Service High nearly pulled off a dramatic victory Thursday in the country's first high school football game of the season, but surrendered two touchdowns in the last three-plus minutes and settled for a 34-34 tie with Leilehua in Oahu, Hawaii.
The Cougars held a 34-21 lead with 3:05 remaining, but the Leilehua Mighty Mules charged back and tie the Fire and Ice Bowl with two seconds left.
Service's Amu Aukusitino, who put impressive offensive and defensive skills on display throughout the game, looked to have possibly sealed the victory when he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown with just more than nine minutes remaining.
But Leilehua quarterback Kenan Sadanaga tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left to cut the score 34-27, and after the Mules recovered an onside kick, Sadanaga struck with another short touchdown pass with two seconds left.
The Mules' comeback put a damper on an otherwise well-played game by the Cougars. Aukusitino played quarterback and defensive back, and the junior orchestrated a strong opening drive, gaining first downs with his arm and his feet and capping the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Aukusitino completed 10 of 17 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown, rushed 12 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns and furnished that critical interception return.
The Cougars took a 14-0 lead when Aukusitino threw a screen pass to senior Daniel Murakami, then threw a key block that sprung Murakami for a 63-yard score.
The first half was full of highlight-reel plays, including a hook-and-lateral play by the Cougars and a 30-yard run by 290-pound Erich Pili on fourth down. Pili rumbled down the field with tacklers bouncing off him, setting up another Aukusitino touchdown run.
The Cougars last season finished second in the state large schools division, falling 6-0 to West High in the championship game.