Vince Passas doesn’t mind reminders about the first Prep Bowl, as inglorious as it was for the Saint Louis Crusaders and their starting quarterback. He knows the questions are inevitable, especially with Saint Louis meeting Waianae tonight for a state high school football championship. And a lot of people already know that Passas — the Crusaders’ man under center 37 years ago — has long since made up for that 6-0 loss to the Seariders.
"I always think about it, especially this time of year," the longtime Saint Louis assistant coach recalled after practice this week. "Back then, we played at Honolulu Stadium. It was stormy."
The Crusaders averaged around 40 points a game. The weather on Nov. 23, 1973, was the first and second-to-last break Waianae would get in its long history of Oahu Prep Bowls against Saint Louis. The last was the Crusaders’ tough schedule leading up to that game.
"Punahou was so tough, with Mosi Tatupu. We had to beat them twice and we played them the week before," Passas said. "I think we expended every bit of energy against them."
It wasn’t meant as a dig against Waianae — you can still see the respect in Passas’ eyes. The Seariders finally broke through on William Pimental’s 12-yard TD pass from Victor Humalon with less than 4 minutes left.
Before it was replaced in 1999 by a true state championship game, Waianae and Saint Louis met in seven subsequent Prep Bowls. The Crusaders won all of them, and most were not close.
Passas, 54, has been there for all 16 Saint Louis state and Prep Bowl championships, most as quarterbacks coach — or as current Crusaders QB Marcus Mariota calls him, "Mr. Quarterback."
|Of Passas interest: From 1983 through 1987, Passas coached receivers and defensive backs at Saint Louis; players listed, other than Masoli, were usual starting quarterbacks.|
His proteges have gone on to play in the Rose Bowl (Jason Gesser and Jeremiah Masoli), break the NCAA passing yardage record (Timmy Chang) and be the head coach at Saint Louis (Darnell Arceneaux and John Hao). Four of Passas’ former pupils started in Division I games: Arceneaux at Utah, Gesser at Washington State, Chang at Hawaii and Joe Correia also at UH (as a defensive end) — all in one day.
Then there are his free summer clinics, open to all quarterbacks, regardless of school affiliation.
Arceneaux, the current head coach, said Passas has taught him to "pay attention to the smallest things, because you never know when they’ll come back and bite you."
"He’s coached them all, from Coach Darnell to Jason Gesser," Mariota said. "He’s left his mark on this hill."
As well as on Mariota — who has the tools to become the best of them all. "Coach Vinny had me shorten things," said the 6-foot-4 Oregon-bound senior. "My stride, my release. I got real smooth with his help. And reading defenses, three-step drop. A lot on footwork. All that good stuff."
Passas said Mariota learned patience off the field by waiting to start for two years. Now he’s learning it between the lines, to pick the right spots for long passes.
"Accuracy-wise, he’s up there with Jason Gesser, Timmy," Passas said. "Marcus has the physical attributes like size and speed, and the same dedication and passion as the others."
In Passas’ day there were no audibles, except coach Ron Marciel’s scream if you didn’t run the play he sent in. "Now, they call pass pro, they have to see what the defense is trying to do to us. The game is played at a rapid pace. Marcus has to think fast and play fast. It fits perfect for him, and where he’s going."
In a few months, that’s Eugene. Tonight, it’s Marcus Mariota’s legacy in his school’s long line of championship games and star quarterbacks that includes his coaches, Darnell Arceneaux and Vince Passas.
Vince Passas has entered his fifth decade of developing many of the state’s best high school quarterbacks. Players he’s coached:
Saint Louis JV
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