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Monday, November 30, 2009

Sharks stun Warriors 7-6 to clinch ASHSAA football title

The ASHSAA varsity football competition concluded Saturday with an astounding upset as Samoana stunned the Warriors 7-6, the Sharks clinching their first football title in 12 years.

Game highlights of the 2009-2010 championship game are presented by Coca Cola and GHC Reid & Co., Ltd., “Oloa o Leala” Family of Fine Beverages.

It was an exciting championship match, as parents, families, friends, school faculty, students, alumni, school bands and cheerleading squads filled the grandstands and lined both sides of the field, Samoana fans dressed in blue and white and Warriors supporters dressed in maroon and gold.

According to a stadium official, more than 3,000 spectators attended the game.

“First of all, on behalf of my team, I want to give glory to God for his everyday blessings upon us, and for blessing this team with a rare title that is only awarded to the best of the best,” Samoana Head Coach Pepine Lauvao told Samoa News after the match. “Nobody thought we could make it, but the trust that my coaching staff had in our team, and the trust that our boys had in themselves, was the key along with our prayers to the Lord.”

He thanked Tafuna Principal Lemoelefili Tinoisamoa and Tafuna Head Coach Jason Magalei, along with the Warriors football team, “for giving us this opportunity, to play amongst the best in this year’s league.”

Samoana finishes with a 7-5 record.

“Last but not least, on behalf of our football team and family, we want to thank our school, families, and friends,” Lauvao added. “Samoana supporters who came out and supported us throughout the season, we are very grateful for your time and efforts.”

Many say the Sharks’ win does not only belong to Samoana High School, but to the entire Fagaloa district and Pago Bay area, where most of its students live.

Magalei, Warriors head coach who led his squad to a 9-2 season — commended the Sharks, noting the team faced tremendous adversity on the road to the championship title, namely the tsunami of Sept. 29.

“I’d just like to say congratulations to Pepine and Samoana High School for a great season,” Magalei told Samoa News. “They came back and fought through a lot of adversity...the tsunami...and I take my hat off to them.”

As for his Tafuna squad, coach Magalei said “I know they’re hurting right now and I take my hat off to them too.”

“They played their best. We have 27 seniors on the team who will be moving on to college and other things in life and I just want them to know that we love them and we’re really proud of them,” he said. “We were down a point, but we will be back next year.”

On behalf of Tafuna High School, Magalei thanks the Warrior Nation for coming out from the beginning of the season to the end to cheer on their athletes.

Following his Samoa News interview, Magalei took off his orchid ula and placed it around Lauvao’s neck, the coaches sharing a brotherly hug.

In attendance were Gov. Togiola Tulafono and First Lady Maryann Tulafono. During the opening ceremony, the Governor congratulated both teams, wishing them a safe, peaceful game.

He noted that “a real player accepts defeat when the time comes,” and urged spectators to keep the peace during the game. Police officers were stationed all around the stadium to keep rowdy fans in line. Red Cross volunteers and FEMA officials were also present, along with several NFL players.

Matthew Malepeai sang the national anthems of the USA and American Samoa during the opening ceremony and the colors were posted by the Tafuna High School JROTC.

During half-time, after performances from both cheerleading squads, a $50,000 donation courtesy of all Polynesian athletes in the NFL — was presented to the local Red Cross. The $50,000 check, aimed at helping local families affected by the Sept. 29 tsunami, was presented by former Chicago Bears Tight End Gabriel Reid, former Philadelphia Eagles running back Reno Mahe and Faaifo Pili. Mahe and Pili are former Brigham Young University football players.

Rep. Vaito’a Hans Langkilde, a member of the Red Cross, accepted the donation. He thanked all the sons of Samoa and Polynesian players in the NFL for their contribution to aid in relief and recovery, on behalf of the local Red Cross.

SHARKS 7, WARRIORS 6

During the coin toss, performed by Gov. Togiola, Tafuna won, and they deferred to ball possession in the second half.

