Crusaders marching forward

Saint Louis and ‘Iolani warming up on a blazing hot afternoon.
Saint Louis and ‘Iolani warming up on a blazing hot afternoon.

It’s hard to beat the gurus.

That’s basically the scenario every time a team takes on Saint Louis and its brothers in arms, coaches Cal and Ron Lee. Sure, the Crusaders will be deeper next year defensively with an influx of new players, and the offense will still be potent with the return of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

But it’s the evolution of the offense in the return of the Lees that piques interest. What was and still is generally a four-wide, pass-oriented offense is also capable of ground-and-pound success. In a 55-20 win over ‘Iolani on Saturday, the Crusaders rushed 37 times for 218 yards (and three TDs) in a well-crafted we’ll-take-what-you-give-us approach.

Tagovailoa and Ryder Kuhns (10-for-10!) combined for a masterful 25-of-26 passing for 445 yards and five TDs. Thirty-seven rushing attempts. Twenty-six passes. And on most of those running plays, Tagovailoa offered the threat of a run, whether it was a read option or not, well, he and Ron Lee would know.

• Freddy Pancake. Fred Ulu-Perry was a force of nature again, trying to execute proper blocking technique while sufficiently bludgeoning opposing linemen. When I get a chance to review the game video just watching him, I’ll cut that into a montage. He was monstrous on one play, pulverizing a Raider lineman to the ground with full “frontal force out” power. He’s the top O-lineman in the state — one who Cal Lee and Ron Lee compare (at this stage) to the fine Chicago Bears professional (now retired), Saint Louis graduate Olin Kreutz.

• Century runners. Jahred Silofau rumbled for 101 yards and a TD on 13 carries, becoming the first Crusader rusher to crack the century mark this season. Last year, now-graduated Adam Noga hit the century mark three: 150 yards against Pac-Five, 208 against ‘Iolani and 114 in a playoff loss to Kamehameha.

• Depth chart. Though Saint Louis is still a relatively small school and ‘Iolani is mid-sized, at best, the Raiders didn’t have quite the depth defensively that coach Wendell Look would like.

“Our guys are trying hard and doing the best they can,” the seven-time Division II state championship coach said. “We’re only two deep at every position.”

Against a heavily armed, no-huddle Saint Louis run-and-shoot offense, the Raiders simply had no choice but to pick their poison. Only three healthy cornerbacks were available, as well as two running backs.

“We need some depth. That’s not making excuses. That’s just a fact,” Look said. “After our first two series, we moved the ball. Saint Louis has lots of weapons and they’re big up front.”

For critics who insist that ‘Iolani belongs in D-I with bigger, deeper teams because of wins and losses, the evidence speaks otherwise.

Division I opponents
L 55-20 Saint Louis

L 56-35 Leilehua
L 38-22 Kamehameha (Aloha)
L 49-13 Saint Louis (Aloha)
L 56-0 Punahou

W 35-34 @ Waipahu
L 68-39 Saint Louis (Aloha)
L 42-34 @ Kamehameha
L 56-14 @ Punahou

L 42-7 Farrington
W 21-14 Waianae
L 38-18 Punahou
L 42-35 Saint Louis
L 55-14 Kamehameha

L 43-23 @ Mililani
W 13-6 Kamehameha (Aloha)
L 24-19 @ Punahou
L 41-14 Saint Louis (Aloha)

L 42-21 @ Castle
W 23-21 Kapolei
W 20-17 Kamehameha
W 35-12 Punahou
L 28-0 Saint Louis

Going back to ’09 and ’10, the Raiders were highly successful with Jarrett Arakawa and Reece Foy at QB, deeper and very good.

But the last two seasons have shown that competing against ILH D-I teams is a major burden. The Raiders have some decent size up front this season, but as Look said, depth is an issue against those D-I state-title contenders. Last year’s team fell short of the D-II state title — and final — for the first time since ’06.

As long as elite programs — Punahou, in particular — can offer far more financial aid (meeeeeeellions) to student-athletes than other schools, it would be sensible for the Raiders to remain in D-II. The past few years have demonstrated that competition in the ILH for the finest scholars and athletes remains as cut-throat and cannibalistic as ever. That is unlikely to ever change.

It is simply the reality of this food chain.

Besides, wins and losses (power rating) are discouraged by the National Federation of High Schools as a criteria for classification. NFHS prefers enrollment size as criteria.

