Saint Louis and Kahuku add another chapter to their rivalry
STEVEN ERLER / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
Kahuku wide receiver Duke Heffernan (2) is pursued by Punahou strong safety Marist Liufau (7) during a game between the ILH-Open Division Punahou Buffanblu and the OIA-Open Division Kahuku Red Raiders played on Saturday, August 11, 2018 at Kahuku High School Football Field, Kahuku, Hawaii.
Kahuku. Saint Louis.
Tradition. Storied. Legendary. This is also the only time when the Kahuku Red Raiders are considered underdogs. The two teams meet tonight at Aloha Stadium. Saint Louis (2-0, 2-0 ILH Open) has not lost a game in two years.
“Saint Louis is No. 1 in Hawaii and No. 10 in the nation for a reason,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “They’re a well-coached team with a lot of speed. We’ve got athletes, but it is hard to replicate their speed (at practice). There’s Coach Cal (Lee), the veteran, the O.G., I’m just a rookie (head) coach. You know they’re going to make changes. They’re coming to compete.”
Kahuku (3-0, 2-0 OIA Open), ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10, could lay down a bit for this game. The OIA doesn’t count games against ILH teams in its regular-season standings, while a win or loss will be added to the ILH standings for two-time defending state champion Saint Louis.
“If you came to our practices this week, you would not think this is a no-count game,” Carvalho said. “It’s definitely a championship atmosphere.”
Last year, Saint Louis edged Kahuku 31-28 in the Open Division state final at Aloha Stadium. In the ’16 state final, Saint Louis prevailed over Kahuku 30-14. The Red Raiders have not lost to a team other than Saint Louis from Hawaii since 2014.
“You can’t tell my players who lost to these guys two years in a row that this is fun and games. At the same time, we have to understand this is not the end,” said Carvalho, a longtime assistant who was hired as head coach this year.
Saint Louis is on a 17-game win streak, including two wins over Narbonne (Calif.). The last team to beat the Crusaders was Punahou, on Sept. 29, 2016. Kahuku last beat Saint Louis in the state championship matchup of the ’15 season, a 39-14 rout in then-coach Vavae Tata’s first season.
MaxPreps ranks Saint Louis No. 10 nationally. First-year starting QB Jayden de Laura has been immaculate. Playing in the first half of two victories, the junior has passed for 384 yards and six touchdowns. His accuracy (18-for-25, 72 percent) and low-turnover rate (one interception) don’t quite reveal his penchant for risk. Tough and rangy, de Laura has scrambled sideline to sideline occasionally, something that may not prove wise against a physical, aggressive Kahuku defense.
Up front, Saint Louis’ offensive line has been a cornerstone for the young passer and a very young fleet of receivers. The front five of left tackle Justice Mills (6-1, 280), left guard Arasi Mose (6-4, 358), center Rod Dupont (5-10, 302), right guard Jonah Kea (5-10, 253) and right tackle Ben Scott (6-5, 285) has permitted just two sacks with de Laura in the pocket. It’s an all-senior starting unit with the exception of Dupont, a junior.
“It’s surprising how good they are up front, offensively and defensively,” Carvalho said. “We know they always had the George Ornellases and Gerald Welchs but what’s scary is their O-line and D-line. They’re big, quick and match up great with us.”
Saint Louis’ O-line will face a blunt-force crew at the line of scrimmage. Kahuku’s defensive line has length and versatility, and the linebacker corps is led by Miki Ah You. Defensive end Tausili Fiatoa (6-2, 230) has earned his head coach’s praise.
“We knew what we had, but these last few games, he solidified our thoughts of how good he can be. He’s solid in the trenches,” Carvalho said.
Kahuku, of course, is no slouch in the trenches. The O-line doesn’t have the tackle-to-tackle girth of Saint Louis, but the mobility and versatility are key. Left tackle Enokk Vimahi (6-5, 290) leads the group, which includes left guard Bryce Beatty (6-4, 290), center Trycen Mau (5-10, 225), right guard Marcus Lombard (6-0, 295) and right tackle Micah Soliai Howlett (6-4, 305). Vimahi, Beatty and Pau are seniors; Lombard and Soliai Howlett are juniors.
“Their O-line is good, good runners, the quarterback (Robbie Sauvao) can get around,” Lee said. “The defense is quick and agile. It’s going to be a good test for us. We’ll find out how good or bad we are. That’s how you find out, competing.”
They will get plenty of action against Saint Louis’ 3-4 defense. Stanley McKenzie (6-2, 280) absorbs the action in the middle, flanked by Faatui Tuitele (6-4, 299) and Gino Quinones (6-3, 270). Quinones has committed to USC. Tuitele has 39 scholarship offers.
“What we’ve seen thus far is he’s showing that he’s the real deal,” Carvalho said of Tuitele. “So that’s why it’s a great measuring stick, especially for our offensive line. Can we block someone of that caliber? But have they seen someone as good as Enokk yet this year? Win or lose, either side of the ball, we’ll make our corrections and adjustments. It’s great to have these kinds of matchups.”