Kahuku bounces St. Louis from top
By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin Chris Kemoe'atu of Kahuku, left, beats Donnie Vercher of St. Louis to the loose ball during the state football championship game at Aloha Stadium last night.
This time, the ball bounced Kahuku's way.
Three times the Red Raiders fumbled, and three times they recovered -- after a gain of yardage -- in last night's 2000 Chevron State Football Championship final.
One of the plays in particular was huge in Kahuku's 26-20 victory over St. Louis.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Mulivai Pula appeared to be stopped on a fourth down play at the St. Louis 4-yard line, way short of the first down marker at the 1. But he fumbled, and the Red Raiders' Chris Kemoe'atu recovered. After a measurement, Kahuku had a first down. On the next play, Marcus Salanoa scored and the Red Raiders led, 20-14.
"Sometimes the ball bounces a way that makes it hard for you to win," St. Louis coach Cal Lee said. "But it pretty much bounced our way for 14 years.
"Kahuku was the better team tonight."
DE-FENSE: Free safety Aaron Francisco led Kahuku with nine tackles, and linebacker Douglas Hiu made three tackles for losses.
St. Louis linebackers Ikaika Curnan and T.J. Moe were each in on 11 stops.
UNSCATHED NO LONGER: St. Louis had not allowed a score all season in the third quarter before Salanoa followed A.J. Smith's lead block into the end zone with 1:49 left in the period.
The Crusaders' defense allowed just five rushing touchdowns in 14 games this season, one less than it yielded last night to Kahuku.
GOING PUBLIC: Kahuku is the first Oahu Interscholastic Association team to win the either the Prep Bowl or the state championship game since Leilehua beat St. Louis, 10-0, in the 1984 Prep Bowl.
No team other than St. Louis had won the state's final game of the year since Pac-Five beat Waianae in the 1985 Prep Bowl.
St. Louis had a streak of 28 wins against OIA teams snapped.
FROM THE DIRECTOR: Hawaii High School Athletic Association Executive Director Keith Amemiya was pleased with the closeness of the game and the crowd of 14,267.
But he said much still needs to be done to restore competitive balance to Hawaii high school football.
"St. Louis' loss doesn't change the fact that we need to explore alternatives to the current football structure," said Amemiya, among the growing legion of supporters of classification.
HERE AND THERE: This was the last state tournament for HHSAA Information Director Thomas Yoshida. Next week he leaves for a new job with the University of Hawaii Foundation. ... Kahuku went into last night's game ranked No. 20 in the Pacific Region by HighWired Sports, and will undoubtedly move up with its win.
Ben Henry and Glen Higa contributed to this report