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Prep Football: West establishes No-Fly Zone as defense takes control in 41-22 win over East

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Cover Story, Football

West’s Christian Faletoi. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Goon Gallery

The West defensive backs made the T-birds pay for entering restricted air space Friday night.

Dylan Sanders, Christian Faletoi and Aaron Hampton each had interceptions in the second half as the Eagles established a No-Fly Zone in a 41-22 victory at East in a Cook Inlet Conference clash.

West quarterback Azariah Atonio amassed 161 total yards with three touchdowns – two rushing and one passing – and Mason Tanoa added a 20-yard TD run on the one play he filled in for Atonio.

The offense racked up 329 yards and took the lead for good at 27-22 on Atonio’s 25-yard scoring strike to Ariel Sanchez with 7:51 to play.

The defense closed it out, setting up one score and producing another in the next 109 seconds.

Sanders snagged his league-best fifth interception of the season and his 46-yard return gave West the ball at the 7-yard line. Two plays later, Davis Iloilo plowed his way into the end zone for his league-high 10th rushing TD of the season.

Less than a minute later, 240-pound defensive end Leonidas Mata cashed in on a scoop-and-score after returning a fumble 30 yards.

West improved to 4-1 in the CIC to tie East atop the league standings.

The victory allowed West coach Tim Davis to gain ground in his head-to-head matchup with East coach Jeff Trotter, who had won 14 of 19 meetings dating back to 2011.

After a slow start, things heated up in the second half as the teams exchanged TDs on four straight possessions, resulting in four lead changes.

But offense gave way to defense, and West pulled away thanks to its dynamite defensive backs and linemen. The boys up front were especially good as they clogged the lanes and tamed East’s four-headed rushing attack.

East’s Andrew Montenegro. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Goon Gallery

T-bird backs Andrew Montenegro, Saumani Atiifale, Jon Jon Cervana and Toa Samoa combined for 141 yards on 37 carries. They managed only three runs of 10 yards or more.

West’s interior was so excellent and efficient that 14 East runs resulted in 1, 0 or minus-1 yard. In other words, a whole lotta nada.

Meanwhile, West’s rushing game garnered 208 yards behind Iliolo, a bellwether back who ran for 97 yards and eclipsed the 700-yard benchmark on the year.

Tanoa, who was a star on both sides of the ball, added 45 yards on the ground while Atonio had 40.

Sanders was another terrific two-way player as he got four carries at halfback and gained 26 yards late in the fourth quarter to go with his interception. He looked like a running back on the return as he nearly scored.

Faletoi’s pick was his fourth of the year, which is tied for second in the CIC. Hampton blocked an extra point and grabbed a tipped pick.

Atonio threw for 121 yards and completed passes to five different receivers. His TD pass midway in the fourth quarter was a nice toss and nice catch by Sanchez in coverage.

Early on, Atonio showcased his running ability as he scored on a pair of rushing TDs in the second quarter to help the Eagles take a 13-6 lead into halftime.

Atonio, an East transfer, ran for a 12-yard gain in the third quarter where he initiated a big hit on a T-bird defender. Both players were shaken up and had to come out of the game for one play.

West’s Mason Tanoa. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Goon Gallery

Enter Tanoa the Tank. He replaced Atonio under center and bounced a keeper to the outside and reached the end zone practically untouched on a 20-yard run.

East, sporting powder blue jerseys, opened the game by scoring on its first drive after marching 69 yards on 12 plays capped by Austin Johnson’s 5-yard TD pass to Pusa Lilo.

The T-birds took a 14-13 lead in the third quarter on Atiifale’s 5-yard TD run and 2-point conversion. On East’s next drive, Johnson found his favorite target Brandon Young for an 8-yard TD pass for their ninth TD connection.

Atiifale’s second 2-point conversion of the night gave the T-birds a 22-21 advantage early in the fourth quarter that quickly evaporated.

West 0 13 8 20 – 41
East 6 0 8 8 – 22

FIRST QUARTER
East – Lilo 5 pass from Johnson (kick blocked)
SECOND QUARTER
West – Atonio 11 run (kick missed)
West – Atonio 10 run (Crowley kick)
THIRD QUARTER
East – Atiifale 5 run (Atiifale run)
West – Tanoa 20 run (Tanoa run)
FOURTH QUARTER
East – Young 8 pass from Johnson (Atiifale run)
West – Sanchez 25 pass from Atonio (PAT failed)
West – Iloilo 4 run (Crowley kick)
West – Mata 30 fumble return (Crowley kick)

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