Planet Claire has pink air. All the trees are red. — B52s “Planet Claire”
Editor’s note: For some video highlights of the game, scroll to bottom of story.
It had been MORE than a while since Saint Louis played a football game in Hawaii.
It had been, in actuality, 669 days.
That is a long, long time to wait, but that COVID-19 is a BE-OTCH.
The four-time defending champion Crusaders visited Punahou’s Alexander Field on Saturday afternoon for a rivalry game against the Buffanblu and walked away with a 41-23 victory.
The last time Saint Louis suited up for a game inside Hawaii, it was for its fourth state championship triumph in a row, a 45-6 tripping of Kahuku on Nov. 19, 2019.
Chyler DeSilva scored Saint Louis’ final TD on Saturday against Punahou.
Above, he is being chased by a Buffanblu defender. Below, he lunges across
the goal line. (Image credit: Nick Abramo, Bedrock Sports Hawaii).
While not working like complete clockwork in their first game since August in Nevada, the Crusaders (1-1, 1-0 Interscholastic League of Honolulu Open Division) still didn’t have too much trouble moving the ball. But they had a helluva time putting away Punahou for good.
The Buffanblu (1-1, 1-1) trailed by just 11, points, 28-17, at the half, and then, when Tevarua Tafiti recovered a fumble and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, Punahou was only 12 points down, 35-23, with 9:35 left in the game.
Thanks to a fumble recovery by linebacker Matthew Malepeai and an interception by Kaiwi Batoon, Saint Louis kept Punahou off the scoreboard the rest of the way. The Crusaderss final points came courtesy of Blaze Holani, who recovered a Punahou fumble before backup quarterback Oha Kamakawiwoole threw a 9-yard TD pass to Chyler DeSilva with 5:06 to go.
“It was good,” said Saint Louis starting quarterback AJ Bianco, who finished with 279 yards passing and three TDs. “We had a good game plan coming in and we executed it pretty well. We definitely still had our share of mistakes, but I was happy with the energy we came out with today and just the way we were able to finish.”
Charles Correa had a whale of a defensive game for the Crusaders with two sacks. Iona Purcell had seven tackles and a sack, and Holani added a sack to his fumble recovery.
That Saint Louis defense — which held Punahou to 5 yards rushing in the game — came up big in the second half after a spotty first half in which it allowed some big plays by the Buffanblu.
“I have full faith in those guys,” Bianco said about his teammates on the defensive side of the ball. “I know what they’re capable of and I’m excited to see what they can do this season.”
Trech Kekahuna was a sparkplug on offense for Saint Louis, with 82 yards rushing and 103 yards on eight receptions. He also had a 43-yard kickoff return.
Punahou starting quarterback John-Keawe Sagapolutele threw for 212 yards, including 85 and a TD to Noah Macapulay.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the outcome and there’s a lot that we need to improve upon,” Buffanblu first-year head coach Nate Kia said. “I’m proud of the team’s effort, but our execution needs to be cleaned up. It’s nothing to hang our head about because we have to play them again.”
Alika Cavaco-Amoy turned in a huge game defensively for Punahou, with three tackles for loss, including two sacks, and an interception.
“All the boys, we just fought hard,” Cavaco-Amoy said. “We had some communication errors. We’ll fix ’em next time. Saint Louis is a helluva team. But I trust my boys. We’ll be back.”
In the first half, the Crusaders got off to a fast start, scoring on their first two possessions — Bianco’s 42-yard TD bomb to Devon Tauaefa and Kekahuna’s 43-yard TD run.
It looked like Saint Louis might run away with it, but that didn’t happen as John-Keawe Sagapolutele hooked up with Noah Macapulay for a 39-yard touchdown, cutting the Punahou deficit to 14-7 late in the first quarter
More offensive fireworks were just around the corner. Jaysen de Laura broke free for a 49-yard TD run, but Punahou came right back, with Astin Hange returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards, keeping the Buffanblu close at 21-14.
Bianco’s 41-yard run set up Saint Louis’ next TD, and this time Yosei Takahashi’s 11-yard catch capped an 80-yard drive to boost the Crusaders’ lead to 28-14.
Jordan Kapisi’s 41-yard field goal cut the gap to 28-17 on the last play of the first half after Sagapolutele ran the 2-minute drill to get the Buffanblu from their own 28 deep into Crusaders territory.
Saint Louis, which opened the season with a 41-21 loss to Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman on Aug. 20 in Nevada, plays Kamehameha next Friday at Aloha Stadium. Punahou has a week off before playing the Warriors at Aloha Stadium on Oct. 1.
No. 1 Saint Louis (1-1, 1-0 ILH Open). 14. 14. 7. 6. — 41
No. 4 Punahou (1-1, 1-1 ILH Open). 7. 10. 0. 6. — 23
SAINT LOUIS—Devon Tauaefa 27 pass from AJ Bianco (Lason Napuunoa kick)
SAINT LOUIS—Trech Kekauna 38 run (Napuunoa kick)
PUNAHOU—Noah Macapulay 39 pass from John-Keawe Sagapolutele (Jordan Kapisi kick)
SAINT LOUIS—Jaysen de Laura 48 run (Napuunoa kick)
PUNAHOU—Astin Hange 90 kickoff return (Kapisi kick)
SAINT LOUIS—Yosei Takahashi 12 pass from Bianco (Napuunoa kick)
PUNAHOU—Kapisi FG 41
SAINT LOUIS—Ola Apduhan 8 pass from Bianco (Napuunoa kick)
PUNAHOU—Tevarua Tafiti 50 fumble recovery return (run failed)
SAINT LOUIS—Chyler DeSilva 9 pass from Oha Kamakawiwoole (kick failed)
RUSHING—Saint Louis: Apduhan 14-88, Kekahuna 4-82, de Laura 3-57. Bianco 9-34, Elijah Dolor 2-11, William Lentz 1-2, TEAM 1-(minus-8), Kamakawiwoole 2-(minus-9). Punahou: N. Macapulay 1-5; Alai Williams 2-(minus-5), Sagapolutele 11-(minus-6)
PASSING—Saint Louis: Bianco 24-34-1—279, Kamakawiwoole 1-2-0—9. Punahou: Sagapolutele 19-36-1—212, David Dikeman 1-1-0—14.
RECEIVING—Saint Louis: Kekahuna 8-103, de Laura 4-39, Tauaefa 3-57, Apduhan 3-16, DeSilva 2-24, Mason Muaau 1-13, Takahashi 1-12, William Reed 1-12, Titan Lacaden 1-9, Lentz 1-3. Punahou: N. Macapulay 6-85, Hange 5-49, Ean Kamau-Waikiki 3-42, Peyton Macapulay 2-32, Donte Utu 2-3, Tevarua Tafiti 1-14, Williams 1-1.