Kekahi Graham returns, but Saint Louis loses 3 key players

Wide receiver Kache Kaio eyes a pass from Jaron Sagapolutele during Saint Louis I-AA's win over Damien at Aloha Stadium on Sept. 18, 2021. Kaio, quarterback Jaron Keawe Sagapolutele and All-State second-team offensive lineman Iapani "Poncho" Laloulu are departing from Saint Louis after spring semester. Cindy Ellen Russell/crussell@staradvertiser.com.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

Just like that, the Saint Louis’ losses are the OIA’s gains. Freshman quarterback phenom Jaron Keawe Sagapolutele is transferring from Saint Louis to Campbell. One of his big-play targets, sophomore wide receiver Kache Kaio, is en route to Kahuku.

Another stellar contributor, 6-foot-2, 358-pound offensive lineman Iapani “Poncho” Laloulu, has left Saint Louis and is returning to Farrington for his upcoming senior year. Laloulu cracked the rotation last year despite the presence and talent of 12 seniors. He was just beginning to draw attention from college recruiters when he left Farrington after sophomore year to attend Saint Louis in 2021. He currently has nine offers: Arizona, Cal, Florida, Hawaii, Miami, Oregon, Syracuse, Tennessee and Virginia.


Based on the 2021 Star-Advertiser All-State voting, Laloulu is the highest-ranked offensive lineman returning this fall. Kahuku’s Brayden Mailo is second.

With college recruiters scouring Oahu for prime talent, a number of young Saint Louis up-and-coming prospects have received scholarship offers recently. Saint Louis’ last day of spring football was on Thursday, leaving longtime coach Ron Lee stoked and optimistic. However, the loss of three promising players certainly stings.

“Poncho wants to play with his (younger) brother and play with his friends from KPT. He grew up playing with them,” Lee said. “It happens. That’s a huge loss for us.”

Lee, the longtime offensive coordinator, took over as head coach when brother Cal Lee stepped down two years ago to focus solely on defensive coordinator duties. Ron Lee said he isn’t very familiar with Kaio, who played on Saint Louis’ JV/Division II squad last fall while Sagapolutele aired out bombs and missiles. Still, Lee had high hopes for Sagapolutele.

“Well, I think it’s a mistake, but that’s me. He went to one (spring) practice and the dad calls. He says, ‘That’s his last practice. I’m pulling him,’ ” Lee said. “He got equal reps. They all had 3s and we rotate.”

Campbell coach Darren Johnson is looking forward to seeing the quarterback competition between returning starter Chayne Kuboyama-Hayashi and Sagapolutele.

“In any program, competition always lifts the level in wins and losses, grades. You have to be a good student, be a good role model, just be right by the program and the school.”

Sagapolutele, who grew up in Ewa Beach, was arguably the most productive freshman quarterback in the state last season.

“He’s finishing up (spring semester) at Saint Louis. Ewa Beach is home. If we could keep more players home it would create more competition,” Johnson said of the Open Division. “The Ewa Beach kids love this town. If you want to come back home, this is where you belong.”

Johnson said he had a discussion with Sagapolutele’s parents.

“What I know now is he’s coming. If anybody else comes back, right now. We love our Ewa Beach kids,” he said.


It was mere months ago when Kache Kaio and Sagapolutele were connecting consistently and torching defenses. Along with a talented offensive unit, including wide receiver Onosai Salanoa, the D-II Crusaders scored often as Kaio provided immense ball skills, route running and flat-out physical mismatches with his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame.

Sagapolutele, at 6-2 and 205 pounds, found Kaio for three touchdowns in their season debut, a 34-14 win over Damien. He finished with 336 passing yards and zero interceptions. The freshman finished the season with 1,730 passing yards and 21 TDs as the D-II Crusaders went 4-1.

At Saint Louis, the return of quarterback Kekahi Graham — who left to play in Utah as a junior — and the presence of Kauna‘oa Kamakawiwo‘ole would have been a three-man QB room. Competition for playing time at Campbell isn’t as extreme as it would have been at Kalaepohaku for Sagapolutele. Graham will be a senior this fall. Kamakawiwo‘ole will be a junior.

“You look at (Marcus) Mariota, he had to wait until his senior year, but look at him now, in the NFL, doing well, played at Oregon,” Lee said.

Therein lies the rub, perhaps. Not every quarterback wants to wait one or two years to start.

Kuboyama-Hayashi (1,555 yards, 15 TDs) started last season as a sophomore for the Sabers (5-4 overall). If Sagapolutele wins the starting job, it could be his for the next three seasons.

