Defending state champion Service fell just short of starting its football season with a tie for the second straight season Friday, falling 23-15 to Leilehua in a rematch of the Fire and Ice Bowl in Honolulu.
Last year, Leilehua made a furious comeback to forge a 34-34 tie. This time it was Service trying to come back from an eight-point deficit in the game's final minute. A couple of big plays moved the Cougars across midfield to the Mules' 30-yard line with 10 seconds left, but the game ended on a C.J. Toomer fumble that neither team recovered before time expired.
Service trailed 23-7 at halftime after struggling to move the ball in the second quarter. Toomer took over at quarterback and routinely handed the ball off to starting quarterback Amu Aukusitino, whose shifty, but punishing running style sparked the Cougars.
Aukusitino, Alaska's offensive player of the year last season, put the Cougars back in the game when he plowed through the arms of numerous defenders on a 10-yard touchdown run with 7:43 remaining. He added a two-point conversion run for the game's final points.
Service started strong on the game's opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Aukusitino to Thavun Srisaneha. Aukusitino quickly notched three first-down runs of more than 10 yards on the opening drive, setting up the 34-yard strike to a wide open Srisaneha.
Leilehua answered Service's opening score with 23 unanswered points, starting with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Justin Jenks to Keoni Piceno. A failed two-point conversion left the Mules down 7-6, but they led 9-7 after a pretty 36-yard field goal from Brennon Jacinto.
Keoni Piceno caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Levi Castanares, and Kahi Kilaulani hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jenks to put the Mules up 23-7 at halftime.