Defense and backup QB leads Wahine Koa to victory

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Michelle Dannenberger, Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, escapes the grasp of Lauren Lupinetti to throw a pass downfield.

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Michelle Dannenberger, Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, escapes the grasp of Lauren Lupinetti to throw a pass downfield.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor

The Wahine Koa put up a strong defense and got a gutsy performance from stand-in quarterback Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Michelle Dannenberger, Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, to beat the Pearl City Paniolos, 12-6, on March 30 at Keehi Lagoon Park in Honolulu and advance into the Extreme Wahine Flag Football League Hawaii championship game.

The title showdown for the league crown will pit the Wahine Koa against the Wardawgs and is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. April 6 at Keehi Lagoon Park.

Many of the players from Wahine Koa are active-duty military or armed forces family members based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, while the Wardawgs are equally stocked with personnel affiliated with Marine Corps Base Hawaii from Kaneohe.

Dannenberger, who normally plays linebacker for the Wahine Koa, was pressed into action after starting quarterback Dana Hester couldn’t attend due to a family emergency.

With only one full practice in her pocket, Dannenberger, who was further handicapped when she broke her prescription eyeglasses on the first play of the game, led the team on one scoring drive and committed no turnovers while letting her defense do the rest to preserve the six-point win.

“She pretty much played the game blind and in a blur,” said Wahine Koa offensive coordinator Lt. j.g. Gennaro Hawkins, Naval Computer Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific.

“We had no backup plan. It was either you stay healthy or we just run the ball. The biggest thing there is we had a team. Everybody was behind her, and we were planning on winning no matter what.”

At first, it seemed as if the Paniolos were picking up where they left off the previous week when the team scored 26 against the Wahine Koa in a losing cause.

Working with good field position on the Wahine Koa 28, the Paniolos moved the ball to the 18-yard line before running back Schnelle Smith swept to the right and streaked into the end zone for an early 6-0 lead.

The lead stood up until halftime, but on the first drive in the second half the Wahine Koa erased the deficit by moving the ball 32 yards on seven plays to tie the score at 6-6.

On the scoring drive, the Wahine Koa opened up with a punishing ground game led by retired Army veteran Simone Davis to put the ball on the Paniolos nine-yard line.

Facing fourth down, Dannenberger dropped back and tossed a pass to the back of the end zone where Dee Hawkins, who is the wife of Hawkins, jumped straight up and made the clutch catch before touching down for six points.

“I couldn’t pick out faces. I can only see colors,” Dannenberger said. “It helped that I knew what route she (Hawkins) was running. I put it up there and trusted that she would go get it and she got it.”

Coach Hawkins added that Dannenberger and the team executed exactly what he designed for the offense at halftime.

“We kept pounding the ball, and I knew that at some time they (Paniolos) would quit,” he said. “I picked a point and had her (Hawkins) slip through and we executed the plan.”

On the next series, the Paniolos were on the verge of going back out in front by moving the ball to the Wahine Koa 10-yard line.

However, with the game on the line, Wahine, Koa safety Staff Sgt. Carra Harris, 392nd Intelligence Squadron, came up with perhaps the biggest play of the game.

Facing second and goal from the 10-yard line, Paniolos quarterback Kate Robinson threw a pass that was intended for receiver Lauren Lupinetti.

Instead, Harris stepped in front of Lupinetti, intercepted the pass and broke downfield before being stopped just shy of the Paniolos end zone.

It was the second interception of the game for the

Wahine Koa defense as Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Siva Savaiinaea, Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii, came up with a pick in the first half.

“The last time they played against us, they ran that play a lot,” said Harris, who will take the field the next time with a different last name, as she will wed Tech. Sgt Terry Beeman on April 4. “I read it when they positioned and I just blitzed to the outside. That felt pretty good because the last game, they got to me a lot.”

Two plays later, Wahine Koa took the lead for good on an option that sprung Shardae Ingano into the end zone for the game winner.

While the win has placed the Wahine Koa in the championship game for the fifth consecution time, Hawkins said that no one on the team is taking anything for granted.

Although the Wardawgs beat Wahine Koa, 14-12, in the regular season, Hawkins said that the team wouldn’t have revenge on its mind.

“We’re just going to prepare like any other game,” Hawkins said. “We’re not going to worry about the two-point loss from three weeks ago. We’re just going to plan and get ready to execute.”

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Category: Sports