Damien earns return trip to Kauai

Damien coach Eddie Klaneski won the last three Division II ILH championships with the Monarchs before moving up to Division I this year. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Marcus Faufata-Pedrina conceded he’ll probably be a bit sore when he reports for Damien’s customary Saturday practice following a Friday game.

But the Monarchs’ day-after workout will be something of a reward in itself for the senior quarterback.

“We wanted to practice tomorrow and keep our season going,” Faufata-Pedrina said as his teammates celebrated the Monarchs’ 13-12 win over St. Francis and a third straight ILH Division II championship Friday night at Aloha Stadium.

One point was the difference in turning in the pads and preparing for a trip to Kauai for the Division I semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships. The Monarchs (9-3) face KIF champion Kauai (5-3) on Nov. 4 at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue, where their season ended last year with a 21-14 Division II semifinal loss to Kapaa.

“We’re going to end up in the same place, we’re going to be used to the conditions there,” Damien coach Eddie Klaneski said. “We just hope we can get our boys prepared well enough to play a good game and represent Oahu and the ILH.

“We’re excited for the challenge. We gotta get back to the drawing board see what Kauai does … and I know our boys and going to be ready tomorrow.”

Damien’s win on Friday earned the Monarchs a split of a spirited four-game season series with St. Francis, with the winner-take-all matchup decided in the final minute.

Six days earlier, St. Francis stunned Damien with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Scott McLeod with 1:10 left in a 15-14 win to force Friday’s rematch for the ILH title.

The Saints and Monarchs again traded momentum swings to cap a compelling four-part drama and St. Francis positioned itself for another comeback in the final moments. But Damien senior JT White came down with his third interception of the night at the Monarchs’ 2 with 40 seconds left to effectively seal the win and a third state tournament appearance.

“We’re definitely going to enjoy this until tomorrow …  because we can’t have that hangover over this victory. We have to move forward,” Klaneski said.

“We have an expectation to be here. It wasn’t easy this year, but it’s our expectation to win the ILH and go to the state tournament. So now we have to flip that switch and say ‘this is where we’re supposed to be.’ ”

Faufata-Pedrina absorbed punishment from a physical St. Francis defense on a majority of the 44 snaps he took from center. With the Monarchs’ in five-receiver sets for much of the game, Faufata-Pedrina completed 13 of 21 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns and scrambled for another 30 on 20 rushing attempts.

“Physically, I’m going to probably going to wake up and I’m gonna hurt,” Faufata-Pedrina said. “But this win, it means everything. All those little bumps and bruises, it’s nothing when you win like this.”

St. Francis scored first for the fourth time in the season series, but Faufata-Pedrina threw touchdown passes to Pomai Kim and Lindon Sevilleja to send Damien into halftime with a 13-6 lead.

St. Francis opened the third quarter by forcing a Faufata-Pedrina fumble and the Saints closed to within a point when Jonan Aina-Chaves finished the ensuing drive with a 9-yard TD run. But the extra-point went wide, keeping the Monarchs ahead.

St. Francis racked up 221 yards in total offense in the second half to Damien’s 81 and finished the night with 399 behind Aina-Chaves’ 155 total yards (124 rushing, 31 receiving) and quarterback Bubba Akana’s school-record 245 passing yards.

Despite the yardage differential, the Monarchs defense countered with enough plays to protect the lead.

White ended St. Francis’ second possession of the third quarter with his second interception of the night. After a Damien punt, the Saints handed the ball to Aina-Chaves on seven consecutive runs. The first four covered 39 yards to push St. Francis to the Damien 10. Damien linebacker Braeden Halili stopped him for no gain on first-and-goal and defensive back Akila Arecchi shot into the backfield for a 3-yard loss. Aina-Chaves gained 4 on third down but a 25-yard field goal drifted right.

St. Francis got the ball back at its 31 with 3 minutes left. Akana converted on fourth-and-7 with a 41-yard strike to Lachmann Atoa down the right side. Two penalties pushed the Saints back to the Damien 40, but Akana connected with McLeod over the middle and McLeod bulled through nearly half the Damien defense before being dragged down at the 14.

After Klaneski called timeout with 53 seconds left, Akana swung pass out to Wembley Mailei, who pulled up and lofted a throw toward the end zone. The throw was short and White was there for the clinching interception.

“I’m just hoping we had the other guy covered,” Klaneski said of seeing Mailei set his feet for the double-pass. “They kind of had us beat we told them to come up and jump that guy and had he run it, who knows, we might have made the tackle, he might have broken the tackle.

“It was a good call by them, we just made a play. It’s just awesome to see that. It was tough to finish that game but it was awesome to be on the winning side tonight.”


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