• Target practice. ‘Iolani’s Keoni-Kordell Makekau is already among the frontrunners among placekickers (four field goals), but his playmaking ability as a wide receiver makes him a focal point for defenses. Saint Louis did what it could to contain him; Makekau finished the game with four receptions for 42 yards and one TD.

The 5-foot-9, 162-pound junior was targeted six times, all in the first half. Quarterback Austin Jim On (16-for-26, 146 yards, no picks) found sure-handed Tyler Teruya more often. Teruya was targeted 10 times and made nine catches for 63 yards.

Nick Kennedy was targeted three times (two receptions, 35 yards). Connor Ohira was less fortunate (four targets, one catch, 4 yards). Connor Hannum (one target) and Brent Nagami (two targets, one grab, 1 yard) got looks in the second half.

In all, Saint Louis’ defense allowed just 5.3 yards per pass attempt, which is excellent.

Against a conservative Raiders defense, Crusader QBs Tagovailoa and Kuhns spread the ball around, connecting with 10 different receivers. One incompletion. Not 100-percent sure, but 25-for-26 might be close to a record for accuracy for any team with at least 20 or 25 attempts.

Their first six pass attempts went to five different teammates and no Crusader was targeted more than four times. There’s a certain discipline to staying within the offense, making reads and trusting receivers enough to let the ball go.

Maybe Saint Louis could just air it out to Drew Kobayashi (who received a scholarship offer from Cal last week) with eight to 10 bombs every game, but force-feeding is not what they do. Right now, Tagovailoa’s reads seem to be in tune with OC Ron Lee. Fun for Crusader fans. Not so fun for opposing defensive backs.

• Spectators at Eddie Hamada Field (a.k.a. Kozuki Stadium) may have notice a change this fall. The new scoreboard is bigger, wider and more easily viewed. But it doesn’t have the old “Eddie Hamada Field” title on it like the old one did.

Coach Look is well aware and hopes to get that added to the new scoreboard soon. Rewind the clock some years back and the facility was metal bleachers (very hot on a sunny afternoon) next to tennis courts, an old ice cream machine (I miss that thing) and an awesome ice-cold water fountain.

Change is good in other ways, though. The facility’s press box is beautiful, air-conditioned, windows are tinted. Seats are in the shade. Still, the late Coach Hamada himself probably would prefer that his name not be on the scoreboard. He’d probably prefer “One Team” up there.

Maybe there’s room for both.

• Crystal ball. At 2-1 (1-1 ILH), the Raiders are still the favorite to repeat as ILH D-II champions — depth or not so much depth. Jim On is still one of the top 10 QBs in the state, operating a balanced attack that excels at spreading defenses across from sideline to sideline. He is usually extremely efficient.

Saint Louis is 2-3, but all that matters is their ILH mark: 2-1. A strong finish — Kamehameha this weekend, followed by St. Francis and Damien — leading into the playoffs would give them a chance at first place and a playoff bye. But with a single round-robin format, it would take 1) a win over Kamehameha (and running the table), and 2) a Kamehameha win over Punahou. That would leave all three D-I teams tied, assuming they run the table against their D-II opponents.

In any event, Saint Louis is guaranteed a playoff berth. No team in the Top 10 has endured ups and downs — or as rigorous as preseason schedule. They may be building toward the future, but they may also find the future is going to be here sooner rather than later.


  1. Jimmy Clausen September 17, 2014 8:03 am

    Is Coach Look brainwashing you to agree with him Paul? Regardless of those losses, Iolani DOES NOT belong in D2. Period. Should Castle play D2 because they’ve been blasted by Kahuku and Farrington the last couple of years WORSE than Iolani has been by Pun, KS, and SL? Should Punahou have been a D2 team in the early 2000s when they were routinely losing games against St. Louis and Kamehameha by scores of 34-7 or 35-7 (let me give you the results of their games against KS and SL in 2002: 50-7, 49-0, 21-9, and 27-9)? Should Waianae have been an OIA White team the year they played St. Louis in the finals (blasted by by St. Louis twice and Kahuku, 27-7) and had only 15 guys over 200 lbs (less than Iolani has had the past couple of years)? And my favorite question: should Iolani have been a D2 team when Donny Mateaki, Uriah Moenoa, Willy Kava, and Joe Igber were Raiders? Iolani BEAT Kamehameha and Punahou routinely when they were there and gave St. Louis tough games. I bet Look was STILL using the size and depth EXCUSES. Bottom line: show some balls, play the best, and don’t whine about it. Losing badly against KS, SL, and Punahou does not give you the right to cry about rumors about moving up. Iolani also gives at least one of those teams a scare every year, so don’t make it sound like KS, SL, and Punahou are routinely blasting you in EVERY GAME. If Dan Matsumoto were coaching Iolani, they wouldn’t be a D2 team. Matsumoto never cries and makes excuses about being too small or lacking depth. He lets his team take their lumps against the Kahukus, Mililanis, Leilehuas, and whatever ILH D1 team he plays and lets his team grow because of it. Waianae’s 2010 team had more injuries than any of Iolani’s past 15 teams did as well, so Iolani can’t cry about safety when playing Punahou, SL, and KS either.

