There was no trophy presentation or ceremony for St. Francis after its 40-6 win over Kalaheo at Kailua’s Alex Kane on Friday night. But make no mistake, it was a seminal moment for the Saints.
St. Francis’ victory clinched the team’s first-ever state tournament appearance since the program’s inception in 2013. After coming up a win short of an ILH title and state tournament berth in each of the past two seasons, the Saints (7-0) broke through, this time against the OIA’s Mustangs (2-6).
“It’s a monumental day for St. Francis football,” coach Kip Akana said. “That’s been our goal since we got here — to get a seat at the table at the state tournament, and we’ve accomplished that today.”
Because of the new statewide format, the Saints will be the ILH’s lone representative at the Division II tournament. The ILH won’t crown a Division I or II champion because there are only two teams in each division.
But that doesn’t make the victory any less sweet for the team’s players, who remember the sting of last year’s 13-12 loss to Damien in the ILH D-II championship game.
“It’s a big step for us. First time we’re going to states — it’s a blessing. This team has a special bond and I believe we can take it this year,” said junior Shepherd Kekahuna, who finished with a touchdown on each side of the ball. “Last year, we should have took it. … It was a good team, though. We just never had that push at the end, but this year, we got it.”
The first quarter was a defensive struggle, but Makana Poole broke the stalemate with a 30-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the period.
The Saints offense broke through in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns from Jonan Aina-Chaves, who finished with 144 rushing yards on 15 carries in his return to the starting lineup after dealing with a high right ankle sprain for the past three weeks. His first score came on a 13-yard rush with 7:31 left in the half.
On the team’s next drive, quarterback Bubba Akana threw a simple checkdown to Aina-Chaves and he did the rest, eluding defenders with a few shifty moves on his way to a 50-yard touchdown. Poole added a 26-yard field goal to give St. Francis a 20-0 lead as time expired in the first half.
“He’s a game-changer. Electrifying,” Kip Akana said of Aina-Chaves. “He’s still a little hobbled. He’s maybe about 80 percent now, but 80 percent of (Jonan) Aina-Chaves is better than most.”
Damien 16, Kailua 7
Logan Lauti scored two touchdowns and Kyle Kinney intercepted two passes as the Monarchs outlasted the Surfriders in a defensive slugfest.
Lauti generated 234 yards of total offense by himself, catching a 5-yard pass from Duke Ho‘ohuli as time expired in the first half to break a scoreless tie.
Kailua quarterback Kaniala Williams took a 63-yard read option keeper to the house with 4:33 remaining in the third. The Surfriders tied things up after Maka Roberts’ extra point.
The Monarchs couldn’t convert from fourth-and-goal at the Kailua 1 but forced a safety on its next defensive play to take a 9-7 lead with 59 seconds left in the third quarter.
Damien took a two-possession lead with 9:49 left in the fourth quarter for the game’s final score.