From start to finish, nobody was better.
The preseason unanimous No. 1-ranked Saint Louis Crusaders never budged from their top-dog status, running the table for the second consecutive year with a 38-17 win over Mililani on Saturday night to complete the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships at Aloha Stadium.
Senior Korvin Feagins intercepted three passes and Saint Louis (11-0) sacked Mililani quarterback Dillon Gabriel nine times to close out a third consecutive Open Division state championship.
The Crusaders are the first school to win three consecutive state titles in the top-tier division since the tournament format began in 1999 and have won all three Open titles since the third division was created in 2016.
Win No. 284 in his 26th season as Saint Louis head coach brought Cal Lee his fourth state championship to go along with his 14 Prep Bowl titles.
“This feels like the first one. I don’t think we keep count,” Lee said. “I don’t know how many people count it. I’m not.”
Saint Louis’ 26-game winning streak overall matches Kahuku’s run from 2000 to ’02 as the third-longest streak in state history behind two previous Lee squads.
The Crusaders won 55 games in a row from 1985 to 1990 and 31 straight from ’95 to ’97.
“It’s not easy,” Lee said. “Give the credit to all of the coaches and the players. They’re the ones who did everything. I was lucky to be here.”
Saint Louis’ junior linebacker duo of Nate Herbig and Jordan Botelho dominated from the outset and both found the end zone in a 24-point third quarter to put the game away.
Herbig, who had four sacks, scooped up a punt blocked by Kila Kamakawiwo‘ole and returned it the short distance for a touchdown for a 24-3 advantage after Saint Louis led 14-3 at the break.
Saint Louis held a commanding 31-3 lead when Gabriel scored on a 1-yard run to make it 31-10.
Trojans sophomore Fatu Iosefa intercepted a Jayden de Laura pass and Mililani was in the red zone when a heavy rush caused Gabriel to drop the ball behind him.
Botelho was right there to scoop it up and he ran untouched 74 yard the other way for the back-breaking touchdown.
“Nick. He’s great. He’s a baller. Me and him, I don’t know. It’s something special. That’s my boy and I love him. Just greatness,” said Botelho, who had 2 1/2 sacks. “I saw the ball bounce and it just hopped in my hands. I didn’t know. It’s just a blessing.”
Feagins had 10 tackles in addition to the three picks and Timothy Timoteo added two sacks.