No. 1 Saint Louis was already amped up for its first defensive play in Saturday’s ILH Open Division championship game when junior linebacker Jordan Botelho was given a clean lane toward Buffanblu quarterback Hugh Brady.
Flying off the edge at the snap, Botelho squared up Brady with a clean hit to the chest, planting him on the Aloha Stadium turf. The ball popped loose and Botelho eventually grabbed it, took off for the end zone, and scored on a 5-yard fumble return.
The play knocked Brady out of the game and set the tone for the Crusaders’ 45-21 victory to claim their fourth consecutive ILH championship and their 24th consecutive victory overall.
“It’s been a long season, a tough season,” Saint Louis coach Cal Lee said. “To play a team like Punahou, forget the score, we were very fortunate. The ball kind of bounced our way.”
Botelho, the state’s top-ranked junior recruit, wound up spending more of the game on the sideline than he would have liked. He received two unsportsmanlike penalties in the first half and was ejected after the second one with the Crusaders already ahead 21-0.
“I let myself get into it too much,” Botelho said. “It’s a learning experience. I let my team down and I’m truly sorry for that.”
With the next game in the state tournament, it’s unclear if Botelho would have to sit out Saint Louis’ semifinal game against the OIA runner-up on Nov. 16.
Saint Louis was flagged for a number of penalties, leaving Lee a bit perturbed after the game.
“Sometimes, these kids nowadays, they talk too much,” Lee said. “You tell these kids but sometimes they forget. We’re not here to debate anybody. Play football.”
Saint Louis did exactly that, forcing six Punahou turnovers and holding the Buffanblu to less than 28 points for the first time this season.
Safety Kamo’i Latu had two interecptions and a fumble recovery and senior Junior Wily added seven tackles and an interception.
Punahou sophomore Kobe Muasau was forced to play all but one snap at quarterback after Brady was knocked out of the game. Brady eventually went to the hospital at halftime according to Punahou coach Kale Ane.
Muasau threw for 308 yards on 63 pass attempts and senior receiver Tamatoa Falatea had 143 yards on 13 catches with two touchdowns.
The turnovers, however, were too much to overcome, and the season is over for the ILH runner-up Buffanblu (7-3).
“Well, we know the guidelines so we’re disappointed,” Ane said. “We knew going in that this was our opportunity to go to the state tournament. We just didn’t do our job. Kobe came in in a tough situation and played really well.”
at Aloha Stadium
Punahou (7-3) 0 7 7 7 — 21
Saint Louis (9-0) 14 14 3 14 — 45
StL—Jordan Botelho 5 fumble return (Garyn Napuunoa kick)
StL—Jayden de Laura 4 run (Napuunoa kick)
StL—Makoa Close 50 pass from de Laura (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Tamatoa Falatea 36 pass from Kobe Muasau (Tim Horn kick)
StL—de Laura 25 run (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Falatea 5 pass from Muasau (Horn kick)
StL—FG Napuunoa 26
StL—Chance Beyer 19 pass from de Laura (Napuunoa kick)
StL—Connor Apo 67 run (Napuunoa kick)
Pun—Alex Thompson 5 pass from Muasau (Horn kick)
RUSHING—Punahou: Muasau 8-24, Sitiveni Kaufusi 3-6, team 1-(minus 1), Hugh Brady 1-(minus 13). Saint Louis: Robbie Paikai 9-104, Apo 1-67, de Laura 18-51, Dayton Sam 11-36, Chandan Sappal 1-(minus 1), team 1-(minus 1), Logan Kalawaia 2-(minus 4).
PASSING—Punahou: Muasau 35-63–3-308, Koa Eldredge 0-1-0-0. Saint Louis: de Laura 14-24–1-242.
RECEIVING—Punahou: Falatea 13-143, Moku Dancil-Evans 9-58, Raydan Kiaaina-Caires 4-37, Eldredge 4-19, Kanoa Kalahiki 3-27, Matagi Thompson 1-19, A. Thompson 1-5. Saint Louis: Beyer 5-66, Close 3-113, Roman Wilson 3-41, Paikai 1-10, Matt Sykes 1-7, Koali Nishigaya 1-5.