  2. Jimmy Clausen September 17, 2014 8:04 am

    And Paul, you ought to know that if Iolani wants to keep on playing at the D2 level, they NEED to make a deal with the rest of the state: stop playing at the D2 level and recruiting statewide or keep on recruiting and play D1. Can’t have it both ways. Do you agree that Iolani shouldn’t have it both ways, Paul?

  3. Jimmy Clausen September 17, 2014 8:13 am

    Also, Iolani is looking as big as they were when Igber and Mateaki played for them.

  4. Paul Honda September 19, 2014 12:11 am

    Jimmy, I’m way too old to be brainwashed, among other things.
    Let’s say this: You want ‘Iolani in the same division with A) a team that generously offers MILLIONS of dollars in financial aid to students (including athletes), and B) an institution that is owned and operated by one of the greatest, most humongous conglomerates (Bishop Estate) in America.
    Have you really seen ‘Iolani the past two years? The straight truth is that there are three tiers of football in high school football here. ‘Iolani and a lot of quality programs would belong in the middle one. Until then, your argument is a little light. I’m certain the D-I football programs in the ILH would love to lasso ‘Iolani into D-I to create a deeper in-league schedule. But it appears to me that there’s growing frustration within the league with the haves pushing their weight around. I don’t see ‘Iolani caving in to anyone. Nor should they.

  5. Jimmy Clausen September 24, 2014 10:49 am

    In response to Paul, three words: 2010 Waianae Seariders. Look at their roster that year. They were smaller than Iolani is MOST YEARS and STILL PLAYED a D1 schedule that including two games against Mililani, Leilehua, and St. Louis, not to mention starting the season against Kahuku. Where Iolani and Coach Look would cry, whine, and make excuses begging to duck those kind of teams, Matsumoto and Waianae toughed it out and were within a game of being state champs. Iolani is NOT a small team and offers kids millions in financial aid as well. I guess that Waianae team should’ve been a middle-tier team, too, since Kahuku, Mililani, and St. Louis dwarfed them in size. Has Matsumoto, when Waianae’s fielded smaller teams, ever begged to duck Mililani and Kahuku?

  6. Paul Honda September 24, 2014 11:53 am

    First, about Waianae. They normally scrimmage ‘Iolani in preseason, and during Kennedy Tulimaseali‘i’s years, their linemen often told me that the scrimmage was tough. That ‘Iolani was much smaller, but very precise and skilled. That’s coming from the Waianae players. Your contention that Waianae was smaller than ‘Iolani for one season is quite amusing. What about all the years before 2010 and since?

    Also, you contend that there’s a D-II team that is begging to duck D-I teams. That would not be ‘Iolani. They’re not asking for the schedule revision in the ILH that would segregate D-I teams from D-II in the regular-season format.

    Also, your contention that ‘Iolani offers financial aid on the same level as Punahou is preposterous. Punahou is roughly twice the size of ‘Iolani. Anyone who has watched these two programs in the past 10 years has seen a clear intention on Punahou’s part to bring in elite athletes and challenge for state championships. Nothing wrong with this. But comparing what Punahou and the rest of the state does, really…

    There is no argument against a quality D-II program with the ability to compete against D-I programs whether it is football, volleyball, baseball, basketball, etc. — on a one-game basis.

    Asking/forcing D-II football programs to go up against D-I programs on a weekly basis is ludicrous and, in a worst-case scenario, negligent in terms of safety and health.

    Jimmy Clausen, your hatred of a certain D-II program is clear. As I’ve noted before, there should be three tiers for high school football in Hawaii. This conversation is tedious, mundane and done unless you can bring logic into the equation. You’re straying from the topic, comparing Waianae to ‘Iolani… stick to it, “Jimmy.”

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