OT Needed in Inaugural Life Champion Senior Bowl
It may have been a goodwill game, but none of the nearly 90 high school seniors and close to a dozen coaches were content in leaving Saturday night’s inaugural Life Champion Senior Bowl with a loss.
Baldwin’s Keanan Luis made sure that the Black team would leave victorious, scoring on a 25-yard run on the first play of overtime to give the Black squad a 35-28 win over the White team in front of a crowd of nearly 1,500 people at Kamehameha-Hawai’i’s Paiea Stadium.
“I just saw my o-line blocking right, so I bounced left,” said Luis, who ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. “I give props to all my blockers. They took everybody in, giving me the outside to score.”
Over 30 schools were represented in Saturday’s game, which was broadcast on ScoringLive.com. Put on by the Hawaii Football Club with support from the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance and various sponsors, the Life Champion Senior Bowl was initially supposed to be a showcase game for neighbor island seniors, but became a statewide football showcase with the cancellation of the Hawai’i Union Builders Goodwill Senior Bowl, normally held on Oahu.
Pearl City’s Jordan Taamu, known to be an efficient passer, used his legs and his offensive line as a valuable asset Saturday. He only rushed for two touchdowns the entire season, but ran in three goal-line scores in the postseason exhibition.
“I wouldn’t have done it without my line, all of the Kahuku guys and the linemen. They did great,” said Taamu, who was named the PIAA Most Valuable Player after the game.
Taamu got the start for his team, coached by Pima College’s Jim Monaco. He capped off a methodical 15-play, 65 yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give his team the 7-0 advantage with 6:24 left in the opening quarter.
“The first time, it was a screwed up play, but they made it work, and without them, I wouldn’t have scored,” Taamu explained. “I think our coaches made the right calls and the right plays and made us show it out there.”
Taamu’s second touchdown run came on the final play of the first half, running in for another one-yard score to tie the game at 14. His third one-yard run came with 59 seconds left in the third quarter, giving his team a 28-21 lead at the time.
Taamu finished with 28 yards rushing on 12 carries. He also completed 13 of his 22 passing attempts for 173 yards.
Hilo senior Donovan Kelley was in contention for the MVP award, His 83-yard touchdown reception from Nanakuli quarterback Kale Kanehailua, capped by a perfect backflip in the end zone, tied the game at 7-7 with 5:51 remaining in the first half.
The two connected again near the end of the half, as Kelley caught a pass in the left flat and followed the path set by his blockers for a 26-yard touchdown, giving the White squad a 14-7 advantage with 1:13 remaining in the half. Kelley, primarily a defensive standout in Hilo’s secondary, caught six passes for 149 yards.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i quarterback Micah Kanehailua was on the same team as his cousin Kale. A month ago, the two faced off against one another in a state tournament game, won by the Warriors. Both quarterbacks got ample time to showcase their skills, with Kale throwing for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Micah passed for 132 yards, a touchdown, and a late interception.
After Luis’ first touchdown run, a 17-yard run early in the third quarter, Kanehailua found Kaiser receiver Destin Moss for a game-tying 45-yard strike, drawing even with the Black team at 21-21 with 4:22 left in the third period.
Moss caught nine passes for 100 yards.
Kale Kanehailua found Kahuku’s Alohi Gilman for an 11-yard touchdown reception to the the game again at 28-28 with 9:21 remaining in the game.
Both defenses would step up late in the game. The Black team, or as named by the players, the “Aztecs Coqui Frog Bags,” was in its opponent’s red zone when Luis fumbled the football away. That play came two plays after Micah Kanehailua’s interception, which also occurred in the opposing team’s red zone.
The Black squad would get a chance to win the game in regulation with a 39-yard field goal try from Alex Trifonovich of Punahou. Despite hitting a 47-yard kick in practice a day earlier, Trifonovich missed the go-ahead kick wide left, helping send the game into overtime.
In the end, the game still offered up moments that the “Life Champion” description of the game lived up to.
“We had a kid who gave up his shirt tonight because a kid forgot his jersey,” Monaco said. “You can’t put a price on that. That’s a team player. That’s a kid every coach wants to coach.”
Joe Schmitz, associate head coach at Briar Cliff University, led the White team, also known as “Schmoney” by the players. Featured assistant coaches included Saint Louis High School quarterbacks coach Vinny Passas and Occidental College quarterbacks coach Darnell Arcenaux.
White 0 14 7 7 0 – 28
Black 7 7 14 0 7 – 35
BLACK (6:24) – Jordan Taamu 1 yard run (Alex Trifonovich XPT good)
WHITE (5:51) – Donovan Kelley 83 yard reception from Kale Kanehailua (Zachary Kamaha’o-Romero XPT good)
WHITE (1:13) – Kelley 26 yard reception from K. Kanehailua (Kamaha’o-Romero XPT good)
BLACK (0:00) – Taamu 1 yard run (Trifonovich XPT good)
BLACK – Kaenan Luis 17 yard run (Trifonovich XPT good)
WHITE – Destin Moss 45 yard reception from Micah Kanehailua (Kamaha’o-Romero XPT good)
BLACK (0:59) – Taamu 1 yard run (Trifonovich XPT good)
WHITE (9:21) – Alohi Gilman 11 yard reception from K. Kanehailua (Kamaha’o-Romero XPT good)
BLACK – Luis 25 yard run (Trifonovich XPT good)