Leaving the comfortable confines to fly across the Pacific Ocean during hurricane season requires a leap of faith.
No less so when your starting quarterback goes down with an injury three snaps into a game. Reserve Sagan Gronauer was prepared, passing for 210 yards and a touchdown, and running for another TD as Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas) overwhelmed Kaimuki 49-18 on Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
The Crusaders (1-1) arrived in the islands ranked 18th in Nevada by MaxPreps. They’ll leave on Monday morning with their starting QB, Christian Marshall, down with an ankle injury.
“I hope he gets better,” said Gronauer, who completed three of his first four pass attempts. “The coaches are great and told us we had to treat this as a business trip. We did a little bit of sightseeing and we’ll go to the beach after this.”
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium, but was postponed due to the threat of inclement weather. Kaimuki fell to 2-2 overall, fielding a smaller roster that faced the quickest-paced, hurry-up offensive unit seen in Aloha Stadium since last year’s Mililani squad.
“We had a game plan and scouted them,” Gronauer said. “That’s been instilled in us, every day we’re tempo, tempo, tempo.”
Gronauer, a lanky 6-foot, 182-pound sophomore, didn’t miss a beat in 90-degree, mid-day heat. He completed 13 of 22 attempts and relied on a talented base led by running back Saundre Spiller.
The 5-6, 165-pound junior rushed for 118 yards and two TDs, almost exclusively on blasts up the middle out of Faith Lutheran’s shotgun formation.
“We had to come out and play our style of football,” Faith Lutheran coach Vernon Fox said. “Things went our way early.”
Elijah Kothe was a favorite target of Gronauer, finishing with six receptions for 126 yards and a TD.
It was a reunion of sorts for Fox and Kaimuki coach David Tautofi. The two crossed paths years ago while Fox played at Fresno State and Tautofi played at Fresno City College. Tautofi went on to play at UCLA before settling in Las Vegas, where they met again. Tautofi coached at another school before returning to the islands last year.
“Our game plan was to keep the ball on the ground,” Tautofi said. “Faith Lutheran is a good team. We had our chances and we didn’t help ourselves. If we had protected the ball, we would’ve had a chance to stay in the game.”
The young Bulldogs hadn’t seen an offensive unit as precise on the fly as Faith Lutheran. Marshall began the visitors’ opening drive, a 10-play, 51-yard march, The was hit by two pass rushers during an incomplete pass. He never played another snap. Faith Lutheran called time out, and that’s when Gronauer entered. He completed a fourth-and-4 pass to Kothe and finished off the drive by darting through the defense for an 8-yard touchdown.
After Gronauer’s score, Kaimuki opened its offensive series without quarterback Jordan Solomon. The Crusaders stacked the box with nine (zero coverage) and stuffed Kaimuki for a three-and-out.
Gronauer guided his team downfield for a 37-yard field goal by Brandon Hann despite two penalties along the way.
The teams exchanged interceptions in the next 26 seconds. Solomon, a sophomore, was picked off on his first attempt by Keagan Touchstone on a deep pass, but Kaimuki’s Daniel Nguyen picked off a deep sideline pass by Gronauer on the next snap.
The Bulldogs picked up a first down, their first of the game, on a facemask penalty by the Crusaders, but stalled near midfield.
Early in the second quarter, Solomon overthrew his target and was intercepted by Alec Netski, who returned the ball 21 yards for a pick-6. Faith Lutheran led 23-0 with 9:19 to go in the second quarter.
Hann, a senior, drilled a 45-yard field goal with roughly 12 yards to spare as the visitors opened a 26-point lead with 5:20 left in the first half.
Gronauer directed a 10-play, 43-yard drive late in the half. Again, penalties nearly derailed the Crusaders — they finished with 20 flags for 160 yards — but Spiller crossed goal line for a 3-yard TD run with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
Spiller’s second score came on the Crusaders first series of the second half, a 10-yard run that increased the lead to 40 points. That brought on the mercy-rule running clock.
Kaimuki got on the scoreboard when Solomon caught fire, completing three passes in a row, including a 12-yard strike to Saia Maiava for a touchdown with 32 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Solomon, who finished 15-for-34, 241 yards, three TDs with two picks, found Andries Toussaint for a 29-yard completion, then fired to him again for a 23-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
After two series with a third-stringer at QB, Faith Lutheran sent Gronauer and Spiller back on the field. They drove 61 yards in eight plays, with Gronauer passing to Kothe on a 19-yard touchdown pass near the left pylon, pushing the score to 47-12.
Clay Shipley’s sack of Solomon in the end zone capped the Crusaders’ scoring.
Kaimuki tacked on a 5-yard TD pass from Solomon to Maiava on the final play.
Note: Corrects statistics for Gronauer and Marshall.
At Aloha Stadium
Faith Lutheran (Nev.) (1-1) 9 24 7 9 — 49
Kaimuki (2-2) 0 0 6 12 — 18
FL—Sagan Gronauer 8 run (kick failed)
FL—Brandon Hann FG 37
FL—Eric Ho 7 pass from Gronauer (Hann kick)
FL—Alec Netski 21 interception return (Hann kick)
FL—Hann FG 45
FL—Saundre Spiller 3 run (Hann kick)
FL—Spiller 10 run (Hann kick)
KAI—Saia Maiava 12 pass from Jordan Solomon (kick failed)
KAI—Andries Toussaint 23 pass from Solomon (pass failed)
FL—Elijah Kothe 19 pass from Gronauer (Hann kick)
FL—Safety, Solomon sacked by Clay Shipley in end zone
FL—Maiava 5 pass from Solomon (no attempt)
RUSHING—FL: Marshall 1-0, Spiller 19-118, Gronauer 8-35, Conor Paravia 9-27, Jabessa Addisu 2-(-1), Tanner Gardner 2-8. Kaimuki: Ieke Seei-Cleveland 6-8, Caiton Joseph 2-4, Jordan Solomon 7-18, Team 1-(-26), Kyle Viyavong 2-9,
PASSING—FL: Marshall 0-1-0-0, Gronauer 15-24-1-210. Kaimuki: Solomon 15-34-2-241.
RECEIVING—FL: Elijah Kothe 6-126, Eric Ho 5-41, Cole Wilbourne 1-24, Justin Taylor 2-12, Spiller 1-7. Kaimuki: Andries Toussaint 3-74, Saia Maiava 4-31, Seei-Cleveland 3-35, Joseph 1-38, Tyace Sarcedo-Drennon 2-11, Kyle Viyavong 1-16, Elijah Lemanu 1-36