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Friday, October 24, 2014         

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Mariota wants to get 2, so Saint Louis can be 1

By Billy Hull

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He plays for the No. 1 high school team in the state.

He's orally committed to the No. 1 college football team in the country.

Yet it's the number two that's all Saint Louis quarterback Marcus Mariota wants to talk about.

Mariota, in his first full season as a starter, has the Crusaders two wins away from their first state football championship since 2002.

It's hard to imagine Saint Louis, which won 13 straight Prep Bowls in the late '80s and '90s, has gone that long without a title.

Mariota was in the fourth grade when the Crusaders last won it all and has spent six years working to get to this point.

"We've had this mind-set since the seventh grade to one day play for a state championship," Mariota said. "We've taken it day by day since then, and even though we've made it to this point, we're still taking it day by day until it gets done."

BACK IN AUGUST, Mariota was an unknown to most people. Despite playing an estimated "50 or 60" snaps his entire high school career as a backup, Mariota put himself in elite company when he secured a commitment to play his college ball at Oregon.

Quarterbacks who get offers from Pac-10 schools don't come along very often in Hawaii, especially considering Mariota's limited playing time.

However, his physical attributes (6-foot-3, 4.5 40-yard dash) are impossible to ignore, and his performance in summer camps got him an offer from the Ducks, who had been on him since his sophomore year.

"I'd been e-mailing them back and forth for awhile, but didn't expect to get a written offer that fast," Mariota said. "Things like that don't come around often, so I talked with my family and decided to jump on it right away."

Mariota was in a rare situation to have secured a college scholarship without proving himself on the field. Already motivated by the drive to lead the Crusaders to a state championship, Mariota also wanted to show that Oregon hadn't made a mistake in offering him too early.

"That's part of my motivation to be the player I am today," Mariota said. "For the No. 1 school to offer you, you feel like you have a lot to prove to a lot of people."

WITH SO MUCH on the line his senior season, Mariota came across the perfect coach to help him out.

Fifteen years ago, Darnell Arceneaux was a part of that legendary Saint Louis run. Twice named to the all-state first team as quarterback, Arceneaux went through a hefty recruiting process and understood the responsibilities of being the quarterback at Saint Louis.

When the opportunity to take the head coaching job at his alma mater arose earlier this year, Arceneaux looked over the roster he would inherit and immediately got excited at the opportunity to coach Mariota.

"At Mililani, I had Trent (McKinney), who is a phenomenal quarterback," Arceneaux said. "Looking at what we had at Saint Louis, it was the same deal with coaching a kid like Marcus. I'm the blessed one to get to coach and be around these guys."

Mariota says Arceneaux has been instrumental in helping him develop into a complete quarterback.

"My sophomore and junior years, I kind of just focused on the run because my running ability got me out of situations where I didn't read the play correctly," Mariota said. "He's really helped me focus more on becoming a passer."

The combination of player and coach has worked wonders for the Crusaders, who are 9-1 and completed an unbeaten run through the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

Mariota has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, and Saint Louis is the No. 2 seed in the state tournament, earning a bye this week.

Its only blemish came in a loss at Kahuku in late August, but with last week's ruling that the Red Raiders are ineligible to play in the state tournament, Saint Louis is now the clear favorite to be the last team standing.

"We believe that, but it doesn't matter unless we go out and win it," Mariota said. "We've only played one game in the last couple of weeks, and our focus now is to come out to practice and get better every day so that we can finish the job."






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