in the first half after making that pick and two plays into the drive, I'aulualo threw a perfect pass to Tanielu Mata'utia who was in double coverage for a 41-yard gain.

With Samoana lining up at the nine, I'aulualo threw a slant pass to Fola who boggled the ball three times before a Vikings player picked it off at the seven. Faga'itua then ran the clock out with two runs up the middle and the Sharks leading 14-13 at halftime.

Fola scored his first touchdown on just their second play of the possession on a 35-yard run to take a 6-0 lead in the first quarter but then Samoana lost the lead with 2:48 to play in the same period on a 30-yard touchdown run by Arona Tuiafono. Ili kicked the PAT to break the tie and give Faga'itua a 7-6 edge, which later turned to 13-6 two possessions later after the PAT attempt on that score was blocked.

Faga'itua's scoring drive before the Fola touchdown on the kickoff return was moved along by a 13-yard pitch out to Patrick Upusili on the third play of the drive, followed by a quarterback keeper by Ili for 10 yards.

With Faga'itua facing fourth and three at Samoana's 17, the Sharks came offside to give their opponents a freebie because the penalty gave the Vikings extra set of downs. Three plays later Ili scored on a sweep to the right.

Samoana scored on their first possession of the first half after the Vikings tried to punt the ball away but instead fumbled the snap on a three-and-out series.

The ball went over the punter and he managed to recover the loose ball, but that was about it as he got tackled at the six for a turnover on downs.

Two plays later Fola, after being met at the line of scrimmage by several Faga'itua defenders, just kept pushing and pushing until finally crossing the goal line to score from three yards out. Their try for two was unsuccessful but they were now up by seven, 20-13 with 7:25 left in the third.

Fola showed his speed and elusiveness later on in the quarter by taking a toss to the left and then breaking a tackle and avoiding several others for what seemed to be an 80-yard touchdown run, but it was called back at the Sharks' 25-yard line because of a clipping foul on Samoana.

But with 6:01 left in the fourth, the Sharks padded up their lead with a 58-yard touchdown run by Taiese Harrington just two plays into their possession. Harrington tried to run in between the right guard and tackle but ran into an offensive lineman battling against a defender. So he bounced to the outside and just kept running for dear life. He was finally tripped up at the one but managed to fall into the end zone for the score and Fola punched in the two-point attempt to give his team a 28-13 lead with 5:01 to play.

A huge mistake by the Vikings allowed the drive to advance on a 15-yard penalty for leading with the helmet on a tackle after a two-yard gain by Fola, and on the next play Harrington made them pay with the long touchdown run.

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