Luis Velez had a memorable day in Pahoa’s first Big Island Interscholastic Federation 8-man football game on Saturday at Wong Stadium, running quarterback keepers and rewarding the Dagger faithful with big plays.
It wasn’t enough and the Hilo junior varsity defeated the Daggers 50-6 in the season-opener. The loss goes down as an exhibition for Pahoa because it was against a JV team, but it served as a valuable learning lesson.
The youthful Vikings capitalized on their speed, especially on offense when gaps weren’t covered. They also flooded the tackle box when the Daggers struggled to find a rhythm with their passing game.
Still, the Pahoa fans came out in force, numbering about half of the crowd’s 1,000 in attendance.
The Daggers had a rough first half on both sides of the ball and trailed 29-0, unable to establish a consistent running game or a strategy to deal with Hilo’s team speed.
Pahoa opened out of the shotgun with a single back and three wide receivers then switched to an I-formation in the second half with Dyson Gacutan joining Damien Mercado in the backfield.
Mercado had just 17 yards on eight attempts while Gacutan, all in second-quarter work, added 11 yards on five carries.
Velez provided most of the offense with 86 yards, most on keepers, on 12 attempts. However, he was just 1 of 7 for negative 3 yards in the first half, and that lack of a passing threat allowed the Vikings to run blitz at will.
On the game’s opening possession, Pahoa faked punted on fourth down, when Velez had his first completion for negative yards.
The Vikings had golden field position, and scored three plays later when Kore Ohumukini ran in from 3 yards.
Late in the first quarter, Hilo quarterback Iosaia Lavatai displayed sharp timing with Joe Pagan on a 15-yard scoring strike for a 14-0 lead.
At the start of the second quarter, Kalei Tolentino-Perry picked off Velez, and a half-dozen plays later Lavatai scored on a 1-yard run for a 21-0 advantage.
On the ensuing series, the Daggers started from their 13-yard line and advanced all the way to Hilo’s 34. But on fourth-and-1, Velez’s QB keeper was met with a gap-plugged run blitz for no yards.
Hilo’s speed paid off again when Kahale Huddleston zoomed in for a 16-yard touchdown for a 29-0 cushion, after a two-point run.
At the start of the third quarter, Huddleston went work early, scoring on the first play from scrimmage on a 51-yard dazzling run.
On their next possession, the Daggers fumbled deep in their territory and a few plays later Cierra Kelii — the Vikings girls basketball standout — scored on a 1-yard run for a 43-0 lead.
Then it was a historic Pahoa moment for 8-man football when Velez led a nine-play scoring drive. He had a pair of big plays, a 21-yard run and 39-yard pass completion, to set up his 5-yard TD run — the first ever in 8-man school history.
The thrill of that memorable touchdown was soon replaced by another Hilo highlight, Okhumukini’s second TD, a 52-yard scamper for a 50-6 lead.
Gacutan, on defense, gave the Dagger faithful a jolt of excitement when he scooped up a fumble at Pahoa’s 5-yard line and started running with a 95-yard touchdown in mind. However, there was an illegal block in the back that nullified the play.
Velez rushed for 165 yards on 21 carries and was 2 of 13 for 33 yards with an interception. Mercado finished with 30 yards on 11 attempts while Gacutan had 14 yards on eight carries.
Defensively for the Daggers, cornerback Austin Noah Christian had a solid game, racking up a half-dozen tackles and getting one pass deflection.
Pahoa 0 0 6 0 —6
Hilo 14 15 21 0—50
Hilo — Kore Ohumukini 3 run (Lukas Kuipers kick), 7:33
Hilo — Joe Pagan 15 pass from Iosaia Lavatai (Kuipers kick), 1:09
Hilo — Lavatai 1 run (Kuipers kick), 9:03
Hilo — Kahale Huddleston 16 run (two-point run), 2:19
Hilo — Huddleston 51 run (Kuipers kick), 9:45
Hilo — Cierra Kelii 1 run (Kuipers kick), 6:34
Pah — Luis Velez 5 run (run failed), :12
Hilo: Ohumukini 52 run (Kuipers kick), 9:43