Over the first four years of varsity football at St. Francis, the Saints have tried to keep it simple on offense.
Establishing a downhill running game has helped St. Francis go from a 1-8 season in 2013 to a 5-3 record in ’16 in which the Saints contended for the ILH Division II crown before losing to Damien.
To take that next step, which they hope happens this season, the Saints are opening things up on offense, meaning the ball is in the air a lot more often.
Prior to Saturday’s 42-0 shutout of Kauai at Alexander Field, the Saints’ had only had one 100-yard receiving game in school history (Kelii Macalino, 100 yards, 2013).
Senior Scott McLeod surpassed that mark before halftime and ended up with seven receptions for 112 yards as the Saints finished incredibly balanced on offense with 155 rushing yards and 287 passing yards in the win.
“This is a new offense and we seem to be progressing,” St. Francis coach Kip Akana said.
McLeod, who is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and doubles as a defensive lineman at times, provided the big target quarterbacks Jonah Aina-Chaves and Bubba Akana needed to move the ball down the field.
Aina-Chaves completed his first nine throws with six going to McLeod, who gave Kauai all kinds of problems with his ability to catch balls in traffic over the middle.
“Scotty is an exceptional athlete. You can put him anywhere on the field at any position and he will affect the game,” Kip Akana said. “With his size, he’s a bad matchup for just about anybody in the state. He’s a physical receiver with good speed.”
Aina-Chaves was nearly perfect on the day, finishing 15-for-17 for 188 yards and three touchdowns, including a 79-yarder to Lachmann Atoa on a third-and-30.
Bubba Akana wasn’t bad either, finishing 5-for-7 for 99 yards and a touchdown as he works his way back into football playing shape after missing three weeks to play baseball on the mainland.
“We’re really focused this year on the receivers running their routes to perfection so the quarterbacks can expect them to be somewhere and they’ll be there,” Akana said. “It seems like we’re getting there.”
Next week, the Saints head to the Big Island to play Konawaena in another good test before the start of ILH play.
St. Francis nearly knocked off Leilehua last week, losing 13-9 after fumbling in the final seconds inside the Mules’ 5-yard line. That performance looks even more impressive after Leilehua hung tight with No. 2 Kahuku in a 24-0 game Friday.
It was an excruciating loss for Kip Akana and his kids, but they showed some poise in the way they bounced back against the Red Raiders.
“We’re real pleased with how the team responded to some adversity last week,” Akana said. “We talked about it all week. Last week’s game there were opportunities to seize momentum and we really didn’t and came out of there with a loss.
“The big focus this week was how do you, as a team, respond to that. Are you guys going to come out flat? Is there going to be a letdown? Are you going to answer the bell? Today they answered the bell.”