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Red Raiders dominate Crusaders

Jamm Aquino 2015 November 20 SPT - HSA Photo by Jamm Aquino.

Kahuku was so confident pregame that it openly gave up a 15-yard penalty to do a haka at midfield during the coin toss.

It had a pretty good idea those penalty yards wouldn’t matter.

The No. 1 seed in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships’ Division I bracket manhandled second-seeded Saint Louis on Friday night, forcing six turnovers in a one-sided 39-14 victory at Aloha Stadium

Kahuku completed a 13-0 season, winning its eighth state championship since the first tournament was held in 1999.

It handed Saint Louis (9-2) its worst loss of the season in the process, holding the Crusaders to a season-low 14 points.

"The defense played lights out," Kahuku first-year coach Vavae Tata said. "The front seven applied the pressure and the (defensive backs) held their coverage."

Kahuku allowed a blocked punt return for a touchdown to fall behind 7-0 before outscoring Saint Louis 39-7 the rest of the way.

Junior Kesi Ah-Hoy accounted for four touchdowns and the Red Raiders defense did the rest, forcing three fumbles and intercepting Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa three times.

A holding call negated a Saint Louis touchdown that would have made it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.

Three plays later, Stokes Botelho intercepted Tagovailoa inside the 15 and returned it 47 yards to the Saint Louis 40.

Ah-Hoy ended the next drive with a 19-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 to put the game away and start the celebration from Halawa to the North Shore.

"We did a good job in all phases," said Ah-Hoy, who rushed for 103 yards on 30 carries. "The offensive line is where it started and the offensive line is where it ended. They gave me the vibe to keep on going."

Saint Louis’ only offensive touchdown came after a bad snap on a Kahuku punt that was recovered on the Red Raiders’ 5-yard line.

The Red Raiders gave up their first rushing touchdown since the 2014 OIA final when Tagovailoa scored on a bootleg on third-and-goal.

That was it for the Crusaders offense, as Tagovailoa finished 21-for-40 for 191 yards. Saint Louis had 139 total yards.

"We ran across a really good football team," said Saint Louis coach Cal Lee, who has lost his last three games in a state final to Kahuku. "They did a nice job of rushing the passer. You’ve got to give them credit."

Tagovailoa was sacked four times and Saint Louis was held to minus-53 yards rushing.

"It’s disappointing for me as a leader to have made the mistakes I made," Tagovailoa said. "Now that we have this experience, this gives us hope for next year and the next generation. We know what to expect."

Leading 7-0 before taking the field, the Saint Louis offense clearly wasn’t ready for the Kahuku defense.

The Crusaders fumbled the ball twice on their first three plays and their six first-half drives ended with two fumbles, two picks, a punt and a safety.

Kahuku recycled both fumbles into touchdown runs by Ah-Hoy, who scored from 6 yards out on fourth down to give the Red Raiders a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Saint Louis gave up a safety on an errant punt snap and then allowed Ah-Hoy to throw a 27-yard touchdown pass on third-and-12 to tight end Pua Falemalu for a 22-7 lead with 2:03 left in the half.

Kekoa Sasaoka added a 31-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the game for good measure.

The OIA increased its lead over the ILH with 10 of the 17 Division I state titles. Kahuku has won seven of its past nine meetings against the Crusaders.

Ah-Hoy, who was one of five Red Raiders to line up at quarterback in the game, completed two of his three pass attempts for 57 yards.

The two teams combined for 23 flags and each had more than 120 yards in penalties. Kahuku linebacker Manaia Atuaia was ejected in the third quarter after a blindside block on a punt return.

Senior Keala Santiago had one of Kahuku’s three interceptions to give him seven in his final four games.Photo by Jamm Aquino. The Kahuku Red Raiders savor the championship trophy after the 2015 HHSAA Division I Football Championship between the St. Louis Crusaders and the Kahuku Red Raiders on Friday, November 20, 2015 at Aloha Stadium in Halawa. Kahuku won 39-14 to become the 2015 State Champions.

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