Hawaii’s best is now one of the nation’s best.
Three-time defending state champion Saint Louis added a marquee school to its current 29-game winning streak with a 31-19 win over Bishop Gorman (Nev.) on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
The inaugural Aloha Football Classic provided the Crusaders (3-0), ranked as high as No. 10 nationally, a chance to prove themselves against the Gaels (1-1), who won national titles in 2014, ’15 and ’16.
“I feel sort of relieved,” Saint Louis coach Cal Lee said. “There was a lot of pressure as far as playing a big team like this. It’s not a Pop Warner team.”
Senior Jayden de Laura was a cool 23-for-30 for 296 yards and two scores, doing most of his work in the air in the first half. Saint Louis went to the ground in the second half with a lead and rolled up 142 rushing yards, with de Laura gaining 55 on 16 carries and junior Ka’ohu Kamakawiwo’ole rushing for 70 yards and a TD.
After Saint Louis dominated the opening 18 minutes, the Gaels scored 13 unanswered points to pull to 21-13 late in the third quarter when the game changed on a third-and-25 play.
Bishop Gorman quarterback Micah Bowens, a Penn State commit, threw a simple pass out wide to running back Jadyn Ott as the Gaels tried to play it safe.
Ott dropped the ball and thought the play was over, casually picking it back up. It was ruled a backward pass, however, and the Saint Louis defense closed in and blasted an unsuspecting Ott from behind. Linebacker Nick Herbig picked it up and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown to push the lead to 28-13.
“Any time you can score defensively, that’s big,” Lee said. “And that was big.”
“Me and Lawai (Brown) saw the running back and hit him, and we finished off the play just like our coaches tell us at practice,” added Herbig. “You always play to the whistle. Coach Cal, all our coaches tell us that every day.”
The Gaels had a big play of their own on defense to start the second half when Mike Doss intercepted a pass deflected into the air in the end zone to end the Crusaders’ first drive.
Saint Louis was looking to take a 21-point lead and drove 70 yards before the Crusaders committed their only turnover of the drive.
Saint Louis gave the visitors a rude welcome in the opening 18 minutes and took a 21-0 lead before the Gaels even managed a first down.
De Laura completed 11 of his first 13 throws, with one of the incompletions a drop by a wide-open Roman Wilson on the second play of the game.
Wilson, a Michigan commit, made up for it later in the drive when he got behind the defense for a wide-open 31-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.
“Everybody can drop a pass. I just had to stay focused and bounce back,” Wilson said.
Saint Louis added to its lead early in the second quarter when de Laura hit Koali Nishigaya out of the slot for a 10-yard TD. Nishigaya, who finished with 10 catches for 103 yards, spun his way past a defender and jaunted into the end zone for a 14-0 advantage.
After linebacker Sonny Masaniai blew up a running play to force the Gaels’ fourth straight three-and-out to start the game, the Crusaders overcame a second-and-28 and converted a fourth-and-4 on a pass from de Laura to Isaac Silva before Kamakawiwo’ole’s 5-yard TD run made it 21-0.
In danger of being blown out, the Gaels finally got untracked on their next drive, with receiver Rome Odunze, a Washington commit, catching four passes for 69 yards, including a jump ball in the end zone for a 21-yard TD.
Saint Louis took a 21-7 lead into the break after a lengthy injury timeout. Bishop Gorman linebacker Dahlin Mesake was hit in the head by his own teammate and had to be taken off the field in an ambulance with 2:55 left in the second quarter.