That hole in the schedule only adds to the anticipation.
The approach of Hurricane Lane wiped out a regular-season matchup between Saint Louis and Mililani in late August. Just about three months after the cancellation, the Crusaders and Trojans will finally meet in the final game of the high school football season.
Top-ranked Saint Louis finalized the pairing for next week’s First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Championship Open Division title game with a 49-22 rout of No. 4 Kahuku in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader at Aloha Stadium.
“Not a lot of people can say they played in the state championship game,” Saint Louis quarterback Jayden de Laura said.
“I know (the Trojans are) a good team and they’ll bring a good fight. They’ll be hungry to play us, so we just gotta prepare.”
After Mililani, the OIA Open Division champion, advanced to the final with a 24-2 win over Campbell in the opener, the ILH champion Crusaders (10-0) pulled away from the Red Raiders (7-5) to run their winning streak to 25 and earn a shot at a third straight state crown.
The Crusaders and Trojans met in last year’s state tournament semifinals, with Saint Louis running away to a 47-23 win.
“They’re a good football team, they’re well-coached. They got good players on both sides of the ball. Another week of restless nights,” said Saint Louis coach Cal Lee, who is pursuing his 18th Prep Bowl or state championship with the Crusaders.
Saint Louis and Kahuku met in the top-tier title game each of the previous three years, with the Crusaders winning the past two Open Division championships. Saint Louis had won the previous three meetings in the rivalry with Kahuku, including a 30-14 decision on Sept. 7.
Saint Louis generated 296 yards of total offense while holding Kahuku to 41 in building a 35-14 lead in the first half. De Laura rushed for the Crusaders’ first two touchdowns and threw for another. Running back Robbie Paikai rushed for two scores before halftime.
The Saint Louis defense accounted for all of the Crusaders’ scoring in the second half with two interception returns for touchdowns within 23 seconds of each other late in the third quarter. Linebacker Jordan Botelho returned a pick 25 yards for a touchdown and Harvey Welch took one back 52 yards to bring the running clock into effect with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
“We haven’t played in a while, so we’re just hungry,” safety Kamo’i Latu said of coming back from a three-week break since beating Punahou for the ILH title. “We came out today and just gave it our all, left it all out on the field today.”
De Laura capped Saint Louis’ first two possessions with touchdown runs, but the Crusaders lost fumbles on their next two drives. Kahuku converted the first into a seven-play scoring drive, with Robbie Sauvao hitting Thorton Alapa for a 15-yard touchdown on fourth-and-13.
Kahuku recovered the Crusaders’ second fumble at the Saint Louis 40, but Latu protected the lead with the first of his two interceptions in the first half.
After Paikai’s first touchdown, Kahuku’s Tevita Faleta returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. But Saint Louis finished its next two possessions in the end zone — on Paikai’s 17-yard run and de Laura’s 5-yard pass to Chance Beyer — to regain control.
“We had a good season. I’m proud of our boys no matter what,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said after concluding his first season leading the Red Raiders. “They fought through injuries, adversities. They were resilient and stayed together as a team to finish the season. We’ll be back. … We’ll rebuild like we always do. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors coming back, so the future looks bright.”