14TH IN A SERIES
Those two words describe the St. Francis Saints in football. They are always battling right to the end of the season but have yet to reach the promised land.
The 2017 season ended with a devastating 13-12 loss to Damien in the ILH Division II championship game. A berth in the D-I state tournament was on the line. It was the second year in a row St. Francis was a whisker away from advancing to states.
It’s a new year and the Saints are off to a 1-0 start, thanks to a nonleague 28-21 victory over Radford on Saturday night. Jonan Aina-Chaves set a school record with 263 yards rushing in that game, the junior’s fourth 200-plus performance of his career.
“It was a very successful season in 2017, yet bittersweet,” coach Kip Akana said. “We definitely have unfinished business. With moderate numbers again, the team’s focus is conditioning. Many of our players will play on two of the three teams (offense, defense, special teams. A couple will be on all three.
“Our plan will be to take one snap, one play, one game at a time. If we keep our focus on the very next play and give our all every down, we should be fine. We cannot afford mental lapses, and can’t be giving up too many series on offense or too many big plays on defense. I like the team’s focus thus far.”
Here are some of Akana’s thoughts on a few of the Saints’ leaders:
>> Faaope Laloulu, left tackle: “He will anchor the offensive line again this season. Laloulu was the first Saint Francis football player to receive a Division I college offer and currently holds offers from Oregon and BYU.”
>> Siotame Haunga, left guard: “Alongside Ope, the left side of our line will be formidable again.”
>> Jonan Aina-Chaves, running back: “Aina-Chaves was one of the top rushers in the state last season and a Gatorade player of the year finalist.”
>> Shepherd Kekahuna, defensive back: “Was an ILH D-II first-team DB. He’s a physical and aggressive defensive player and will also see some time on offense.”
>> Chase Akana, defensive back, wide receiver: “Chase will be asked to play two ways this season as well.”
Akana pointed to Sione Lolohea and Tapena Tupou, two defensive linemen, as difference-makers.
“They are both tenacious, high motor players and are going to be relied upon again this season to anchor our front seven,” Akana said.
The Saints open the new Division II OIA-ILH alliance season Saturday against McKinley at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
Next in series: St. Louis Crusaders.
• Aiea Na Alii
• Campbell Sabers
• Castle Knights
• Farrington Governors
• Kahuku Red Raiders
• Kaimuki Bulldogs
• Kaiser Cougars
• Leilehua Mules
• McKinley Tigers
• Mililani Trojans
• Moanalua Na Menehune
• Nanakuli Golden Hawks
• Pearl City Chargers