In an Open Division gauntlet, the Sabers relied more on the running game in 2021 to protect its relative youth on the offensive unit. They spread the ball around; six Sabers had at least 14 receptions and 200-plus yards. Dominick Espinda led the team in receiving yardage and was tied with four TD catches, but he graduates this spring.

The remainder of Campbell’s top pass catching group returns: Jourdain Berinobis-Pyne (21, 254, four), Dallas John Fonseca-Juan (16, 236), Kamaehu Kopa-Kaawaiauole (14, 230, three) and the ultimate Swiss Army knife, WR/RB/QB Jonah Tofagau-Tavui (600 yards and six TDs from scrimmage).

Meanwhile, Kaio’s departure is not much of a surprise. He grew up in Laie and spent much of the offseason last year, and this year, training with the Rebel Squad program that has won two Pylon national titles. While the quarterback room at Saint Louis will miss Nevada-bound AJ Bianco, the deep group of receivers is doesn’t have many bigger pass catchers like Kaio (33 receptions, 527 yards, nine TDs).

Five of Saint Louis’ top six producers in the receiving corps are returning, but Mason Muaau (6-5, 200) is the only one at least 6 feet tall. At Kahuku, Kaio’s older brother, Daniel, caught 37 passes for 505 yards and 10 TDs as a senior last season.

The returning group of receivers includes Star-Advertiser All-State offensive player of the year Kainoa Carvalho, who will be a senior, and a pack of young pass catchers. Kahuku’s third-most productive receiver during last season’s Open Division state-title run was linebacker Liona Lefau (13 receptions, 225 yards, six TDs). The opportunity to contribute immediately and prolifically is there for Kache Kaio.


After Rebel Squad, comprised largely of athletes from Kahuku, returned from another successful trip, coach Sola Soliai was fully positive about Kaio’s potential.

“He was tearing it up both days of the (Mecca II) tournament. He’s starting to run better routes and understand his relationship with To‘a (Kahuku junior quarterback Waika Crawford). When to look back for the ball, how to run his route against man and zone,” Soliai said. “I grew up with his dad, Kealoha, We always ask for the kids in Laie to be on this team. I ran into Kealoha and we started talking.”

COMMENTS

  1. Saudi May 22, 2022 12:29 pm

    Uh oh… laying the foundation for another Kahuku title. No sked…


  2. Heeeweeekooo96762 May 22, 2022 10:08 pm

    Welcome back home Kache!! Definitely an exciting season for Kahuku! We got Aiden Manutai and Manoa Hallums also coming back to their roots! Man! I heard things being done by Coach Sola and Sterling with not only these boys but building up the younger boys in pylon! Also being seeing Tala Esera coaching up the big boys at Laie Park! Heard it’s all part of the system being put to place! So excited! Also heading a lot of other moments going around! Gonna be another exciting season! Let’s go get #10 boys! #RR4L


  3. ??? May 23, 2022 7:59 am

    Very Interesting….
    Curious to see if Solomone Malafu & Tausili Akana joins Kahuku too? If they do, that defense will have a chance against Bosco, but NO Hawai’i team will have a chance vs Kahuku..


  4. 88 May 23, 2022 10:04 am

    Everyone get chance. With the new field and State Title every team is gunning to take down BigRed.


  5. Falcon Future May 23, 2022 1:47 pm

    It is basically a two-team race between Kahuku and Saint Louis again. I agree with Coach Lee that the QB going to Campbell is making a big mistake. He should try to get to Punahou to learn under his brother with some good coaching.


  6. ilh May 23, 2022 3:02 pm

    Looks like Jaron’s Father doesn’t want Jaron to compete against Kekahi Graham who is a senior this coming fall, big mistake by taking him away from Saint louis, i’m sure Jaron’s reps would lead him to the starting QB role, but that’s how it goes at Saint Louis, you compete with everyone and work your way up, i believe if he goes to Punahou, he has to sit out one year because he his transferring to another ILH team.


  7. Falcon Future May 23, 2022 4:18 pm

    Yup, he would sit out at Punahou if he chose to transfer there but the good thing is he still would be practicing and learning with his brother (instead of battling for the same QB role). It would set him up to be the solid starter as a junior and senior. IMO, that is a better option than what it sounds like they are doing.


  8. 808allday May 23, 2022 6:14 pm

    Take your kid where they have a chance to start their clock now. Kids work way to hard to wait their junior or senior year, to get noticed. The process gets better and believable when the kid can see, the fruits of his labor. They might be mediocre at one school but be a huge impact to another. STL years past to now, is always fully loaded with talent. The two’s and three’s could go anywhere and start. So why not go elsewhere, and start putting your portfolio together, to get recruited, by your dream college. You playing now, getting film to post on Twitter or send to coaches is huge, and that’s your freshman or sophomore year. Give the recruiter’s something to see and know that you working. Come the next 2 years they know you because they been tracking you all this time. That would give a huge and better chance for our kids to get exposure. It’s 808 athletes all day at the end. That’s just me.


