After sitting on the sidelines with an injury during last year's first-round playoff exit, Skyline running back Kalama Molisi wanted to be sure his presence was felt this time around.
Molisi ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 36-21 win in the opening round of the playoffs Friday. The senior also managed over 150 yards on kick and punt returns in spearheading a Skyline attack that pulled away after a close first half.
"I've waited a year for this, and I'm so excited to be back. It felt good to be out there today," Molisi said. "I'm not a psychic, I don't know how to tell the future, but by the way it looks right now we've got a good chance (to win the state championship.)"
Trailing 9-7 at halftime, the Eagles turned to Molisi to lead them. He responded by scampering for a 73-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage to give Skyline its first lead, 14-9. Riverton swiped the lead back. 15-14, when quarterback Davis Johnson dumped a short pass to Andrew Carver for a four-yard touchdown. The rest was all Molisi and the Skyline defense, which notched four sacks and two interceptions while holding the Riverton running game to under 100 yards.
"Our kids let mistakes get in their heads early and we told them they were too uptight; they needed to relax," Skyline head coach Roger Dupaix said. "But Kalama gave us that boost that we needed in the third quarter. He's a special player, and he's been fighting a knee injury all year. He toughed it out and we went to him."
Even with the win, not all is well with Skyline, as quarterback Lanny Papanikolas left the game with a high ankle sprain during the fourth. Dupaix said he hopes Papanikolas will be able to play next week. In his stead, backup Kenny Schmidt ran for a 20-yard touchdown on the next play, giving a bit of relief to some Eagles backers.
Riverton took advantage of Skyline mistakes early to set the pace for the game. Skyline's Cruz Edgington muffed a punt return on Riverton's opening drive, leading to a Marco Trujillo touchdown run and 7-0 Silverwolves lead. Skyline answered with a Papanikolas 15-yard option keeper to tie the score.
A Skyline fumble gave Riverton another golden chance in Eagles territory, but Schmidt intercepted Davis Johnson's fourth-down pass. The Wolves would, however, get two more points and a 9-7 halftime lead when a bad punt snap bounced through the back of the end zone.
Skyline is now 35-0 all-time in home playoff games.