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Monday, November 22, 2010

Warriors take the 2010- 11 Championship title decisively

Fans witnessed perhaps one of the finest Championship games to ever be played in the territory this past Saturday — that is except of course for the weather, it rained cats and dogs. But the two best football teams on island in the 2010- 11 American Samoa High School Athletic Association’s Varsity Football League sloshed it out...
in the championship game, with the Tafuna Warriors claiming a big blow out victory, defeating the Vikings 36 - 6.

The most talked about football game of the season drew a Standing Room Only crowd, despite the downpour, and included government officials such as Lieutenant Governor Faoa Sunia and his wife, and Department of Education director, Claire Pomele.

Lt. Gov. Faoa in opening remarks to kick off the championship, advised the crowd to have a safe and good game, and wished both teams the best of luck. Poumele advised likewise, and asked fans to control themselves and their side of the field while the game was in progress.

The Department of Public Safety coordinated security for the game that was anticipated to be ‘trouble,’ but instead, with the excellent officiating and two teams that were there to play — the ASHSAA football championship game became a showcase of high school football at its best.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the officiating was at its best — with the two guest officials, Brandis Mirafuentes and James Decker from Hawaii managing the game, with the help of local officials — the game became about the two teams and what they brought to the field on Saturday, not about the officiating — it was seamless and it was a high energy match up, despite the weather.

The highly competitive match up saw the Warriors and the Vikings in the first quarter constantly adjusting strategy — trying to find out what would work — to get the best up on the scoreboard.

And then the rain poured, causing both teams to ditch their passing game, and focus on running the ball to gain good yardage — a Tafuna Warrior advantage, not so for the Vikings.

Forced to play a ground game, it became apparent Fagaitua was having a hard time playing in the rain, their plays becoming mis-steps, with loose ball and fumbles, their usual hard pushing and elegant plays looked like mud slogging.

Samoa News spoke to Fagaitua High School’s head coach, Sua’ese Pooch Ta’ase, after the game about the championship battle. 

Ta’ase said, “First of all, I would like to congratulate coach Jason Magalei and the Warriors team for a great job today. Tafuna was the better team than us, and we would just like to congratulate them on a job well done.”

He added, “there are no excuses or whatsoever to what happened with us today, we just got beat flat out, and there is no excuse to our loss, Tafuna was the better team. We would also like to thank our Heavenly Father, for watching over us today, and for protecting both teams, no one was seriously injured or severely hurt today.”

Samoa News asked Ta’ase, if they had to change any of their strategies, due to the weather, and were there any problems to their schemes from the rain, and he responded, “the weather did not have any factor in the game, Tafuna was playing in the same weather we were playing in, so we basically got beat.”

He noted, “nevertheless, I am very proud of my boys, my team, my coaching staff, Fagaitua High School, and the whole eastern side for their strong support. I told my team after the game that they are very humbled players, and we all lost with class. We congratulated them after the game, and I am happy that my team managed to put their heads up high, even though the game concluded on a low note for us this year, but we’ll be back next year.”

Ta’ase went on to thank all the Viking supporters, and “…we would also like to acknowledge our booster club, our principal, our school, the students, and last but not least, my village of Aoa. Thank you guys for being strong supporters for this team, you don’t know how much that meant to us.”

“I would also like to express my sincerest acknowledgments to director Dr. Claire Poumele,” the Vikings head coach said, “…and ASHSAA, for bringing in Mirafuentes and Decker to manage our game. I think it was a good game, and it was well played out, and we would like to thank Brandis and James for a well managed football game.”

“To my village of Aoa, thank you so much for your support and generosity, thank you for all that you have done for this team, the decorations, and to all the eastern side supporters who decorated the eastern side of the island with red, thank you, save all your flags and banners for next year because we’ll be back with a whole new squad. Faafetai, and congratulations again to the Warriors.”

In an interview with Samoa News, Jason Magalei, head coach for the Champions of this year’s football season,  sent out “our fa’amalo and fa’afetai to head coach Sua’ese Pooch Ta’ase and his players, and the parents of their association for a heck of a game. They showed very good sportsmanship on their part, and for being our toughest competitor this year.”

He added, “so far on our side, we would like to thank our principal, our booster club, my team, the parents, the fans, and all the Warriors supporters that came out today. As far as the game is concerned, [thanks also to] my offensive coordinator coach Loso I’aulualo and defensive coordinator coach Kevin Magalei.”

“As far as our offense, we changed it up from our regular scheme, so we had to work with our double tights, we had to allow an extra blocker inside, for an attack in the box, and when that happens, we were able to get Viavia Manuma out,” Magalei explained of their game strategy. “But defensively, coach Kevin and coach Nathan Magalei, coach Scottie and the rest of our defensive coaches did a hell of a job today to adjust to Fagaitua’s offense. But our kids, they played really well today. They came out — they represented, and they did a good job today.”

Magalei would like to express his sincerest thanks to all the supporters out there; and said, “I am going to steal something from coach Pooch on TV” as he laughed and commented, “I have my coaches here and some of my staff that are married, I would like to thank their wives, I know they have put up with them throughout all the time they came to practice, and they have supported us also throughout this whole season.”

