An elephant and more in Saint Louis’ bag of tricks, wrinkles

Right guard Jonah Savaiinaea (71) and right tackle La‘akea Kapoi begin to celebrate after Yosei Takahashi (background) scores on a pass from AJ Bianco.

As ancient as the wheel, seemingly, the draw play still delivers a gut punch to the most dangerous and powerful defense.

Saint Louis was in a quandary on Saturday afternoon as Punahou brought a mix of blitz packages, bringing quarterback AJ Bianco down four times before intermission. Calling the draw didn’t end Punahou’s sack-cessful afternoon, but it created a 38-yard touchdown run by Trech Kekahuna and a 49-yard jaunt by Jaysen Peters-de Laura as Saint Louis went ahead 28-17 by halftime.

The top-ranked Crusaders finished with 26 rush attempts (for 265 yards) and 26 pass attempts in a 41-23 win over the Buffanblu. The win is their 36th in a row against Hawaii competition, a streak that goes back to 2016, when the Crusaders lost to Punahou.

Not only did Saint Louis play a game for the first time since Aug. 20, it showed that a one-two combo of passing and running still matter.

“Our draw was working. They were bringing their front, so we sell the pass,” right guard Jonah Savaiinaea said. “That middle linebacker (Kielan Siamani) always backs up and the running back goes straight up the middle.”

Saint Louis had other interesting counters and wrinkles. Occasionally, the offense switched from the usual four- and five-wide sets and lined up in an ace formation — single back, double tight ends, wide receiver at the wing — in short-yardage situations.

“The elephant, that works. We went over that in practice a lot. We’re pounding the ball. That’s what I like,” said Savaiinaea (6-4, 345), who lines up next to right tackle La‘akea Kapoi (6-4, 295) and center Ethan Spencer (6-2, 275).

Dacoda Brown (6-2, 295) lined up at left tackle, while Iapani Laloulu (6-2, 358) and Jaydee Kahawai (6-3, 356) were at left guard.

That kind of size and talent is partly why Punahou brought its variety of blitzes, and they often worked. But every time, Saint Louis found a way to counter. The draw runs. Bianco dialing back on the deep throws in favor of intermediate and short routes. His accuracy, velocity and finesse as a passer were on full display against a defensive unit that has been one of the best statewide for years.

“The sacks are on me,” said Bianco, who took five of the six takedowns. “Just holding on to the ball too long, not being decisive enough.”

After Punahou’s fourth sack in the first half, Bianco began to high-tail it, running for 6 and 41 yards between the hashmarks. The 6-4, 220-pound senior finished with 36 rushing yards on nine carries to go with 272 passing yards (24-for-34) and three touchdown tosses.

“Just taking what the defense gives me. I see these guys every day at practice. I know what they’re capable of. They came out today and performed,” Bianco said. “We had a good game plan going into this week and we made mistakes, but it’s a pretty good start.”

Another counter move — Saint Louis called a number of shovel passes — or forward pitches — including a nine-yard touchdown from Bianco to Keola Apduhan, who spiked the football in the end zone. That drew a 15-yard penalty applied on the ensuing kickoff.

There have been seasons when Saint Louis has a higher percentage of runs than passes en route to a state title. The 50-50 split on a sunny, sometimes breezy afternoon on the synthetic turf at Alexander Field wasn’t entirely by design.

“That’s just kind of how the game flows,” Crusaders coach Ron Lee said. “You’re not trying to go 50-50. The thing was, we haven’t played for four weeks, so we’re still a little rusty, the quarterbacks and timing and stuff. We’ll get better.”

Nine different receivers caught spirals from Bianco and backup ‘Oa Kamakawiwo‘ole.

“I need to look at the film,” Lee said.”We’ve got to tighten it up, get a little better on pre-snap reads. AJ is accurate and can get the ball deep. Punahou mixed up their coverage. They rushed. They dropped. I thought they did a nice job with all the young guys they have. They didn’t give up and they were knocking on the door a lot.”

See the game story in Sunday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

At Alexander Field
Saint Louis (1-1, 1-0) 14 14 7 6 — 41
Punahou (1-1, 1-1) 7 10 0 6 — 23
STL—Devon Tauaefa 28 pass from AJ Bianco (Lason Napuunoa kick)
STL—Trech Kekahuna 38 run (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Noah Macapulay 39 pass from John-Keawe Sagapolutele (Jordan Kapisi kick)
STL—Jaysen Peters-de Laura 49 run (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Astin Hange 90 kick return (Kapisi kick)
STL—Yosei Takahashi 11 pass from Bianco (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Kapisi FG 41
STL—Keola Apduhan 9 pass from Bianco (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Tevarua Tafiti 50 fumble return (run failed)
STL—Chyler DeSilva 9 pass from ‘Oa Kamakawiwo‘ole (kick failed)

Individual statistics
Rushing—Saint Louis: Bianco 9-36, Apduhan 14-87, Trech Kekahuna 5-85, Jaysen Peters-de Laura 2-55, Kamakawiwo‘ole 2-(-6), William Lentz 1-3, Elijah Dolor 2-10, Vu Nguyen 1-(-5). Punahou: Sagapolutele 10-(-19), Ean Kamau-Waikiki 1-(-3), Ala‘i Williams 1-2, Noah Macapulay 1-5.

Passing—Saint Louis: Bianco 24-34-1-273, Kamakawiwo‘ole 1-2-0-9. Punahou: Sagapolutele 19-36-1-213, David Dikeman 1-1-0-14.

Receiving—Saint Louis: Kekahuna 9-99, Mason Muaau 1-14, Devon Tauaefa 3-58, Apduhan 3-17, Peters-de Laura 4-38, Titan Lacaden 1-9, Takahashi 1-11, DeSilva 2-25, William Reed 1-11. Punahou: Astin Hange 5-50, Kamau-Waikiki 3-42, Peyton Macapulay 2-32, Williams 2-6, N. Macapulay 6-85, Donte Utu 2-12.


  1. ILH September 19, 2021 10:49 am

    Good start for being their 1st game since Aug. 20.

  2. ??? September 19, 2021 12:53 pm


  3. Nothing but the Truth September 19, 2021 3:21 pm

    Running back Apduhan has the same size and ellusiveness as a SL running back many years ago. Ed Kini.

  4. Hi September 19, 2021 8:16 pm

    They’re just on a different level. It’s just not fair to the other teams in the state. Lot of it has to do with coaching. When the Lee brothers step down again, the St. Louis program will not be the same caliber for a while. It’s the coaching and the recruiting.

  5. ILoveHawaii September 21, 2021 8:43 am

    Lulu is beatable this year.
    But has the level of play fallen for all schools because of the off year??

    With the exception of 9th graders who started in 2019, the rest of the starters for any team lack experience and did not have that transition year with outgoing seniors to adequately pass on the torch.

  6. SASA September 22, 2021 8:14 am

    Watch out for Mililani ,a bunch of Poly kids out of district transfers LOL, Good Coaching Staff, just need a QB (Recruiting is the key)

  7. ILoveHawaii September 22, 2021 9:13 am

    SASA – Define “Good Coaching Staff”….

  8. Public school boy September 22, 2021 10:21 am

    Watch out for Mililani and Kahuku. They right up there with St. Louis, Punahou and Kamehameha. Who can blame the public schools for “recruiting” outside of their district. The ILH schools get to do it so why can’t they do the same. If you want to level the playing field and have competitive high school games then you gotta keep up with the competition or you fall by the way side and see blow out games. Kudos to some of the public school coaches as they figured out the key to success is to mirror the ILH schools and get the best talent possible and give the kids a better opportunity to get exposure and land a college scholarship.

  9. CrusaderDad September 22, 2021 12:12 pm

    @ Hi – I agree the level of coaching at StL has always been high, even in the years the Lee’s were not there, StL was competitive.
    @ILoveHawaii, – everyone is beatable…I too wonder about how much other teams play level has dropped. Mili looked decent in the earlier control scrimmage, but that wasn’t a full game. So it will be interesting how it goes in a full game, if OIA is able to have games…

  10. ILoveHawaii September 23, 2021 3:05 pm

    RR’s recruit?? Thought it was just for basketball. As much as Transferville??

    Oh. Your son’s team is much more beatable than any other Lulu team weve seen during this current Champ run. So yes, every team is beatable. But, nobody cares if Waialua gets beat. Everyone is eagerly awaiting for when Lulu goes DOWN.

    We will see if the baseline has shifted for everyone.

  11. OIA Media September 24, 2021 1:50 pm

    Mililani has a good team. But we have all seen it in the past. Big games, big showdowns , they dont show up. Poor game management and poor adjusting. Thats been their story. take away what they do best and they have no answers. Coaching coaching coaching.

  12. Hi September 24, 2021 1:52 pm

    Crusader Dad- St. Louis will always be up there because of their established football program throughout the years. But before Cal Lee took over again in 2014, they weren’t as dominant, with Tengan, Arcenaux, and Wright as head. But you’re right they were still pretty good.

  13. Hi September 24, 2021 2:05 pm

    That class of mililani where they had Milton, Timoteo, and Malepaeai was the best class they will ever have. Hopefully they can balance the competition and power with another class like that, but I doubt that will happen again.

    As for Kahuku, all they need is to find that one premier HB and a solid physical D. But it all starts with that one or maybe 2 badass halfbacks. They never really leaned on a throwing qb. All they need is to resurrect people like Vai Notoa, Ken Faavae, Mulivai Pula, Aofaga Wily, Vakapuna, Brown. That’s how they beat teams, physicality and pounding the ball on the ground.

  14. Offsides September 25, 2021 7:35 pm

    That year with Milton and timateo and malepeai , they supposed to win it , they just had athletes , matter of fact , they should’ve won back to back . With all the transfers and talents that they have , they always come up short . Like the post above said , take away what they do best , they will not have answers .

    As far as Kahuku , they too just has athletes . They just let em loose . Going to be an interesting year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email