Saint Louis edges Kahuku in memorable state final
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Saint Louis edges Kahuku in memorable state final

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Saint Louis beats Kahuku 31-28 to win the Open Division I State Championship at Aloha Stadium. Saint Louis receiver Jonah Panoke makes the winning TD catch over Kahuku defensive back Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu (1).

The two most successful prep football programs in Hawaii delivered another state championship game for the ages.

Saint Louis senior receiver Jonah Panoke hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chevan Cordeiro with 37 seconds remaining and Saint Louis held on for a 31-28 victory over Kahuku in the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships this morning in front of 22,436 fans at Aloha Stadium.

The Crusaders’ fifth state championship wasn’t clinched until 1:04 a.m., when Sol-Jay Maiava’s final pass bounced off the turf inside the 5-yard line with no time left on the clock, leaving the Red Raiders with a gut-wrenching loss.

“It feels awfully good for the boys,” said Saint Louis coach Cal Lee, who added his third state championship to a collection that includes 14 Prep Bowl titles. “Unfortunately one has to lose and I know who I want to win. Just so happy for the players.”

The Red Raiders (11-2) rallied from a 24-7 deficit to take a 28-24 lead with 6:25 remaining on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Maiava to sophomore Kaonohi Kaniho.

The Crusaders (10-0) drove down to the Kahuku 2-yard line, but Cordeiro, who finished with 440 passing yards, was intercepted by Nalu Emerson in the end zone off a tipped pass that bounced high into the air.

Kahuku had a chance to run out the clock and picked up a first down on a gutsy 10-yard pass from Maiava to Kaniho on third-and-5. However, Kahuku ran out of bounds twice to stop the clock and allowed Saint Louis to get the ball back on its 47 with 46 seconds remaining.

Cordeiro immediately threw a deep ball to Panoke, who jumped and caught the ball over a Kahuku defensive back and ripped it away into his grasp for the game-winning score.

“We knew we only had about 35 seconds left and Chev told me, ‘We gotta make a play and this is how we win,’” Panoke said. “Coach called Z-9, and I knew it was my time to step up.”

Panoke, a University of Hawaii commit, finished with 152 yards on eight receptions from Cordeiro, another UH commit, who was 30-for-44 passing.

“Holy crud, that last play where Jonah caught the ball, I was just on cloud nine right there,” said receiver Mitchell Quinn, who had five receptions for 131 yards and two TDs and was offered by UH during the previous week’s semifinal win over Mililani. “To end the season on a high note, I’m just really glad.”

Cordeiro, who threw for a state-tournament-record 528 yards in the semifinal, had his first pass of the game intercepted by Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu, who returned it to the 5-yard line.

Maiava, a sophomore, threw a TD pass to backup quarterback Thorton Alapa on the next play and the Red Raiders had a pick, a TD and a 7-0 lead in the game’s first 62 seconds.

Saint Louis’ second drive didn’t go much better, as Kahuku linebacker Lauina Falatea sacked Cordeiro twice in three plays to force a punt.

Cordeiro found his rhythm on the next drive and, after throwing the interception, completed seven of his next eight throws, including a 11-yard touchdown to Quinn to tie the game at 7.

The teams traded punts over the next five drives until Kahuku’s Sekope Latu dropped one that was downed at the Saint Louis 5.

The Crusaders immediately went to the air and Cordeiro found Quinn open one-on-one, delivering a perfect ball that the receiver took a state-tournament-record 95 yards to the house for a 14-7 advantage.

Kahuku nearly answered with a long drive of its own, taking the ball all the way inside the Saint Louis 5. A 23-yard pass from Maiava to Kainoa Crismon on third-and-goal from the 26 spotted the ball at the 3 with 33 seconds left in the half.

Kahuku called a timeout and elected to go for it, but running back Enoch Nawahine was stopped at the 5 for a 2-yard loss.

Maiava finished 17-for-28 for 252 yards and four TD throws.

“I’m going to tell them to keep their heads high and I’m proud of the way they fought,” Kahuku coach Makoa Freitas said. “Proud of he way they played, proud of the way they fought until the very end.”

The Red Raiders have been to the final in 12 of the 19 state tournaments and are 8-4 in those games.

Saint Louis and Kahuku have combined to win 13 of the 19 state titles in the top division. Only Kamehameha (two), Punahou (two), Mililani (one) and Leilehua (one) have also won championships.

at Aloha Stadium

Kahuku (11-2) 7 0 7 14 — 28

Saint Louis (10-0) 7 7 10 7 — 31

Kah—Thorton Alapa 5 pass from Sol-Jay Maiava (Duke Heffernan kick)

StL–Mitchell Quinn 11 pass from Chevan Cordeiro (Jacob Tobias kick)

StL—Quinn 95 pass from Cordeiro (Tobias kick)

StL—FG Tobias 28

StL—Isaiah Tufaga 40 interception return (Tobias kick)

Kah—Wes Alo-Maiava 23 pass from Maiava (Heffernan kick)

Kah—Toalei Lefau 8 pass from Maiava (Heffernan kick)

Kah—Kaonohi Kaniho 59 pass from Maiava (Heffernan kick)

StL—Jonah Panoke 53 pass from Cordeiro (Tobias kick)

RUSHING—Kahuku: Maiava 14-94, Enoch Nawahine 19-67, Wes Alo-Maiava 5-37, Lefau 1-4, Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu 1-2. Saint Louis: Cordeiro 20-19, Micah Mashima 1-1, team 1-(minus 1).

PASSING—Kahuku: Maiava 17-28-1-252, Alapa 0-1-0-0. Saint Louis: Cordeiro 30-44-2-440.

RECEIVING—Kahuku: Alapa 5-56, Nawahine 4-49, Kaniho 2-69, Peter John Mataira 2-12, Kainoa Crismon 1-23, Alo-Maiava 1-23, Duke Heffernan 1-12, Lefau 1-8. Saint Louis: Chance Beyer 9-96, Panoke 8-152, Quinn 5-131, Kainalu Reyes-Hackney 3-46, Koali Nishigaya 3-7, Roman Wilson 1-7, Dominic Tominiko 1-1.

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