Tagovailoa wills No. 2 Saint Louis past No. 1 Kahuku, 30-14

HALAWA — Tua Tagovailoa made sure his final prep football game was one to remember.

And what a swan song it was.

Led by the stellar play of the Alabama-bound quarterback and a stout second-half effort from its defense, Saint Louis upended defending champion Kahuku, 30-14, in the title game of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division State Championships Saturday night.

A crowd of 20,447 at Hawaiian Tel FCU Field at Aloha Stadium saw the Crusaders, the No. 2 team in the ScoringLive/Hawaiian Electric Division I Power Rankings, improve to 10-1 and claim their fourth state crown and first since 2010.

Top-ranked Kahuku, which was trying for its second straight state title and ninth overall, fell to 11-2.

Tagovailoa threw for 243 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-25 passing and rushed for 136 yards with another score on 18 carries.

"He made plays all day tonight," Saint Louis coach Cal Lee said of Tagovailoa. "My hat goes off to him."

Despite heavy pressure from the Kahuku defense all game, Tagovailoa extended plays with his feet — he was sacked just once — and rebounded from an interception early in the second half.

In the process, Tagovailoa surpassed former Saint Louis quarterback Timmy Chang's state record for career passing yardage with his 52-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Panoke in the second quarter.

"I mean, beating the record was all right, but I just wanted the state title," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God that we got to do both."

Tagovailoa completes his decorated prep career with 8,618 passing yards and 64 touchdowns in 31 games over three seasons. The one accolade that had eluded him — a state title — is now his latest accomplishment.

"This is the stamp of my legacy over here and this is just so awesome," Tagovailoa said. "I mean, it's surreal at the moment."

Kahuku held a 14-13 halftime lead, which held until the third play of the fourth quarter when Jacob Tobias converted a 40-yard field goal — his third make of the night — to put Saint Louis ahead for good with 11:50 to play.

Elvis Vakapuna returned the ensuing kickoff to the Saint Louis 35-yard line and the Red Raiders manufactured a nine-play drive — all runs out of the wildcat formation. They marched all the way to the 2, but on first-and-goal, Kesi Ah-Hoy fumbled as he attempted to leap over the pile and into the end zone and Isaiah Tufaga recovered for Saint Louis in his own end zone for a touchback.

Tufaga said it was divine intervention that led to the loose ball finding his hands.

"Everyone had to just do their job and their assignment and it's God's will that the ball just came into my vicinity, but all credit to everybody on the defense because they made that thing happen, not me. It's all them," Tufaga said.

The Crusaders turned the takeaway into points when Tagovailoa turned on the jets on a 30-yard touchdown run seven plays later. The score was set-up by a 28-yard run by Tagovailoa on fourth-and-inches on a quick snap.

"That was the first time we did that. It was supposed to go up the middle, but I just took it outside," Tagovailoa said. "Coach said if you guys can do it, let's do it. He trusted us and he believed that we could do it and we did it."

Tobias added on the extra point to make it a two-score game, 23-14, with 4:44 remaining.

Kahuku turned it over on downs on its next possession when Kaeo Freitas dropped quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava for a 15-yard loss on a fourth-down sack.

Saint Louis added an insurance score on Dylan Silva's 43-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes.

Tobias made field goals of 30 and 27 yards to put the Crusaders ahead, 6-0, early in the second quarter.

Vakapuna's 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter got the Red Raiders on the board.

Tagovailoa's 52-yard scoring strike to Panoke 21 seconds later reclaimed the lead for Saint Louis, but Harmon Brown's 7-yard touchdown run put Kahuku back ahead, 14-13, with 1:08 left in the first half.

After rushing for 182 yards in the first half, the Red Raiders were held to 76 yards the rest of the way. They attempted just three passes for the game and did not complete a single one.

"I just thought that we played a little tougher, more stout up front — we had to — but basically that's what you try to do, I mean it's not very easy with those guys over there," Lee said of Kahuku.

Brown rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and Vakapuna added 83 yards and a score on 14 attempts for the Red Raiders (11-2).

"Kahuku was moving the ball, but we just kept fighting and fighting and fighting and look what the result was," said Tufaga, a Kahuku native. "It's a blessing. I'm from Kahuku and I love my hometown a lot and I really respect them. It was a great experience."

The Red Raiders, the No. 19 team in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings, fell to 8-3 in state championship games. They saw their 24-game win streak over Hawaii opponents come to an end.

The 30 points Kahuku allowed to Saint Louis were the most that any Hawaii team has scored on the Red Raiders since Kahuku coach Vavae Tata took over the program. The 473 yards of total offense by the Crusaders were also the most that the Red Raiders allowed to any team in that span.

"Hats off to Saint Louis, Cal Lee and his staff," said Tata. "They did a phenomenal job and the better team won tonight."

The Crusaders avenged a 39-14 loss to Kahuku in last year's state final.

"A lot of these kids were here last year and they felt the feeling, they knew how to act and what it meant, so to do what they did tonight, I mean, that's a perfect case of how they worked all year long," Lee said.

It was the seventh meeting between the schools in a state title game. Kahuku has won six straight times in the series. Saint Louis' last win came in the inaugural state tournament in 1999.


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