  9. HailFromDaNorth May 23, 2022 10:41 pm

    Heard Punahou’s back up is going Moanalua too? Couple studs I heard going to Mililani? Gonna be a interesting year for High school football!. With Saint Louis, Kahuku and Mililani playing national power house teams! We just gotta keep grinding and put Hawaii on the map!


  10. Brotherhood May 23, 2022 11:29 pm

    What’s going on tho at Saint Louis? I guess everyone wants to be on the winning train when it’s going, but when you ain’t and you ain’t getting what you want. Everyone jumping ship! Lol. What happen to the brotherhood?


  11. ILoveHawaii May 24, 2022 9:35 am

    Hmmmm. St. Lulu about to have a 21 year old QB.

    Never thought I wouild see the day a kid would leave Lulu to go to Campbell. Never.
    Kahuku, of course, Millilani, perhaps but Saber’s??? smh.

    Do they have the lineman to pull that off? Not likely.
    That was the issue when Hipa was there.

    Im afraid we might be back to the part of the cycle where RR’s win some championships.
    I must say tho. The guys on the hill are finally figuring it out and venturing into youth football as well as the Puns.

    It would have been great to have the inter-league this year but the old guard in the OIA no like share the ball unless they can be QB.

    Cant wait, maybe RR’s might finally be able to beat a mainland team this year with all that talent.


  12. Markymark May 24, 2022 12:53 pm

    Campbell will be a short stint in my opinion. Transferring to Punahou next so he doesn’t need to sit out a year. Private to Public back to Private.


  13. HailFromDaNorth May 24, 2022 3:21 pm

    @ilovehawaii Kahuku is doing the same thing. Rebel squad had a 12U and intermediate team. The 12U made it to the semi finals in Vegas and intermediate lost in the championship game. For alot of those boys it was 1st time being exposed to 7v7 football. They found the formula to produce a well balanced team!. The scary thing is it’s home ground talent! Those kids will be playing with each other for many years! All the way to high school! Everyone knows north shore is beaming with talent, now you add this IQ in there with the offense! That’s a very scary thing!!


  14. Trustno1 May 24, 2022 6:05 pm

    No doubt Kahuku will win it again but after this year then it will be like years past for Kahuku, no titles for maybe 5 years or longer! That’s the norm for BIG RED!


  15. HailFromDaNorth May 24, 2022 7:00 pm

    @trustno1 obviously you can’t see the writing on the wall. Kahuku has figured out the formula to have a well balanced team. Both defensively and offensively! They starting from the youth level. The throne will be painted red for many years! Look at Saint Louis. They’re in shambles! Everyone leaving! They’re JV team everyone is leaving! Sorry bout it!


  16. Trustno1 May 24, 2022 10:00 pm

    @HailFromDaNorth I seen the writing to many times and so does everybody else up NORTH!! You must not have seen it before. You make like Kahuku never had a passing attack. (Itula Mili, Spencer Hafoka Top 2 recievers of all time at Kahuku) Kahuku would have the formula for 2 years and then they didn’t. That’s why St. Louis is a Dynasty and Kahuku is still trying to get there. St Louis had the formula from the 80’s to 90’s and then just recently for 5 years. Of course St. Louis is in shambles! I would wanna transfer too if I played Kam 2xs and Punahou 2xs and then Bishop Gorman. 5 games all year and then gotta wait 2 months for the OIA. I guess it is what it is…
    @ilh This is a Ron Lee doing…Has nothing to do with competing. Everybody knows Sagapolutele is the better QB


  17. Opinion May 25, 2022 1:21 pm

    Marymark
    Unless u transfer back to the same ILH school u was at, u sit a year. If he goes from St. Louis to Campbell and plays, then transfers to Punahou the following season he sits a year.


  18. Markymark May 25, 2022 2:39 pm

    Opinion.
    Thanks for the clarification.


  19. nalohitman May 26, 2022 10:57 am

    Competition breeds success in life and on the field. Adversity builds character. Nuff said.


  20. OnlyInAmerica May 26, 2022 5:15 pm

    ILoveHawaii

    21 year old qb? Please elaborate.

    KSK and Punahou grabbing them early? What can you share with us about that?

    It sounds like you’re anti St. Louis but ILH fan?


