St. Francis and Radford lined up in customary handshake lines at the end of a competitive first meeting, a cross-league, cross-division game that went 28-21 to the Saints at John E. Velasco Stadium.
They got about halfway through the postgame ritual before it got chippy, broke down, and players went their separate ways, gesturing at each other, slightly tarnishing the season opener for both teams. Head coaches Kip Akana and Lon Passos shook hands, though.
That — and a couple of fumbles, including one lost — was about all that didn’t go right on this night for junior running back Jonan Aina-Chaves, who broke his own team record to post 263 yards rushing on 28 carries with two first-half touchdowns in the victory.
“Yeah, we didn’t finish. To me, that doesn’t show respect,” Aina-Chaves said as he walked to the team bus. “We should’ve just finished it. But the coaches said ‘rally up’ and we have to listen to our coaches. But we should’ve shook their hands and showed them our respect. That was a good game.”
The 5-foot-8 Aina-Chaves was a pest for the Rams all night, but particularly in the first half, when he sprung for a 72-yard TD and another run of 64 yards to enter halftime with 175 yards on the ground. He had nearly all of his yardage by the end of the third; he was clearly gassed in the fourth and the Saints closed it out with enough passing from Jonah Aina-Chaves, who was filling in at quarterback for incumbent Bubba Akana, who just returned from a baseball trip.
Jonan Aina-Chaves joked (or maybe he didn’t) afterward that he needed to put in more sprints in practice. The rest of the team totaled only 82 yards of offense, but it spoke to the potency of Aina-Chaves’ shifty, spin-cycle running ability and the Saints’ massive offensive line that they were predictable and prevailed anyway.
Here are the top five rushing games in St. Francis’ six-year program history:
>> Jonan Aina-Chaves, 263 at Radford, 8/4/2018
>> Jonan Aina-Chaves, 248 vs. ‘Iolani, 9/29/2017
>> Jonan Aina-Chaves, 215 vs. ‘Iolani, 9/8/2017
>> Jonan Aina-Chaves, 209 at Konawaena, 8/9/2017
>> Ranan Mamiya, 186 vs. Kamehameha, 10/5/2013
“He’s just the high-energy leader of our team, and hope to see more of it,” said Kip Akana, the St. Francis coach who took his team to an 8-4 record and spot in the ILH Division II championship game last year.
On the handshake kerfuffle, Akana said, “I talked to Coach Lon afterward. Nobody seems to know what actually happened, but it’s football. It’s a passionate game and it’s filled with emotion. We talked, everything seems to be fine. That’s just the passion of football.”
“Safety of the players, just pull everybody off,” Passos agreed.
Radford had a right to be fired up. It had a legitimate chance to win the game, leading 21-14 after Malik Rhines‘ impressive 75-yard scoop-and-score fumble return in the third quarter.
Alas, they couldn’t close the deal by alternating Campbell senior transfer Hunter Copp , a burgeoning passer, and returning utility back Matai Suitonu; Passos’ team is still searching for its first win on the field in three years (not including a forfeit win over Kaiser last year).
St. Francis closed with more yardage chewed up by Jonan Aina-Chaves and some timely passing by Jonah Aina-Chaves, especially a fourth-and-9 touchdown pass to Shepherd Kekahuna from the 19 with 10:48 to play.
“We had an idea that, I knew their quarterback from last year is a baseball player, so we knew they would be run heavy (today),” Passos said. “(For us), Hunter’s just gotta settle down a little bit more, Matai is just a runner. I think we gotta change it up so that teams don’t know when he’s in he’s just running the ball.”
Suitonu limped off late with an apparent ankle sprain, but Passos was confident he’d be all right coming up. Division I Radford plays defending ILH Division II champion Damien (now in D-I) on Friday, as the touted OIA-ILH football alliance gets into full swing.
“I told the kids, there’s bright spots. But bright spots last only for so long. Now we gotta fix it up,” Passos said with a laugh.
St. Francis plays McKinley at Roosevelt on Saturday.
Some other shots from Radford: