Saint Louis quarterback Jayden de Laura was on his way to the bus after the Crusaders’ 48-27 win at No. 4 Campbell on Friday night when the subject turned to the week ahead.
The top-ranked Crusaders had blazed out to a commanding lead against the Sabers then cruised to their 28th straight victory. Next up for Saint Louis — a showdown with Nevada power Bishop Gorman in a matchup of nationally ranked programs at Aloha Stadium.
“(Saturday) we’ll watch film and get ready for them,” de Laura said of the Gaels, who entered the week ranked 18th in the USA Today Super 25. “That starts now. We can’t live on this win. We didn’t play a really good game, but it’s over, we got that win.”
The Saint Louis-Bishop Gorman matchup is half of the Aloha Football Classic, with Mililani, ranked second in the Star-Advertiser top 10, hosting Liberty at John Kauinana Stadium. Bishop Gorman has won 10 straight state titles and opened its season Friday with a 40-7 win over Orem (Utah).
Saint Louis, the three-time defending Open Division state champion, began the season at No. 12 in the Super 25 and wasn’t seriously threatened in OIA-ILH Open Division wins over Kapolei and Campbell. Even so, Saint Louis coach Cal Lee wasn’t all that thrilled with the way the Crusaders finished Friday’s game in Ewa Beach after scoring on their first five possessions to take a 34-6 lead in the second quarter.
“It’s another team that we have to get ready for,” Lee said of next week’s matchup. “I don’t care who it was, if it’s Bishop Gorman or Kahuku or whoever, the things that I see out here we need to fix fast.”
Saint Louis’ defense helped fuel the early onslaught with a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Stanley McKenzie and an interception by defensive back Kamo’i Latu in a span of 18 seconds of game time in the first quarter to set up Crusaders touchdowns as Saint Louis built a 27-0 lead.
Saint Louis’ offense cooled a bit after the blazing start, but de Laura pushed the lead to 41-14 with a 15-yard touchdown run on his final snap of the night late in the third quarter. De Laura, coming off a 12-for-13 performance against Kapolei, finished the night with 22 completions in 37 attempts with an interception and four touchdowns, two each to receivers Matthew Sykes and Koali Nishigaya.
“(The Sabers) were throwing the kitchen sink at us,” said de Laura, who was 16-for-20 for 195 yards and four scores midway through the second quarter, “But with receivers like Matt, Roman (Wilson), you can get the ball off and let them make plays. Isaac Silva was doing great after the catch. Koali was amazing. Everyone sleeps on on him because he’s like 5-2.”
Officially, Nishigaya is 5-foot-6 on the roster, but continues to put up big numbers for the Crusaders. He ranked second on the team with 43 receptions last year, including four touchdowns, and caught a team-high eight passes for 89 yards with scores of 20 and 24 yards on Friday. The 6-foot-2 Sykes finished with three catches for 45 yards, two grabs going for touchdowns. Silva had seven catches for 86 yards.
But Campbell produced some fireworks as well after a ragged start.
Campbell quarterback Blaine Hipa ended the night with three interceptions against the Saint Louis defense, but also threw for 224 yards and four touchdowns, three going to Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, who caught nine passes for 89 yards. Mokiao-Atimalala, a two-way standout, left the game late in the second quarter after taking a scary hit over the middle, but returned in the second half and caught touchdown passes of 15 and 25 yards in the fourth quarter.
Zavier Ceruti caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and nearly came up with two more scores in the second half on deep balls from Hipa before the ball fell to the turf.