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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveOctober 24, 2021, 12:40am
Sat, Oct 23, 2021 @ Radford [ 6:30 pm ]
ALIAMANU — Radford's on-field debut this prep football season was punctuated by a strong finish Saturday night.
Christian Payton accounted for 243 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to lead host Radford to a 39-21 win over Pearl City before a crowd of about 200 fans at John E. Velasco Stadium.
The Rams scored the game's final 19 points to come back from a 21-20 second-quarter deficit and improved to 2-0 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division II standings.
The Chargers, who were coming off of a 42-7 rout of Kalaheo last week, fell to 1-1 in league play.
It was the first taste of competition for Radford, which was coming off of a win via forfeit over Kaimuki last week.
"A lot of mistakes," Rams coach Fred Salanoa said. "There's a lot of room for improvement and we just gotta get better. This is only our first game — Pearl City is a good team, they have good coaches — and this is a long season and we just gotta learn from our mistakes and move on to the next game."
Radford posted 458 yards of total offense, including 260 passing yards by quarterback Kalob Victorino-Avilla, who threw for three touchdowns and ran in another score.
Wide receiver Jack Carlson had game-highs of eight receptions for 112 yards and caught a 5-yard TD pass from Victorino-Avilla that was part of a 21-point second quarter for the Rams. But his team's 14 penalties for 131 yards drew the ire of Salanoa.
"I mean, we were jumping offsides, a couple false starts, couple things that I think maybe is not being seen in practice by us coaches that the refs are seeing and they're looking for, so whether it was a holding, or a misalignment — guys are maybe lining up offsides — just little things like that," Salanoa said.
Pearl City tied the score at 20 with a spectacular 15-yard touchdown run by Sefo Feesago, who leapt across the goal line just as a pair of Radford defenders closed in on him. It pulled ahead by a point on the ensuing extra point by Mark Rodriguez with 3:51 left before halftime.
The Rams regained the lead, however, on their last possession of the first half. Victorino-Avilla's 1-yard keeper on an option play put his team ahead, 26-21, with 17 seconds on the clock. Naalii Nicholas-Mattos converted the PAT and Radford held a six-point lead at the break.
It got a bit of breathing room after Payton capped a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive to open the second half with his 1-yard TD run that made it a 33-21 lead.
Salanoa said the situation played out as well as he could have hoped for.
"That's what we were thinking about when we were driving (on) that last drive before the half. I had it in my mind already that, two series before that, you know, just kind of looking at the clock and just kind of trying to foresee what was gonna happen at the end of that first half, but I told myself, ‘remember, we're getting the ball in the second half,' so if we could score right before the half and then come out and score again, that would be a huge jump for us because that would put us up by two touchdowns," Salanoa explained.
That was more than enough cushion for the Radford defense, which allowed just 83 yards by Pearl City after halftime and posted a second-half shut out.
"I think we had to make some adjustments, just a few adjustments and it's a credit to our defensive coaches, credit to our players because a lot of times when these young men don't know what's going on, they will end up sitting, or folding, or giving up and so they made an adjustment and the coaches were able to keep their spirits high and the players — I give it to them as well — because they were able to make the corrections, listen to their coaches at halftime and come back out and do the job," Salanoa said.
Three of the Chargers' first four second-half possessions resulted in punts; the other resulted in a lost fumble. Their fifth drive ended with a turnover on downs.
The Rams added an insurance score early in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard scoring strike to Roch Schaefer from Victorino-Avilla, his third TD pass of the game.
Payton opening the scoring with a 2-yard TD run just three plays after a Pearl City lost a fumble on the very first play from scrimmage, but the PAT was no good.
The Chargers answered with a 64-yard touchdown on a pass to Joshua Gleason from Feesago on their next drive and took their first lead at 7-6 on Rodriguez's extra point about three minutes into the contest.
They took their largest lead at 14-6 after a 2-yard TD run by Triton Timanao and the Rodriguez PAT with 7:47 left in the second quarter.
After the Victorino-Avilla TD pass to Carlson with 6:41 until halftime, Syncere Dillard ran in the two-point conversion that followed to tie the score at 14-all.
The ensuing kickoff was muffed by a Pearl City lineman and recovered by Kanoa Nahinu for Radford at the Chargers' 45-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Victorino-Avilla connected with Carlson for a 36-yard pick-up. He then found Payton on a screen pass on the very next play and the senior running back navigated his way around a wall of blockers and into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. That score reclaimed the lead for the Rams at 20-14 after another failed extra point.
Payton finished with 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in his very first game for Radford. He also caught two passes for 38 yards and returned two kickoffs for 60 yards.
"I think Christian did a good job," Salanoa said. "I think he still has a lot to learn. There were a few plays that he's trying to beat everyone with his speed, or he's not seeing the holes or what we're seeing, but we're going to make corrections on video, but I think his effort was great tonight."
Payton exited the game briefly in the second half due to cramping, but was able to return.
"We need to do a better job of making sure that he's hydrated and gets all the proper nutrients to get ready for a long game," Salanoa said.
Ultimately, the Rams were all smiles after they picked up their first on-field victory since Oct. 5, 2018. They endured a winless 2019 season — their last one in Division I — and then a 2020 season that was, well, non-existent.
"I think we're just happy to be able to play again in front of fans — we're happy that the state is allowing that — we're happy that our players get to showcase their talents and we're looking forward to a great season," Salanoa said.
Both teams struggled on third downs: Pearl City was just 2 of 13, including 0 for 7 after halftime, while Radford was 1 for 11 on third downs.
The teams combined for 31 flags and 271 yards in penalty yardage. The Chargers committed 17 of those infractions for 140 yards.
Pearl City, which played without starting quarterback Trey Dacoscos for undisclosed reasons, finished with an exact 50-50 split of 134 rushing yards and the same amount through the air for 268 total yards.
Feesago completed 13 of his 27 passes for 124 yards. He also ran for a team-high 72 yards on nine carries, while Gleason tallied six receptions for a team-high 87 yards and also intercepted a pass on defense.
Victorino-Avilla finished 21-of-35 passing; he completed passes to eight different teammates in the win.
Jabez Aloalii-Maanaima and Elijah Falaniko had two sacks apiece for the Radford defense.
Mark Moreno forced and recovered a fumble for Pearl City defensively.
The Rams had 26 first downs to 12 for the Chargers.
Both teams return to action Saturday. Pearl City will host PAC-5 in a non-league game at Bino Neves Stadium, while Radford will take on McKinley at Roosevelt's Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
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