For two years, Chevan Cordeiro was relegated to backup duty.
A player of his talent and caliber, Cordeiro could have easily found playing time somewhere else. Yet he stayed at Saint Louis backing up Tua Tagovailoa and patiently waited for his turn.
It came in 2017, and the 6-foot-1, 175-pound University of Hawaii commit delivered a season every bit as good as that of his former teammate, who is now at Alabama.
Cordeiro delivered a fifth state championship to the Saint Louis brotherhood with two eye-popping performances in back-to-back state tournament games. A record 528-yard passing performance with five touchdowns against Mililani was followed up by another 440 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 victory over Kahuku in the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships on Saturday night (and Sunday morning).
Cordeiro, who became the 10th player to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season, punctuated a season filled with SportsCenter-worthy highlights with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Panoke with 37 seconds left to win it.
If you want to nit-pick, maybe it was slightly underthrown as Panoke had to go up and get it over Kahuku defensive back Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu. But considering the situation, down four with 46 seconds remaining in his own territory, Cordeiro made the biggest play in the biggest moment to give Saint Louis back-to-back state titles for the first time.
“The play was both X and Z receivers doing deep routes,” Cordeiro said. “I chose to go with Jonah because he was 1-on-1. I just threw it up and he made a great catch. It’s amazing. We worked hard this whole offseason and throughout the season for this moment. To come back and win against Kahuku, a great team — there’s nothing else we can ask for.”
Cordeiro said Panoke was 1-on-1, but it’s also a throw he has made so many times. Panoke has had Cordeiro as his quarterback since the second grade. Ten years of running the same route and getting a catchable pass from his QB led to that one shinning moment with more than 22,000 in attendance watching.
“We knew we only had about 35 seconds left and Chev told me ‘we gotta make a play and this is how we win,'” said Panoke, who had eight receptions for 152 yards. “Coach called Z-9, and I knew it was my time to step up.
“I’ve been with Chevan since the second grade and we’ve had a connection all the way up to senior year.”
Cordeiro finished a perfect 10-0 in his senior season. He completed 67.5 percent (195-for-289) of his passes for 3,130 yards and 29 touchdowns with eight picks.
Of the 10 quarterbacks to have a season of at least 3,000 yards passing, nobody had done it attempting less than 300 throws. Cordeiro’s completion percentage is the second-best of the group, trailing only Mililani’s McKenzie Milton (69.1 percent). Milton and Cordeiro both threw eight interceptions, the lowest total among quarterbacks in that 3,000-yard group.
Milton is now a sophomore starter at Central Florida and has led the Knights to a 10-0 record as one of 15 semifinalists for the Walter Camp Award given to college football’s best player, regardless of position.
Saturday saw Milton, Tagovailoa and Pearl City alum Jordan Ta’amu, now the starter at Ole Miss, combine to throw for nine touchdown passes in FBS games. Tagovailoa, who threw three TD’s against Mercer, is already the backup QB at the premier college football program in the country as a true freshman. Ta’amu, who has started the last three games for the Rebels, has thrown for more than 1,000 yards in three starts.
Cordeiro appears to be next in line to thrive at the next level despite being an unknown to most schools entering his senior season.
He’s committed to the University of Hawaii, along with Panoke. There’s a worry he might not show up on the Manoa campus, however. It’s hard to believe other schools won’t make a push at the last minute.
Cordeiro has remained steadfast in his commitment to UH so far. But after getting such a sweet taste of Cordeiro at his very best over the last nine days, it’s going to feel like an eternity between now and signing day for UH fans that know what a difference the latest Saint Louis great could make for his hometown school.