He added, “to our fans, to our alumni, everyone who came out today at the stadium today, and to all my players who didn’t play today, Apelu So’oaemalelagi, and some of them who were injured and couldn’t make it on the field today, you deserve this, and thank you for being great supporters, we did it.”

THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

The match up between the Warriors and the Vikings began, as Fagaitua had Shalom Luani send off the opening kick off of the game, which was received and returned by Alfred Seui, who almost broke out for a touchdown, but was stopped by Jericho Vaoalii, to start the Warriors on a first down possession on their own 49- yard line.

Tafuna’s first down possession brought out All Star quarterback, Nuupaia Mika and his offensive unit, to try for a conversion. Tafuna had some good possessions in their first series, but it wasn’t in a 4th and 9 play being held on Fagaitua’s 43- yard line, when Mika pitched the ball out to Viavia Manuma, who was stopped immediately behind the line of scrimmage by Watson Vaiula, turned the ball over, and brought out Gonzales and the Vikings offense.

Their running plays ran out quick, as they tried their no huddle offense, only to spare the moment in the same set of downs, as their running game in their first series was totally dominated by the Warriors, to send them to a punting situation on a fourth and long with 8:34 in the first quarter.

Then, when the Vikings had the ball back after a punting situation sent over by the Warriors, Fagaitua scheduled a passing play for their third down situation on their own 47- yard line, a long pass out to Watson Vaiula, was intercepted in the air by Jr. Tuigamala Iosefo, to bring the Warriors to a first down possession with 4:12 remaining in the first quarter.

But it was with 2:45 remaining, that Tafuna managed to force their way into Viking territory, and spot themselves a first down possession on the Vikings 1- yard line, ending in the first touchdown of the game.

The play had Nu’upaia fake a hand off, and keeping the ball for an inside run to the end zone. Their two point conversion was an inside hand off to Viavia Manuma, who credited two extra points on the score board for the Warriors.

Early in the second quarter, with 10:31 remaining, a second down of the Warriors being held on their own 45- yard line, was a counter inside hand off to Viavia Manuma again, who worked his way through the middle, then bounced his way out to the sidelines, Vaoali’i and Vaiula for the Vikings were able to get to him, but they couldn’t bring him down, as Manuma stormed across to the other side of the field, and made his way into the end zone for another Warriors touchdown to extend their lead to 14 - 0. Their two point conversion was a quick slant pass out to Jasper Mikaele, who brought the Warriors to lead with 16 - 0.

Later in the second quarter, when the Warriors had possession of the ball on the Vikings 47- yard line, a second down play by Nuupaia, as he aired a long pass out to Mikaele, was picked off by Fagaitua’s Tausolia Fa’asavalu, to bring out the Vikings for a try opportunity, but to no avail.

Then, with 1:03 remaining in the second quarter, the Warriors scored again.

The Warriors had a first down possession on the Vikings 2- yard line, after a bruising running conversion by Filoisamoa Langkilde, to spot the Warriors inside of the red zone. A fourth down play handed to Manuma, who forced his way through the middle, and leaped into the end zone, recorded the touchdown for Tafuna. Their two point conversion quarterback keep by Nuupaia Mika, was good, as he lead the Warriors to a 24 - 0 start in the first half of the game.

In the third quarter, Fagaitua started to bring down the heat, as Tafuna was trying to work their way up the middle. By now, the weather had become a major factor in the game, as both teams struggled to try and hold onto the ball.

With 3:33 remaining in the 3rd quarter, a third down play of the Warriors being held on the Vikings 10- yard line, a long awaited pass by the wide open Destiny Vaeao connected in the end zone, which spotted another touchdown for the Warriors, as they came to lead 30 - 0.

The Vikings were now looking at a “mercy rule” situation — after the touchdown, head official Mirafuentes ordered the mercy rule to be in effect ‘after the ball is kicked’, but the Vikings were able to reject it.

Ott sent the kick off to the Vikings, and Watson Vaiula was there to receive. Vaiula seemed his way through the middle of the Warriors special team, and made his way to the open field, bringing the crowed to their feet, as they scored their first touchdown of the game with an impressive 88- yard touchdown return by Vaiula. Their two point conversion was no good, as a reverse hand off to Luani was stopped immediately in the back field by Spratt and Taimatuia, bringing out score to 30 - 6, and no mercy rule in play.

In the fourth quarter, frustrations started to head out to Fagaitua’s side of the field, as they knew where this match was headed. A third down of Tafuna being held on the Vikings 5- yard line, a quarterback keeper again by Nuupaia Mika, sent the Warriors on the board for six more points, as they came to lead 36 - 6.

Then, with 2:40 remaining, time winding down, the Warriors were on their way to victory, a similar situation to last week’s incident, a spectator again threw a cherry bomb, this time, it came from outside of the front gate, near the Warriors side of the field. Samoa News understands that someone threw it from behind the fence, but DPS was there to control the situation.

Time ticked out, the fans were on their feet, and the Warriors sang their school anthem, as they were recognized at the conclusion of this match, as ASHSAA’s 2010 - 2011 Champions.

The last time Tafuna were champions in ASHSAA football, was in 2006, when they defeated the Lions. Today, they have done it again.

Samoa News congratulates both teams for a hard fought and well played game, and to the ASHSAA officiating team and special guest officials from Hawaii for a well managed game. To the fans — despite the cherry bomb — thanks for a great game.

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