West High running back Tana Afeaki is an elusive, patient, explosive running back all rolled into one. His head coach Randy Schriter describes him as an immensely talented knucklehead. He is also a major reason the Panthers were able to defeat the Olympus Titans 28-21.
"The kid doesn't even understand how incredibly good he is," said Schriter. "He's a knucklehead, the kind you love, he can do anything on the field, he's the most talented back I've seen in a long time ... If he ever figure it out he could play at the next level."
That talent was on full display for the Panthers. On West's first possession of the game Afeaki took a simple swing pass and weaved in and out of Olympus' defense, at one point cutting across the length of the field 64 yards to the five yard line, setting up the Panthers first touchdown.
The next time Afeaki touched the ball was even more spectacular than the first. After Olympus tied the game at seven, Afeaki took a simple hand off at the West 20-yard line, made two linebackers miss and juked on the Titans free safety so badly he wasn't able to lay a hand on him and raced 80 yards for the touchdown. Displaying the rare combination of blazing speed with the patience to both follow his lead blockers and set up his fakes Afeaki finished the game with over 250 all-purpose yards.
Leading the way for Afeaki's big gains was the massive offensive line that did a great job creating holes for Afeaki, and cleared defenders for both Tipa Valsigano and Tului Lee space to rush for touchdowns. The Panthers big men controlled the line of scrimmage and hustled down field to scrape off defenders at the end of plays.
"Our offensive line did an unbelievable job tonight, they won us that game," said Schriter.
West quarterback Daniel Wray was also instrumental in victory. Olympus had tied the game at 21-21 late in the fourth quarter; coming back from 21-7, and had re-gained the momentum. West faced an important drive to regain the lead. Wray delivered in a big way, turning a simple quarterback draw into a spectacular 65-yard touchdown run, at one point cutting back across the field and outracing all Titan defenders to the end zone. It was the type of big play on offense that defined the game for the Panthers.
Keeping the game close for Olympus was junior quarterback Spencer Harris, who finished the game with more than 300 yards total yards including two touchdowns passes to Carter Young and Austin Walker, and one rushing. The Titans quarterback ran the wide-open five receiver set offense with patience and excellent timing. Olympus demonstrated a gritty determination in coming back two different occasions to tie the game and had several opportunities late to tie the score for a third time.