One of the oldest clichés in football is it’s hard to beat a team twice in same season, but on Friday night at the Nest on Hillcrest, West High proved otherwise. The Eagles drubbed Service for the second time in less than a month in a resounding 51-0 victory.
The triumph extended West’s winning streak to six in a row and punched its ticket to next weekend’s Division I Alaska state championship game.
“I’m really proud of these kids and their effort in practice,” West coach Tim Davis said. “It’s really easy to get your heads big after beating a team before in a pretty good victory.”
While West has been a perennial contender for the vast majority of Davis’ tenure at the helm of the program spanning nearly the last decade and a half, the Eagles hadn’t gotten past the semifinals since the 2018 season when they fell to eventual state champion Bettye Davis East.
The Eagles were able to end their state title game appearance drought by putting together one of their most impressive and complete performances of the season. They made big plays, scored points, and dominated the Cougars in all three phases of the game.
“I feel like our wins this year have been complete,” Davis said. “There’s no one star and that’s the best part about these games. They’ve just played so well as a unit and a brotherhood.”
On offense, West was powered by a two-headed monster of a backfield tandem consisting of senior Mason Tanoa and Davis Iloilo. They combined for 236 rushing yards and five touchdowns between them with Tanoa leading the way with 130 yards and three scores on the ground.
“You have this hammer that’s a curveball coming at you, and then all of sudden there’s the fast ball,” Davis said. “You’ve got to love the way those two complement each other. It’s kind of old school, but it’s good, hard, physical football.”
While Iloilo is known more for being the hammering bruiser of the two, Tanoa also runs with tremendous power as well but did his best work in the open field on Friday night as he repeatedly made several defenders miss with sharp cuts and swift juke moves.
“It’s playoffs, and we run hard no matter what,” Tanoa said. “It doesn’t matter what team it is, we got it.”
As a team, West racked up nearly 300 yards on the ground alone and another 90 yards and a pair of scores through the air as senior quarterback Azariah Atonio finished 12-of-27 with two touchdowns to one interception.
West’s physically imposing offensive line asserted its will on the Service front seven all night long, consistently opening up holes for the Eagles’ running backs to explode through. The unit also kept Atonio upright so he could operate from inside and outside of the pocket.
“This whole week we were locked in mentally and physically, and I felt like we had to push through the adversity of having mentality that we could lose,” senior offensive guard Tavita “Vika” Faletoi said. “We never had that because we all pushed together as a team.”
The West defense continued to be an overwhelming force for opposing offenses, relentlessly swarming to the ball, applying nonstop pressure on their quarterbacks and coming up with stops and turnovers.
“The defensive play put in by coach Devin Collins, and his staff was awesome,” Davis said. “The scout team played their butts off in practice, and it all really came together tonight.”
Tonoa played a key role in scoring the defense’s only points of the game when he wrapped up Service quarterback Jonathon Tautua in his own end zone after the Service offense had been backed up to start a drive in the second quarter. Tonoa was able to rip the ball out for a forced fumble, and even though one of the Cougars landed on it, several Eagles jumped on him to force a safety.
On the very next play, which was a free kick as a result of the safety, the West special teams unit got in on the scoring action when senior Aarion Alexander scored his second touchdown of the first half on a 60-yard kick. He started running left before reversing field and following a convoy of blockers to the end zone.
Alexander was also on the receiving end of Atonio’s first touchdown pass early in the second quarter on a play where he caught the ball about 10 yards shy of pay dirt but made a pair of defenders miss on his way into the end zone.
West built up a whopping 37-0 lead at halftime and tacked on another touchdown in each of the final two quarters, capping off the scoring onslaught with a 14-yard catch and run a connection from Atonio to senior wide receiver Aaron Hampton.
The Eagles will be favorites to take the title in Saturday’s championship game at Service High at 6:30 p.m.
“That’s the goal right now, and we’re feeling really confident,” Faletoi said.