Saint Louis crushes Kahuku to return to title game
HALAWA — Top-ranked Saint Louis rolled past No. 4 Kahuku, 49-22, in First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division Football State Championships semifinals in front of 5,250 fans at Hawaiian Financial FCU Field at Aloha Stadium Friday.
The Crusaders advance to the title game for the third-straight year to take on Mililani in the nightcap of a tripleheader on Nov. 24.
Kahuku ends their season at 7-5 overall, but battled through everything that came their way.
"I'm proud of our kids. They were reslient all year. They went through a lot — injuries, adversity, tragedies. They became better young men because of all they went through this season. That's what we want, kids becoming better young men. The future looks bright, a lot of guys are coming back from injury. We'll have a good offseason and come back strong," Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said.
Jayden de Laura rushed for a pair of touchdowns and passed for 232 yards and a touchdown and an interception. Robbie Paikai rushed for 60 yards on 10 attempts and two touchdowns.
"Two years ago all I wanted was recognition in my last year. I changed the way I think and it's all about being happy for others. Things will come back to you and I promised to exult the Lord if he exults me. I'm thankful for going to another state championship and it's all my teammates, it's not me," Paikai said.
Saint Louis got on the board first with a five play, 65-yard drive that took 1 minute 24 seconds as de Laura scored on a 5-yard run.
After forcing Kahuku to punt, de Laura completed a 54-yard pass to Roman Wilson to set up his 4-yard rushing touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
"It was important," Paikai said of the fast start. "Kahuku had the edge, they had the crowd going and everything was momentum."
Ilaisa Fotu knocked the ball out of de Laura's hand and Kahuku converted Kamalei Kahalepuna's fumble recoveryinto points as Robbie Sauvao threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Thorton Alapa on a fourth-and-13 to trail, 14-7.
Ethan Erickson was dropped for a 15-yard loss after fumbling the snap on the punt attempt. Saint Louis took over on the 17 and Paikai rushed for an 11-yard gain and finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown that took 17 seconds off the clock.
Tevita Faleta answered with a 91-yard kick off return on the ensuing kickoff as the Red Raiders trailed by a score, 21-14, which was the closest Kahuku got before the Crusaders pulled away for good.
"It was tough playing catch up especially with the game plan we had. We had to shorten the game, control the clock and keep them off the field. Saint Louis has been good all season, hats off to them," Carvalho said.
Paikai weaved through Kahuku defenders for a 17 yard touchdown out to cap an 11-play, 66-yard drive for a two-touchdown lead with 3:42 remaining in the first half.
"They should be the ones getting an interview," Paikai said of the offensive line. "Hats off to them. They worked all off season and I'm blessed to run behind a line like that."
Five plays into their final drive of the first half, de Laura completed a 51-yard pass to Koali Nishigaya to the 7 and two plays later, de Laura threw a 5-yard score to Chance Beyer to make it, 35-14.
The Crusaders defense had four interceptions and 32 different players got into the stat sheet. Kamoi Latu recorded two picks, Jordan Botelho intercepted Sauvao's pass for a 25-yard pick-six and Harvey Welch picked off Jason Mariteragi for a 52-yard touchdown return to initiate running clock.
"They're fast, long, and big. They're a great defense," Carvalho said of Saint Louis' defense.
Toalei Lefau rushed for a 5-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter and Mariteragi threw a 2-point pass to Mason Paulo for the final points of the night.
"He was able to see the best. The speed, that's what he said the first time he said when he came out. Great he got some reps in," Carvalho said of Mariteragi.
The Crusaders won, 30-14, back on Sept. 7 and have beaten the Red Raiders the past two seasons.