  21. HailFromDaNorth May 26, 2022 11:40 pm

    @trustno1 Kahuku did have skill players, but not at the level that it is now! 7v7 tournaments proved it! Everyone is put on notice!!


  22. 96730to89 May 30, 2022 10:32 am

    Many people in charge get way too political when making decisions on kids and transferring schools. A student should be allowed to move about freely without penalty. It’s selfish of us adults to worry about wins & losses. Let them play wherever they think is best for them.


  23. AnalystGaloreInHere May 30, 2022 5:24 pm

    I got to say I’ve seen it all on this one post. First off, a lot of you gotta be football analyst. Cause you know what’s best for every kid on this dam island. Let’s talk about it. Kahuku – awesome team and great talent. Love the kids on that team and they bring pride in everything they do. As for the passing game, they had it all along, just lived and died by the run game which I don’t blame them with all the dogs in the trenches. It’s a coaching decision and when you become a coach you can make that decision. Sagapolutele – when he’s your kid you make the decision. It may or may not be the best decision but that’s on the parents. Comments above say he didn’t want to compete. You’re crazy!!! Do your homework before you bash a kid. It’s political everywhere, so I guess Graham didn’t want to compete with Bianco right and he left to Utah cause he was going home like everyone is saying about these transfers. Come on people. You say Kache is coming home but not “oh he doesn’t want to compete at St. Louis”. Get over your glory days and let the kids be kids. If I’m correct, Sagapolutele is from Ewa Beach. So he’s going home too. You’re free to say whatever it is you want but to say things about a HIGH SCHOOL KID is absurd. Dam keyboard champions!!! Let’s just enjoy Hawaii high school football and see greatness develop. Killing me!!!


  24. Opinion May 31, 2022 3:33 pm

    ILH
    gotta ask, did Kekahis dad not want him to compete against AJast year? Similar to what you’re saying about Jaron? Was moving Kekahi to Utah for a year done to avoid sitting behind AJ not a mistake also? Sounds like the exact same scenario to me.


  25. BleedRed June 3, 2022 9:10 am

    What’s going on with the Lou, why is everyone transferring out, do these kids not want to play for Ron? Welcome home Kache


  26. Huh? June 4, 2022 12:52 am

    Kekahi sat last year. Timpview’s starter is now at SDSU. Kekahi hardly played, at all…how dis that help?


  27. Letsplayfootball June 7, 2022 10:04 am

    Did that Kekahuna boy leave too? I can understand why Sagapoluteleʻs left because you got to put youʻre child in the best situation possible so they can go on to the next level and he gets to come home and Kache wanted to play for his hometown team and the same with Iapani. But trech, he contributed like half the snaps on for the Crusaders. Why would he leave? To me, he’s probably one of the best skills in Hawaii right now. Colleges already got him on there board so why would he leave. Maybe something internal within the program. Saint Louis always had the small but very talented playmakers on there offense from


  28. 88 June 18, 2022 11:53 am

    Never thought I would live to see the day that St.Louis would avoid playing Kahuku. You don’t stop competing cause your team is not as strong as previous years. COWARDS!


  29. Letsplayfootball June 19, 2022 1:51 pm

    Robbie Paikai to Koali Nishigaya and Trech. Excited to see how they are going to fill that hole with the season coming in these next months. And crazy how Kekahi transferred to play a backup role for a mainland team. I remember that kid had a lot of hype with that Under-The-Radar highlight when he was young. I really hope that kid lives up to that hype cause if this guy plays average against Ksk and Punahou, I think it could probably be Kahuku v Millilani in the State Championship.


  30. 88 June 19, 2022 5:58 pm

    Never thought I would live to see the day that St. Louis would be scared to compete. Crazy to see that they didn’t want to play Kahuku this upcoming year.


  31. Forreal June 25, 2022 1:29 pm

    I agree with you 88. I know “the dynasty” is not what it used to be. But compete, let the boys play the best teams in the OIA. ILH has only 2 other teams. They should’ve scheduled a match with Kahuku like the 2 other ILH teams or play a better team then BG. Who cares if you add an L to there record. These kids need to play against the best. That’s why kahuku is no shame to schedule against 2 top 5 programs in the nation. Win or lose these boy will have an experience they’ll never forget and an opportunity to expose themselves to college coaches. Tbh I think cal lee predicted the dynasty was going to end soon. In my opinion i felt cal lee gave his head coaching job to his brother so his legacy doesn’t tarnish. Cal was still the main guy on the sideline if you watch replays of last season. He just wants to avoid “ ‘Cal Lee’s team’ losses in a shoot out or blowout” cause if they do lose these next seasons. Cal will be not to blame. Just my opinion though.


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