Saint Louis torches Kahuku to capture its fourth consecutive Open Division State Championship
Saint Louis’ regular-season dominance over Kahuku has extended to the state tournament in recent years, with the Crusaders adding a big victory Friday night.
Saint Louis has won 19 of the 28 meetings all time against the Red Raiders, but was 1-5 against Kahuku in state finals after the Red Raiders’ shocking win to end the 2015 season.
Since then, Saint Louis has rolled to four consecutive state titles, with three coming in wins over the Red Raiders, including Friday night’s 45-6 victory to cap off the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships in the Open Division at Aloha Stadium.
“I feel real good now that it’s over,” said Saint Louis coach Cal Lee, who added a fifth state championship under his leadership to the 14 Prep Bowls. “I’m so happy for the players. It was a long season and I’m really proud of the way they responded all through the season.”
Saint Louis (12-0), ranked No. 6 in the country in two major polls, extended its winning streak to 38 games in front of a crowd of 11,597 and claimed its seventh state championship overall, trailing only Kahuku’s eight.
The 39-point margin of victory is the largest for a top-tier state final, breaking the previous mark of 31 set in Punahou’s 38-7 win over Leilehua in 2008.
“It feels great. It’s our four-peat and we played hard tonight,” said linebacker Jordan Botelho, who said it was an A-plus effort by the defense. “They scored, but it’s all good. We came back hard. It only made us want to come back harder.”
Saint Louis held Kahuku to less than 2 yards per play and 120 total yards in the game.
The Crusaders had nine sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Senior Nick Herbig, who finished with 21⁄2 sacks and 51⁄2 tackles for loss, punctuated his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy with a state-record 96-yard pick-6 with five minutes to go.
“It was a simple Cover 3 and I had the flat, so I just read the quarterback, played that flat and made a play,” Herbig said. “I knew in my head at some point it would come.”
Saint Louis senior Jayden de Laura ends his career 22-0 as a starter and is the first Crusaders quarterback to lead his team to consecutive state championships.
He finished 17-for-26 for 280 yards and three touchdowns (two rushing) in less than three full quarters of work to become the seventh quarterback ever on Oahu to surpass 3,400 passing yards in a season.
When he wasn’t gashing the Kahuku defense with his legs (75 yards on six carries), de Laura was looking for fellow senior Roman Wilson, who totaled eight catches for 171 yards.
The Crusaders scored on five of their six first-half possessions and needed just two plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Wilson, who plans to sign with Michigan during the early signing period next month, got behind Kahuku’s Boise State-bound cornerback Kaonohi Kaniho for an 86-yard touchdown just 22 seconds into the game.
“I think they were more focused on Koali (Nishigaya). He took a lot of pressure off of me,” Wilson said. “Me being me, if they come up and pressure me, I’m gone. I know that and Jayden knows that.”
“We put the nail in the coffin right off the bat,” added de Laura.
Nishigaya rushed for two scores in the first half and de Laura capped a seven-play drive with a 2-yard QB sneak for a 28-6 lead.
“We just gave up too many big plays,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “Cannot give up big plays with the type of scheme we tried to run — control the clock and wear them out.”
Kahuku (9-4) trailed 14-0 when running back Zealand Matagi broke free out of a pile of Crusaders defenders on a 38-yard TD run late in the first quarter to make it 14-6.
That accounted for exactly half of the Red Raiders’ total yards before intermission.
Kahuku trailed 14-6 when it thought it had scored again on an 84-yard interception return by Peter John Mataira.
An illegal block was called on the return and Kahuku had a fourth-and-1 conversion at midfield overturned when Lee challenged the ruling.
It was confirmed that Kahuku was stopped short and Saint Louis marched down the field and scored on Nishigaya’s 3-yard run.
Kahuku then finished the half going three-and-out on consecutive drives.
“Saint Louis is the real deal,” Carvalho said. “They are a very bright spot for Hawaii football. They come as advertised both offensively and defensively. All year, they’ve been doing it, and they did it tonight against us.”
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