As usual, Marcus Mariota was the calm in a storm.
In the midst of a backyard brawl of sorts, Mariota passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns as top-ranked Saint Louis overwhelmed Waianae 36-13 last night in the final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I State Football Championships.
STL–Joshua Tupua 13 pass from Marcus Mariota (Goo kick)
RUSHING–Waianae: P. Wilson 15-90, Bryson Panui 10-49, Mitchell 5-38, J. Wilson 2-10, Keola Bradley 1-5, Devon Seabrooks 1-4. Saint Louis: Ke. Mook-Garcia 11-57, Derek Nakasato 7-52, Mariota 5-43, McShane 3-20, Jason Nagai 2-10, David Pimental 1-9, Kawai Mook-Garcia 1-(-1).
"It’s indescribable. It feels so good. We worked so hard for this," said Mariota, who completed 17 of his 23 pass attempts. "We had to pay attention and do the small things."
Mariota guided a balanced offense that amassed 420 total yards, including 190 on the ground. Mariota connected with seven of his receivers, including Joshua Tupua (six receptions, 73 yards), Duke Bukoski (five, 45) and sophomore Jeremy Tabuyo.
Saint Louis (11-1) won its first state crown since 2002, denying a sturdy Waianae squad on the verge of becoming the first .500 (or below) team to win a state title.
For Saint Louis coach Darnell Arceneaux, it was a sweet finish in his second trip to the title game. He was at the helm in ’03, when Saint Louis lost 27-26 to Kahuku. His return this year stoked a fire under the program.
"It’s not about me. It’s about a great school and these great young men," Arceneaux said. "It’s hard to end another chapter in your life the way you want to, so I’m very proud of these young men. I love these guys."
"They’re a good team, a helluva team. They worked hard for this the entire season. They deserved this," Waianae wingback James Wilson said.
The Crusaders did it with a turnover-free offense and a relentless defense. Waianae quarterback Puletua Wilson completed his first seven passes to help his team stay within 10 points of the favored Crusaders, but was picked off three times in his next 11 attempts against a furious second-half pass rush. Two of the picks were by cornerback Leland Gomez.
"Practicing against (Mariota) every day made us better as DBs," Gomez said. "We hung in there, did what we had to do and came out with a win." A sparse crowd of 12,309 watched as the Crusaders used a two-running-back shotgun set — out of a no-huddle attack — most of the night.
The game got feisty in the third quarter as Waianae tried to rally from a 23-13 lead. A flurry of personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls temporarily marred the battle. Waianae finished with 17 penalties for 175 yards and Saint Louis racked up 12 yellow flags for 152 yards.
The matchup of Arceneaux’s dangerous arsenal and Waianae’s patient, grind-it-out offense provided some spectacular plays in the first half.
The Crusaders marched 60 yards in just six plays to open the game, scoring on a 13-yard screen pass from Mariota to Tupua for a 7-0 lead with 10:54 left in the first quarter.
They were even quicker with their next possession, scoring in just two plays. A screen pass from Mariota to Tabuyo turned into a 79-yard touchdown, and the Crusaders led 13-0 with 6:36 to go in the opening quarter.
Waianae, banking on its wing-T attack, went on a 15-play, 80-yard drive to get on the scoreboard. With Puletua Wilson directing the option, the Seariders overcame a holding penalty and scored on a breathtaking play by James Wilson, the quarterback’s brother. James Wilson hauled in a pass over the middle and did a somersault over a defensive back at the goal line, landing in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.
Saint Louis fired back quickly. A 22-yard pass from Mariota to Tupua set up a 1-yard leap over the line of scrimmage by Keanu Mook-Garcia, and the Crusaders led 20-7 with 10:21 left in the second quarter.
Aaron Goo, who missed a PAT try earlier, nailed a 40-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the half to give Saint Louis a 23-7 lead.
Jaylen Mitchell, a sophomore, went left, then juked and made a sharp cut to the right hashmark, en route to a 94-yard kickoff return to the end zone. Waianae trailed 23-13 with 13 seconds left in the half.
Waianae’s opening drive of the second half showed promise, but a botched handoff led to a fumble recovery by defensive end Juda Parker. A diving interception by Gomez ended the next Waianae march.
Saint Louis’ Kala McShane scored from 4 yards out on an option pitch to give the Crusaders a commanding 30-13 lead with 11:52 remaining.
Saint Louis’ defense came up with another pick, a diving stab by L.J. Kalawala, to thwart a Waianae drive at the Crusaders’ 22-yard line. A 2-yard play-action toss from Mariota to tight end Dallas Tuumalo put the game out of reach, 36-13, with 7:34 remaining.
Crusaders score quick
Waianae controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 27 minutes. But the Saint Louis offense didn’t need much time to build its lead.
The Crusaders spent less than 2 minutes on the field on each of their first four touchdown drives. The longest of the bunch was a drive bridging the third and fourth quarters that took 1 minute, 54 seconds.
One of their longest marches was a drive chewing up 4:22 in the second quarter that resulted in Aaron Goo’s 40-yard field goal.
Mitchell goes the distance
Waianae’s Jaylen Mitchell’s 94-yard kickoff return late in the second quarter was the first in a Division I state championship game since 2002.
The last player to take a kickoff the distance was Saint Louis’ B.J. Batts, who went 99 yards in a win over Castle.
Goo sets mark for field goal
Saint Louis kicker Aaron Goo’s 40-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the second quarter was the longest in a state championship game or Prep Bowl.
The previous record was a 37-yarder by Saint Louis’ C.J. Santiago in 2003 when the Crusaders lost to Kahuku 27-26.
Attendance figure dips
Last night’s games drew 12,309 fans. It was the smallest turnout for a state final since the Saint Louis-Castle matchup in 2002, which drew 10,935.