In a game where each team looked to be the better one at various points, it was Saint Louis who would come out the victors.
The Crusaders’ 27-25 victory over Mililani in the Open Division semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships will send them back to a fifth straight title game, having won the last four.
“Just super excited,” Saint Louis quarterback AJ Bianco said after the game. “We’ve been waiting two years for this. I couldn’t be with a better group of guys. We’ve been through a lot this year, ups and downs. Next Thursday, it all comes down to that.”
Bianco led the victorious Crusaders with 179 passing yards on 14-for-22 passing. Bianco’s leading receiver was Mason Muaau, who finished with 72 yards on five catches, while Trech Kakahuna and Jaysen Peters-de Laura added 43 and 40 receiving yards respectively. Bianco also led Saint Louis in ground yards, racking up 62 yards on 16 carries. Keola Apduhan wasn’t far behind with 50 rush yards on nine carries. Bianco and Apduhan each had a touchdown carry.
On the other side, Mililani’s Emana Tarape led the way with a game-best 190 yards on 14-for-28 passing. He also had a pair of touchdown tosses, but threw a critical interception late in the game. Kapono Ho’okano-Sallas was his quarterback’s top target, collecting four passes for a team-high 68 receiving yards. Gavin Hunter and Raymond Roller added 47 and 43 receiving yards to round out the top three Trojan receivers. Nehemiah Timoteo was the game’s overall rushing leader with 106 yards on 18 carries.
The third time proved to be the charm for the Crusader defense on Mililani’s game-opening drive. Twice Saint Louis had a chance to get off the field, and twice they couldn’t capitalize. So the Trojans rumbled on. On the eighth play of the drive, Timoteo put the ball on the turf for the second time, and this time, luck would side with the Crusaders. Not much would come of the early turnover, as an offensive penalty doomed the inaugural Saint Louis drive.
Mililani found themselves on the wrong end of a turnover once again, this time directly leading to Saint Louis points. Crusaders linebacker Blaze Holani burst through the line and swatted the Mililani punt. Teammate Iona Purcell was in the right place at the right time, recovering the loose ball in the end zone for the game-opening score.
The Trojan’s response to the score came in the form of a long 13-play drive. The extended drive looked to have stalled early, as Tarape’s pass, which would have been short of the line to gain anyway, fell through his receiver’s hands on third and long. Mililani got a second chance when a Saint Louis defender ran into the punter. The Trojans were again bailed out four plays later, when a Crusader offsides penalty helped Mililani convert a fourth-and-1 as the game headed into the second quarter.
After three straight Mililani runs up the middle to start the second, the Crusaders defense stacked the box in anticipation of another carry. The Trojans didn’t let that fact slip by them, as Tarape found a streaking Ho’okano-Sallas down the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown catch to make it 7-7.
On the next drive, Mililani turned to the proven formula from the prior drive. Timoteo and Tavian Hallums were called upon to tote the ball on six plays of the eight-play drive. After crossing into Saint Louis territory, the Crusaders again chose to stack the box against the run, and Tarape again burned them deep, finding a wide-open Roller for a 43-yard catch-and-run score to take their first lead of the game.
Saint Louis wouldn’t go quietly, driving down the field on 11 plays for a 24-yard Lason Napuunoa field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10 at the half.
The halftime break seemed to awaken something in Saint Louis. Suddenly, the passes started connecting, and the running lanes looked wider. Bianco led the way in this momentum shift, carrying and passing the Crusaders’ down the field on the second half’s opening drive. On the eight-play drive, Bianco ran or threw the ball seven times, including the capper, a 9-yard touchdown run.
Saint Louis continued their turn of fortune on their next drive, again heavily featuring Bianco. This time however, it was Apduhan who provided the finishing touch, putting the Crusaders up 24-14 on a 9-yard scoring run. Meanwhile, the Saint Louis defense did their part in shutting the Trojans down, holding them to just three points in the third quarter. A chance to extend the Saint Louis lead in the fourth quarter was missed, as Napuunoa’s 41-yard field goal attempt into the wind drifted left of the goal posts.
Mililani grabbed the chance to turn momentum around, scoring after just three plays on Timoteo’s 12-yard rumble to the endzone. After watching the Crusaders take over the game to start the second half, the Trojans decided it was time to take a risk to keep the season alive. Trailing by one, Mililani coach Rod York opted to send the offense back out to try for two. The decision turned out to be the correct one, as receiver John Herold-Namu found Tarape in the end zone for the conversion and the lead.
Despite the earlier misfire, Saint Louis didn’t hesitate to turn back to Napuunoa in a critical situation. After a Crusader drive stalled in Mililani territory, Napuunoa was again called into action. He made the most of his immediate chance at redemption, nailing a 38-yard field goal to give the lead back to Saint Louis.
