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The Hawaii soccer team goes home victorious

Nov. 20 – On a wet and windy Saturday night, the University of Hawaii football team overcame everything UNLV – and Mother Nature – could throw in for a 31-25 win.

On a wet and windy Saturday night, the University of Hawaii football team overcame everything UNLV – and Mother Nature – could throw in for a 31-25 win.

The Rainbow Warriors survived two late turnovers to pay an honest tribute to 20 seniors who played their final game at the Ching Complex. UH concludes the regular season with the away game against San Jose State next Saturday.

“That was for the seniors,” said second quarterback Brayden Schager, who was 16-to-27 for 202 yards and three touchdowns. “That’s what we’ve been preaching all week, playing for these seniors. I’m so happy we got the win for them. Seeing her smile was so amazing.”

Three seniors – Zion Bowens, Jordan Murray and Dedrick Parson – contributed to the success of the farewell party.

Bowens and Schager worked together in the third quarter on a 55-yard scoring pass with 1:01 left to give the Warriors a 21-16 lead they wouldn’t give up.

“We’ve had this game plan in our game plan all year,” Bowens said of the skinny post. “We had to execute. The fact that my family came here (from Long Beach, California) and I was able to get a touchdown and win is amazing.”

After each practice session, Schager and Bowens stayed and worked on routes of all distances, especially that deep ball. “We’re the last ones in practice – we work on the same shot in every single practice session,” said Schager. “It’s crazy. He helps me when he’s passing people. And I was able to put (that pass) on him.”

Early in the fourth quarter, UNLV’s Doug Brumfield threw a pass that bounced off Jeff Weimer. Weak side linebacker Logan Taylor caught the pop-up at UNLV 31 for his first interception in three UH seasons.

We’re talking about getting the ball,” Taylor said of the Warriors’ crush mentality. “The more population there is around the ball, the more good things happen.”

Five games later, Matthew Shipley’s field goal from 31 yards increased the lead to 24-16.

The Rebels then headed to UH 26, where Daniel Gutierrez attempted his fourth field goal of the night. But the powerful-legged kicker known as “Daniel Boom” hit a 44-yard drive that hit the left post and then bounced off the front of the crossbar. It was Gutierrez’s first miss of the season.

On UH’s subsequent possession, rush end Adam Plant Jr. charged from Schager’s left side and freed the football from the quarterback’s grip. Outside linebacker Elijah Shelton scooped the loose ball and ran 3 yards for a touchdown to reduce the Rebels’ lead to 24-22 with an 8-13 lead. The conversion pass could not be connected.

Gutierrez’s trailing squib hit UH tight end Murray, who then pounced on the football at 50. Tylan Hines ran for 39 yards but fumbled on the next play.

The warriors didn’t blame the rain for the fumble. “There are no excuses in football,” said UH coach Timmy Chang. “There aren’t any. We need to squeeze the football a little harder and make sure we take care of the ball.”

The Rebels’ next drive faltered at 45 when safety Peter Manuma cut off a fourth-down pass. The Warriors benefited from Parsons three consecutive rushes — the third for 34 yards for a touchdown.

The Rebels drove to the UH 22. But on the third and fifth, the Rebels decided to try the field goal. Gutierrez’s 40-yard field goal narrowed the gap to 31-25 with a 1:43 play.

Once again Gutierrez prepared an onside kick. This time he hacked a crossing kick that Murray, playing a few yards behind the front line, saved in 1:08, nearly ending the drama.

Murray, who transferred from Missouri State, had an uneven season as a tight end and receiver. “He struggled a bit but at the end of the day we knew we could count on him,” said Thomas Sheffield, who coordinates UH’s special teams. “He’s been preparing for (onside kicks) all week and it’s paid off.”

Murray said: “Our coaching staff talks about added value. That was my job for those two (onside) games I had to contribute. Coach Sheff did a good job of positioning us for those two games. All I had to do was my part.”

Ending a four-game losing streak saw the Warriors improve to 3-9 overall in Chang’s first season as head coach and 2-5 at the Mountain West. The Warriors reclaimed the Island Showdown Trophy.

“It was an honor to play on that field with these guys,” said tight end Caleb Phillips, who caught an 11-yard scoring pass.

Phillips joined the transfer portal in 2021 after graduating from Stanford. After playing linebacker for the Cardinal, he joined the Warriors as tight end, a position he hadn’t played since high school. “I’m super lucky to be on this team, super blessed,” said Phillips.

Defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro said the night belongs to Phillips and the other seniors. “Such a blessing for her to go out like this,” Yoro said. “They went through so much and stayed with us. They come every week ready to practice and play.”

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