The Warriors kicked off to Samoana, and Sharks’ Tanielu Matautia marked possession on their own 25 yard line.

Samoana’s offensive squad, led by Tavita Neemia, started off their first offensive possession with a quick hand off to Siona Eliu who rammed his way toward the middle to gain 7 yards, until he was stopped by Warriors’ Tavita Faagu.

The second down play was an opposite side hand off again to Siona Eliu, who ran the ball enough for a first down. Then on Samoana’s first down possession on their own 39 yard line, the snap to Neemia was bad. The ball rolled, and it was recovered by Iolamo Fonoti of the Warriors.

Tafuna’s offensive unit, led by Nuupaia Mika, managed to start off their first offensive possession at Samoana’s 36 yard line. Their first play was an inside hand off to Viavia Manuma, who was stopped by Eroni Foifua of Samoana.

Their second down possession, was an incomplete pass to Manuma again, and then their third down reception was also a no gainer when Manuma was immediately stopped in the back field by Eroni Foifua. and Rommel Mageo. Tafuna decided to go for a fourth down, but unfortunately for the Warriors, their toss out to Halloween Maui, was also stopped by Samoana’s Eroni Foifua.

Their first quarter concluded pointless, 0-0.

Early in the second quarter, Samoana was able to pound the ball to the middle of Tafuna’s defense, and managed to gain good yards which spotted them on Tafuna’s 22 yard line.

Samoana’s third down possession on the Warriors 22 yard line was a fortunate moment for the Sharks. Neemia faked the hand off to Selelimalelei Fiame, and he rolled out to pass to Siona Eliu who caught the ball in the endzone for the first touchdown of the game. Their field goal conversion by PJ Te’o was good for an extra point. Samoana was in the lead 7-0.

Samoana’s defensive squad continued to dominate on the Warriors defense, as they ran the ball to Manuma and Sefo. Tafuna’s offensive unit pounded the Samoana’s defensive middle, but it was still not enough to put them in a position to score.

Tafuna’s defense was also an exciting squad as they go head to head with Samoana’s Siona Eliu. Tafuna managed to execute good defensive containment to end off the first half with a Samoana lead of 7 points. During halftime, the spectators were entertained by the cheerleading squads of Samoana and Tafuna.

In the second half, Samoana kicked off to Tafuna. The kick off was received by TJ Paaga, who marked their offensive possession on the 40 yard line. Tafuna back on the field, started off their offensive possession again with another running game.

Their running series to Manuma, Sefo and Maui, was stopped short by the Sharks defense. Samoana’s outstanding defensive squad was containing Tafuna’s running game, and pressuring the middle to reach the Warriors backfield. The third quarter was a tough defensive battle between both teams.

Early in the fourth quarter with 11:05 remaining, Tafuna managed to spot their offensive possession on Samoana’s 9 yard line with a good mix of passes and runs. The Warriors first down possession was a quick dive hand off to Viavia Manuma, who rammed his way into the endzone, crashing down Samoana defenders as he scored Tafuna’s first touchdown of the game.

In the crucial play of the game, Tafuna’s field goal possession by Dion Ott was signaled no good when Eroni Foifua blitzed through Tafuna’s middle, and blocked the field goal, denying Tafuna the one point they needed to tie the match. Samoana held the lead 7-6.

Later, Tafuna had another scoring chance with four minutes remaining and they were at their own 30 yard line. Tafuna’s third down possession was a pass to Mikaele — intercepted by Sharks’ Erupi Autele.

The Sharks managed to play a smart game toward the end of the, as they ran down the time, and Siona continued to run the ball toward the middle. Time ran out and Samoana fans and players went wild as Samoana had secured its first title since 1987, when they shared the title with Tafuna. But this time it’s all Samoana’s.

Samoa News congratulates all schools, athletes, volunteers, booster clubs, stadium workers, EMS personnel, police officers and fans for a another exciting season of ASHSAA football.

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