Posted: October 6, 2012 - 7:56am
Kapolei rallies past Aiea, 34-20, earns playoff berth
Kapolei's Chris Pierce-Kersiano runs in a intercepted pass for touchdown against Aiea. Peter Caldwell | SL
AIEA - Chris Pierce-Kersiano accounted for two interceptions as Kapolei defeated the Na Ali'i, 34-20, in a dramatic fourth quarter thriller, clinching the last playoff spot in the OIA Red playoffs.
"I was happy with that performance. We were running the ball well. Very focused on defense," said Hurricanes coach Darren Hernandez. "Kind of fell apart in the third quarter. We just got to string together four quarters and we'll be fine."
Kapolei scored 20 unanswered points in the first half of play. Clicking on offense and on defense, the Hurricanes only gave up one first down in the opening half defensively and finished the night with 215 total rushing yards (292 total) offensively.
"(About Kapolei) they're a tough team. They did a good job," said Na Ali'i coach Wendell Say. "Kapolei didn't do anything that we didn't scout before… but weren't getting our reads in the first half and it was killing us."
The Hurricanes got on the board first about seven minutes into the first half. Senior kicker Brandon Begonia nailed a 26-yard field goal, putting Kapolei up 3-0. Begonia would also boot another field goal during the second quarter (6:10) from 36 yards out later in the half.
Senior running back Jacob Kukahiko found the end zone at the 3:14 mark of the opening quarter, cutting right and bouncing to the outside, making his way down the sideline for an 11-yard touchdown. Kukahiko finished the night with 21 carries for 112 yards.
The rushing attack of Kapolei continued to devastate the Aiea defense throughout the game. Scoring the final touchdown of the half, junior running back Mana Reis busted his way straight up the middle for a five-yard touchdown run.
"Our running game looks good," said Hernandez. "Thought that they ran the ball well, gave us the time of possession we needed."
The second half seemed to bring in a newly invigorated Aiea team, as they responded with 20 points of their own to make it a brand-new ball game.
Na Ali'i scored their first offensive touchdown of the night at the 7:40 mark of the third quarter as senior quarterback Isaiah Hernandez-Fonoti galloped his way straight up the middle and past the Kapolei defense for a 56 yard score.
Aiea would score next at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter. Junior receiver/defensive back Kamakana Apelu picked off a Kapolei pass and returned it 30-yards for the score.
"We tried to give the game away in the third quarter. With the pick six and stopped playing on (defense) and let them run for a long touchdown," said Hernandez. "We had (Aiea) down and they came back up."
Six seconds later, a mishandled snap by Kapolei resulted in a fumble recovery by senior defensive end Ualesi Sale in the end-zone for a touchdown. A missed PAT after that score would put the game at 20-20.
"(About Aiea) a scrappy team," said Hernandez. "They played tough. They're a resilient team."
Kapolei got back on the board at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, as senior running back Dylan Keomaka pounded his way in for a four-yard score.
"If they played the way they did first, second and fourth (quarters) in the third, we could have really blown the game open," said Hernandez
Aiea tried desperately for a score to tie the game up, airing the ball out for 20-plus yard passes. But Kapolei junior defensive back Chris Pierce-Kersiano picked off one of those attempts and returned it for a 37-yard score to seal the game with the final score 34-20.
Pierce-Kersiano would finish the night with two interceptions (one in first half of play), one of them a pick-six. The defense for Kapolei accounted for five interceptions throughout the game.
"That pick six, I don't know what was going through my head," said Pierce-Kersiano. "I'm so excited. It just feels good to win."
"(About Pierce-Kersiano) really came into his own this game," said Hernandez. "I was very pleased with the way he performed."
Kapolei clinched a playoff berth with the victory over Aiea. For the Na Ali'i however, their post season hopes are over, finishing league play with a 1-5 record (3-6 season).
"It's been a tough season," said Say "I'm happy our kids fought through; almost pulled it out."
"This was a must win game for us," said Pierce-Kersiano. "This feels great. We made our coaches proud of us."
October 6, 2012
Chris Pierce-Kersiano 36 yard interception return touchdown
> more video highlights
Kapolei running back Jacob Kukahiko rushed for a game-high 112 yards on 21 carries. Peter Caldwell | SL
Kapolei's Mason Alfaro battles Aiea's Ualesi Sale for a pass. Peter Caldwell | SL