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Prep Football: East’s Saumani Atiifale stands tall for T-birds in 28-7 loss to North Creek in Seattle

by | Sep 2, 2023 | Cover Story, Football

East’s do-it-all football player Saumani Atiifale left it all on the field Friday night in Seattle.

The T-birds’ playmaker made multiple memorable plays on both sides of the ball to highlight his team’s performance in a 28-7 loss to the North Creek Jaguars of Bothel, Washington.

Atiifale scored his team’s only touchdown, surpassed 100 yards on the ground and wrapped up ball carriers on his way to recording double figure tackles.

Atiifale and fellow running back Jon Jon Cervana combined for 179 of the team’s 235 total yards against a defense that held the East offense in check as the T-birds fell to 3-1 this season.

This was North Creek’s season opener and the Jags looked sharp right away as they scored on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. After a 24-yard flea flicker set them in the red zone, quarterback Jackson McGill scored on a 10-yard keeper.

McGill is the best quarterback the T-birds will face this season. He was most dangerous on the move as his run-pass option skill set took center stage.

Saumani Atiifale

In the second quarter, McGill connected with Peyton Cunningham on a screen pass that turned into a 17-yard TD after Cunningham zigged and zagged to reach the end zone untouched.

Later in the quarter, Cunningham scored on a pick six after he returned an interception 35 yards to make it 21-0. The 6-foot-1 Cunningham is being recruited by Washington State, Nevada and Oregon State among others.

Yards were hard to come by early against a North Creek defensive line that hounded East quarterback Austin Johnson for most of the night.

Johnson had scored four TDs in back-to-back games before coming to Seattle, where the Jags held him to just 49 total yards.

Johnson was sacked four times in the first half.

In the second half, East got its groove back behind its potent rushing attack.

On the first drive of the third quarter, East drove 51 yards on eight straight running plays with Atiifale and Cervana chewing up chunks of yardage. Atiifale had runs of 8, 7, 6 and 6 yards on the drive while Cervana busted off long runs of 11 and 8 yards.

But the T-birds fumbled at the North Creek 15 to lose the ball, and momentum. They got it back and did the same thing, running right through the North Creek defense for an 80-yard scoring drive.

Jon Jon Cervana

Cervana had a run of 31 yards and Atiifale added a 30-yard run. North Creek was called for an obvious pass interference call in the end zone on 3rd-and-5 from the 10, giving East new life at the 5. Three plays later, Atiifale scored on a 1-yard plunge.

Atiifale finished with 112 yards on 17 carries. As a linebacker, he added three tackles for loss.

The 5-foot-10, 240-pound tank makes people feel it when he hits them – and when they hit him.

In the fourth quarter, a North Creek defensive back found out the hard way when he threw his body into Atiifale near the goal line and went down, got up and went back down again. Moments later, he jogged off the field. But he was hurting.

North Creek missed a 23-yard field goal but later scored on a 1-yard QB sneak as the lead swelled to 28-7.

In the closing moments and East in punt formation deep in its own territory, the snap went over Johnson’s head and into the end zone but the East senior somehow managed to grab the ball and escape pressure to get off a punt while running for dear life.

The result? A 55-yard bomb that got decent hang time with no return.

East 0 0 0 7 – 7
North Creek 7 14 0 7 – 28

North Creek – McGill 10 run (Devekos kick)
North Creek – Cunningham 17 pass from McGill (Devekos kick)
North Creek – Cunningham 35 interception return (Devekos kick)
No Scoring
East – Atiifale 1 run (Johnson kick)
North Creek – McGill 1 run (Devekos kick)

Story made possible by:

Family of Sponsors

Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Alaska Airlines | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Joe Alston | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Aspen Endodontics | Glen Bailey | Kathie Bethard | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Continental Auto Group | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris | The Conway Family | Donley Family | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Foley & Pearson | JL Properties | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Amy and Jason Miller | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | Rick Mystrom | Kathleen Navarre | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Dave and DeAnne Rand | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Replacement Glass | Residential Mortgage | RSA Engineering- Sarah & A.J. Schirack | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Peter Pounds | Dan Rufner | Harlow Robinson | Pete Robinson | Moria Smith | Taylored Restoration | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Team Heat | Todd Whited | UAA Seawolves | Don Winchester

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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