It was impossible, really, to watch the high-efficiency offense and technically sound defense of St. John Bosco on Saturday and not have this thought: Dynasty.
Dynasty as the state champion of California in 2013. Dynasty as the No. 1 team in the MaxPreps rankings in ’13.
Not so long ago, it was Saint Louis of Hawaii that had that kind of machinery, a team so well-tuned, well coached and uber-talented that it won 14 Prep Bowl titles and one state championship. National rankings were the norm back then for the program that received enlistment from many of the top players in the state whether it was off island or North Shore.
That’s why Crusaders coach Cal Lee kept perspective after the 63-14 loss at Aloha Stadium. When you’ve been on the top, well, greatness respects greatness. And though the Crusaders are very much a work in progress during year 1 of Lee’s return to Kalaepohaku, he’s all about being steadfast.
“We just gotta step it up as a staff, as players, just work, work, work a little harder. We weren’t tackling people and getting after them,” Cal Lee said. “I think they realize preseason is over. It counts now.”
The national defending champs came to Oahu filled with question marks after losing big numbers to graduation. St. John Bosco put an exclamation mark on Honolulu with the runaway, running-clock win. The Braves, who had no games or scrimmages against other teams until Friday night, were electric on both side of the ball. Running back Sean McGrew rushed for 182 yards on just 15 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
“There’s a lot of questions about my play this year,” McGrew said, noting some that cast doubt on a fairly young offensive line.
“Every game, I’m going to step up. We have a great offensive line. Tonight, they stepped up,” said McGrew, who rushed for 23 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards in 2013.
Senior quarterback Josh Rosen was poised in three quarters of play, directing a four-wide offense that had its share of quirky touches, including a statue-of-liberty play borrowed straight from the Boise State playbook.
“We steal all our stuff. We didn’t invent anything,” coach Jason Negro said. “I’m really satisfied. We talked about coming to the islands and enjoying ourselves, but it would be all for naught if we didn’t finish. We didn’t get to run a whole lot (during the week), but Kahuku helped us by letting us practice there on Wednesday.”
Directing a no-huddle, hurry-up offense, Rosen completed 16 of 28 passes for 248 yards, one touchdown and no picks.
“We did have a few mistakes. It’s how you bounce back from them. Our coaches prepared us well,” said Rosen, who is committed to UCLA. “We’re replacing a lot of guys and a lot of guys stepped up. We’ve done a lot of player-organized workouts. Our guys are motivated, not big-name scholarship guys. It comes down to hard work.”
St. John Bosco finished with 327 rushing yards on 34 attempts. The Braves finished with 675 total yards of offense with just one turnover.
Saint Louis faced a defense that had new starters in clusters in the secondary and defensive line. The Braves were aggressive and fast, however, and seemed to know exactly what was coming on most plays.
“It was like going up against our own defense,” Negro said of coach Cal Lee’s squad. “Nothing can better prepare us for Saint Louis than our offense. A lot of teams in our league run the shotgun, too. We executed really well tonight.”
The Crusaders finished with 297 total yards. Tua Tagovailoa, who came off the bench again, led with 53 rushing yards on four scrambles. He also passed for 137 yards (10-for-14) and two touchdowns. Ryder Kuhns passed for 50 yards (9-for-19). It’s been a brutally tough early, preseason slate coming off a 63-47 loss to No. 2 Mililani next week. Saint Louis’ next foe is defending state champion Punahou.
The Braves were unstoppable from the start. Even before their offense took the field, they scored when Ieti Epenesa blocked a punt and Clifford Simms returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
St. John Bosco then scored touchdowns on each of their first six possessions. McGrew was powerful and fast, belying his 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame. He rushed for 120 yards on 11 carries by halftime, including touchdown runs of 4 and 30 yards.
The Crusaders got on the scoreboard in the second quarter when Tagovailoa entered the game at quarterback. He scrambled for 12 yards, then connected with Jimmy Nunuha on a 28-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 21-7 with 11:19 before halftime.
Rosen was efficient on every series. He ran for a touchdown from 10-yards out on a perfectly executed play-action, pump faking before squirting up the middle and bowling over a defender at the goal line.
Tagovailoa’s second touchdown pass, a 15-yard bullet to Riccardo Sallas II, made it 35-14 with 2:52 left in the half.
The visitors closed out the half with a bit of trickeration. Anselem Umeh took a statue-of-liberty handoff from Rosen and raced around right end for a 28-yard touchdown — on fourth and 25 — to give St. John Bosco a 42-14 lead with 54 seconds left in the half.
Rosen and McGrew hung around for a bit more in the second half. McGrew’s third touchdown came on a blast up the middle with a nifty cutback to the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown. Rosen later threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Devin Fleming before departing in the third quarter with the Braves up 56-14 and the mercy rule in full effect.
The only minus for the Braves was penalties: 13 for 108 yards, all in the first half.
At Aloha Stadium.
ST. JOHN BOSCO (1-0) 21 21 14 0 — 63
SAINT LOUIS (0-2) 7 7 0 0 — 14
SJB—Clifford Simms 22 blocked punt return (Eric Daniels kick)
SJB—Sean McGrew 4 run (Daniels kick)
SJB—MGrew 30 run (Daniels kick)
SL—Jimmy Nunuha 28 pass from Tua Tagovailoa (Noah Alejado kick)
SJB—Josh Rosen 10 run (Daniels kick)
SJB—Simms 1 run (Daniels kick)
SL—Riccardo Sallas II 15 pass from Tagovailoa (Alejado kick)
SJB—Anselem Umeh 28 run (Daniels kick)
SJB—McGrew 47 run (Daniels kick)
SJB—Devin Fleming 6 pass from Rosen (Daniels kick)
SJB—Quentin Davis 10 run (Daniels kick)
RUSHING—SJB: McGrew 15-182, Umeh 2-24, Rosen 6-38, Simms 2-13, Davis 3-19, Terrence Beasley 4-43, Kaylin Franklin 1-4, Mike Ray 1-4. SL: Jonathon Manalo 7-26, Raymond Caayon 1-3, Tagovailoa 4-53, Jahred Silofau 3-28.
PASSING—SJB: Rosen 16-28-0-248, Davis 1-2-0-7. SL: Ryder Kuhns 9-19-0-50, Tagovailoa 10-14-0-137.
RECEIVING—SJB: Umeh 3-81, Fleming 2-13, Jarett Balter 2-12, Kristian Gilbert 3-46, Berkeley Holman 1-17, Jared Harrell 2-23, Franklin 2-38, Joey Chenoweth 1-18, Ray 1-7. SL: Keanu Souza 1-3, Nunuha 3-64, Drew Kobayashi 2-22, Riccardo Sallas II 4-40, Allen Cui 4-29, Manalo 1-4, Iosefo Noga 1-15, Spencer Johnson 2-12, Colton Nascimento 1-(-2).