The celebration began in the Basic crowd with 1:28 to play Friday night, but for a while, it looked like it might be premature.
That’s when senior John Funaki stepped in with a big play to seal it. Funaki intercepted A.J. Amelburu’s desperation pass at the 1-yard line as time expired, and the Wolves held on for a 26-21 road victory over Green Valley in the annual Henderson Bowl.
“He’s one of our leaders, he’s always doing the right things, he’s working hard and he’s got the guys on his back sometimes,” Basic coach Jeff Cahill said of Funaki, who made three huge plays in the fourth quarter to seal the win. “I expect it from him.”
Funaki’s first big play came after an interception by Deondre Ishman gave sixth-ranked Basic (5-1, 1-0 Southeast League) the ball at the Green Valley 27. Funaki took the ball on the second play of the drive and went 22 yards for a touchdown, carrying a defender on his back for the final 8 yards to give the Wolves a 19-14 lead with 4:11 to play.
Ninth-ranked Green Valley went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 29 on the ensuing possession, and Funaki stuffed Amelburu at the line to give the Wolves the ball back with 2:21 to go.
Sean White scored on a 7-yard run with 1:28 to play to push the lead to 26-14, and chants of “Maybe next year,” rang out from the Basic stands.
But the Gators (2-4, 0-1) came up with a quick scoring drive with Amelburu hitting Marquez Powell in stride down the left sideline for a 31-yard scoring pass to cut the Basic lead to 26-21 with 28 seconds to play.
Powell then made a leaping grab of the high-bouncing onside kick, giving the Gators one more shot. Basic was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, moving the ball to the Wolves 35.
Amelburu completed a 15-yard pass on the first play of the drive, then threw three incomplete passes. On the game’s final play, Amelburu was flushed out of the pocket and fired a desperation pass toward the end zone, but Funaki was there to pick it off and Basic celebrated for real this time.
“I told everybody on the sidelines that we’ve been through this too many times to think it’s over,” Cahill said. “Green Valley has all kinds of heart, all kinds of fight, and they’re not going to let that bowl go. They’re going to scratch, claw and fight for it and that’s what they did. They made a couple of outstanding plays, but luckily at the end, we made the last one.”
Green Valley had captured the previous three Henderson Bowls, but I was Basic that came away with the trophy after the 25th meeting.
“It feels like three long years of hard work is what it feels like,” Funaki said.
“This is the biggest win of the year other than state and the Sunrise Region championship.”
Basic had trouble sustaining drives, but took advantage of short fields after three turnovers to do its scoring.
Ishman’s interception turned the tide for Basic, which hadn’t led since the first quarter.
“Deondre Ishman’s interception was huge,” Cahill said. “That was the game-turner right there.”
Quarterback Aeneas McCallister had a 30-yard TD run, and Montana Gomez hit field goals of 39 and 30 yards for Basic.
Kawika Jones rushed for 119 yards and had a 74-yard TD run for Green Valley, which leads the all-time series 15-10.
“They’ve never had the bowl since they’ve been here at Basic, and one of their goals was to bring it back,” Cahill said of his senior class. “I tell you, when that clock hit zero, it was pure elation on our sideline. It was awesome to see.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.