East’s midfielder on the soccer pitch, called into gridiron duty because of his kicking acumen, lined up and drilled a 37-yard game-winning field goal into a blustery crosswind to edge rival Alta, 10-7, Friday night.

“I was a little nervous but I knew I was going to make it,” senior kicker Luca Viana said. “Snap, hold, kick, it was all good. Then the kick was good.”

East held a previously undefeated Alta team with an offense averaging nearly 40 points per game to a single touchdown through a relentless pass rush, and a second quarter touchdown and a full evening of effort from running back Michael “Nunu” Fonua carried the East offense to just enough production to open region play with a road victory.

“Bar none, I’ve got the best (defensive) line in the state,” East coach Brandon Matich said, while rolling through a list of his players on the defensive front. “Those kids are hungry, they’re fighters, they’re tough kids.”

East dominated the ball and the time of possession from the outset, limiting Alta to seven total offensive plays into the middle of the second quarter.

East converted two long fourth down attempts, weathered several penalties and held the ball for a punishing eight minutes of clock to break the deadlock.

Fonua powered into the end zone with a 6-yard rush off the push on the right side of the East line to make it 7-0 with 10:41 left in the first half.

“The kid is five foot nothing, 100 nothing, and he plays like he’s 6-2, 230 pounds,” Matich said. “You’ll see at the end of the year, he’ll be one of the best running backs in the state if he stays healthy. He’s a special kid.”

The teams traded second quarter interceptions until Alta established a trace of offensive traction with a two-quarterback dance between starter Matthew McKea and backup Tevita Niumeitolu.

The Hawks pieced together a 17-play drive with Niumeitolu’s rushing ability keeping the East pass rush at bay until McKea took the reins to deliver a 23-yard scoring strike to tight end Wyatt Johnson.

McKea sidestepped pressure and hit Johnson between two East defenders as the tight end tiptoed the goal line to tie the game 7-7 with 12 seconds remaining in the second quarter. 

East’s defense tightened up further after the break, forcing a turnover on downs, an interception and three punts to hold Alta scoreless for the entire second half.

After Alta’s final punt, East took over with 1:18 left in the game and the Hawks committed a costly targeting penalty on the first offensive play to gift the Leopards a short field.

Viana lined up from there and drove the ball through the middle of the uprights.

Matich said his team needed a win reliant on resilience like this moving forward into Region 6 competition with talented teams top to bottom.

“This team’s trying to find themselves,” Matich said. “They’re trying to figure out who they are and something like this can push you over the top.”