A stoic Kip Akana walked out of Aloha Stadium after his St. Francis team lost 13-12 to Damien in the ILH Division II championship game on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
It’s the second consecutive year the Saints have ended their season with a one-possession loss to the Monarchs in the ILH final.
Akana, in his third year as head coach, headed toward the busses in a stunned silence. It started to set in that the season was over, and the school’s first ILH title had eluded them for another year.
In reality, the Saints completed the season with an 8-4 overall record, its best season in its five-year gridiron history, surpassing the five games it had won last year. Despite the program’s progress, which has been due in large part to Akana’s leadership, he took full blame for the loss on Friday night.
“Any time you lose, it’s on the coaches, you know? We lost that game for the kids and hat’s off to Damien. They played tough,” Akana said. “They earned this championship and I wish them well.”
With the Saints driving to the Damien 14 with 46 seconds left, a play was called for senior utility player Wembley Mailei, a Polynesian Bowl invite, to throw the ball on a double pass. His first pass attempt of the season was the final offensive play of the season for the Saints as it was picked off by JT White, who finished with three interceptions for the Monarchs.
“We had practiced that play over the last couple of weeks and we were throwing those quick outs hoping that those guys would be over-aggressive,” Akana said of the play call. “But they played sound defense and made a play at the end.”
Next year’s team projects to return quarterback Bubba Akana, Kip’s son, who will be a three-year starter heading into his senior season.
Akana threw for a school-record 245 yards against the Monarchs and finished his junior season with 1,848 passing yards and 17 touchdowns.
This year’s Saints also saw the emergence of sophomore running back Jonan Aina-Chaves, who currently leads the state with 2,080 total yards and 18 touchdowns. He became the first player in the state to exceed the 2,000-yard mark since Mililani’s Vavae Malepeai did so in 2015.
“Right after this, we have a week off and then come back and train hard, then come back next season and push,” Aina-Chaves said afterwards.
Since starting its own football program in 2013, St. Francis’ win totals have increased each year. The Saints won once in 2013, twice in 2014, and four times in 2015. St. Francis had its first winning season last year at 5-3.
The hope for Akana is that the pattern continues next season.
“The program is in good shape. We have good players and committed coaches,” Akana said. “The future is bright for St. Francis.”