The great unknown will now forever be remembered as part of the winning quarterback tradition at Saint Louis.
Marcus Mariota, who back in August had never started a high school game, completed his quest to lead the Crusaders back to the top, giving Saint Louis its first state title since 2002 with a 36-13 win over Waianae last night at Aloha Stadium.
A Crusaders program that once dominated the local high school scene, winning the last 13 Prep Bowls and the first HHSAA state title in 1999, ended its longest drought without a title since before any of the current Crusaders were born.
Mariota, an untested Oregon commit just three months ago, led the way, polishing off a senior season that couldn’t have been scripted any better. He finished 17-for-23 for 230 yards and three touchdowns, including a 2-yard score to Dallas Tuumalo that put the game in hand in the fourth quarter.
"It’s a sense of relief right now," Mariota said. "(My teammates) took a lot of the pressure off of me and it was just a matter of them trusting me and me trusting them."
Mariota’s speed (sub-4.40 40-yard dash) and height (6 feet 3) had college coaches drooling over him during summer camps, resulting in a scholarship offer to Oregon, currently the No. 1 team in the country.
But to live up to the hype, Mariota had to try to lead a Crusaders team coming off a 4-4 league record in 2009.
"Before we even knew who our next coach would be, we came together and started working together in all of our offseason workouts," Mariota said. "We put in a lot of time and effort to get to this."
His biggest influence has been head coach Darnell Arceneaux, who is part of a long line of Crusaders quarterbacks — including Timmy Chang and Jason Gesser — who owned the high school football scene in Hawaii for well over a decade.
In the first year of his second stint as Saint Louis coach, Arceneaux changed the entire atmosphere surrounding Crusaders football, allowing Mariota to follow in his footsteps as a championship winner.
"(Quarterback) is a high-profile position at Saint Louis," Arceneaux said. "The maturation of Marcus has been a process … it’s just one of those things where you like to see such a great young man lead us to a great victory tonight."
Mariota was the catalyst for a Saint Louis team that bears no resemblance to the ones in recent years.
After an early-season loss at Kahuku, the Crusaders bounced back to run roughshod through a perfect ILH season, scoring at least 34 points in every game.
Mariota threw longer and ran farther than any other quarterback this season, combining for more than 4,000 total yards and 53 touchdowns.
"He’s a big motivator for us," said senior receiver Duke Bukoski, Mariota’s favorite target. "He’s one of the big leaders on our team that pumps everybody up and played a big part in this."