With the game now in its final moments, Saint Louis needed one final push. That push turned out to be defensive back Kawaihinano Kalaukoa. In fact, Kalaukoa provided two highlight plays that clinched the Crusaders’ return to the state final. The first came after Napuunoa’s go-ahead field goal. Facing a fourth-and-long with the game on the line, Mililani’s Tarape was forced into making a hurried throw downfield. The wayward pass sailed over the Trojan receivers, right into the waiting hands of Kalaukoa. Mililani had one final chance to take the game, but Tarape’s pass on the final play was batted down by none other than Kalaukoa to end it.
Jonathan Chen, Star-Advertiser
Great game boys. Way to rep the OIA Mil Ville…heck of an effort. Thursday can’t come soon enough!!!
The key at Farrington’s field is to score as much as you can going from Mountain to Ocean down wind, very difficult to go against the wind Ocean to Mountain, most scores came from going down wind, now we get to see who really is the better team in 2021 on Thursday, Kahuku or Saint Louis, hopefully no wet conditions next week. should be a really good game.
Really hope Goshima is nowhere near the Championship game. That last out of bound hit would have put Mililani in field goal range.
28-14 Kahuku. Saint Louis’s defense is to young this year to stop Kahuku’s balanced offense. The 6 week layoff really affected that team . Only advantage for Saints is the coaching staff. If Cal and Ron dail up a game plan to beat Kahuku this year it will be their most impressive state championship by far.
Still waiting on people like Gigantic for Nutn and Honestly to explain why this was such a good game and not a blow out…come on…no be sked.
Fan of St Louis but great game to Mililani too. The wind and rain was insane when it mattered the most last night as I was at the Bishop Museum concert last night and at the same time watching the game. It was nuts. So great game by both and I hope this week there will be none of that. Weather really hurt both teams this game big time so hopefully we will have a great weather game instead of last night.
Both teams played a very tough game. Congrats to both
The kids deserve better. Officiating was terrible on both sides..
88 spot on. A double slot shift is a no no. Like Coach Hernandez said no advance in a scum, blow the whistle. Why let the boys agitate each other.
@88 You were spot on with the “Mililani will mop the floor with the Crusaders comment” too. Oh yeah, and the “they’re trying to avoid playing Mililani at all cost” comment. And the bs about how Mililani smashed us in those spring and summer scrimmages lol. SMH and you saying I know nothing about football.
@everyone else Mad respect to Mililani, helluva team and that defense the last couple games was legit. You got nothing to be ashamed of. They’ll be talking about this one for a while and you’ll be able to say you were a part of it.
Hawai’i HS refs have been TERRIBLE year in & year out; nothing new. HHSAA needs to implement a replay system all season because these kids, coaches & fans deserve BETTER.
It’s funny to see everyone bashing Mililani about transfers & recruits then turn around & say great game Trojans, mad respect. Thursday, HeaWeKo!
Of course, but I never said we’d mop the floor with Mililani or they were scared to play us. 🤣
@88 how come you only come back online when you think Kahuku is the favored team to win? Over the past 4 years when STL was the team most people thought would win, you was nowhere to be found?
Be consistent. Puff your chest, talk big online when Kahuku is the team to beat or are the underdogs. That what real fans do.
99% of Kahuku fans are true blue or should I say true red. 88 is straight bandwagon hopping.
Both teams played good football last night. Nuff said.
Though heaven supplied the water for the mopping, the men of Troy proved incapable of the task! Thus did the forces of King Louis IX of France emerge once again triumphant! Fight the good fight, believe what is right, Crusader the Lord of the realm, Crusader, Crusader the Lord of the realm. Come Crusader! The battle awaits! To battle, to battle the Saracen hordes, and the pagans from out of the north, I’m waiting, I’m willing to fight by your side, the Holy Land has to be free! Crusader the Lord of the realm! From the album Saxon, CRUSADER
Champion just find ways to win close games regardless how bad the refs called the game so as a RRfL alum you just take your hat off and acknowledge the winning culture installed at St lulu coach coach and there player believe
@Recruited not Rooted
By your poll, Lulu almost lost to your #5 ranked team. And yes…I will be here on the 23rd to call you out on your prediction or give props to Lulu if they win.
Is it me or that QB struggles small kine?
Kind of a weird fit for that offense.
Seems like he would excel in more of a RPO/west coast type of offense.
Since no one has mentioned it.
Coach Rod, by what I saw, looked much more relaxed and professional on the sideline.
Even with the no-calls. Much Respect.
The season kinda shook out the way we all thought it would.
Now to put it to bed this Thursday.
I hope the weather holds up so that we can see all that both teams can offer.
To be the best you gotta beat the best and until beaten that’s what the Crusaders are. Let’s go BigRed.
Great game this Thursday my prediction is St. Louis 28 Kahuku 21, the talent for St. Louis is not as good as the past years but the difference will be the coaching of Cal Lee & Ron Lee. Not a alumni from these schools but I appreciate the tradition of winning of both of these top flight football schools, I wish I could say the same for my school.
I disagree. To be the best, you gotta recruit the best!
To each their own friend. I’m a RedRaider4Lyphe but if any of the private schools show interest in any of my kids you best believe they going across the mountain for school. We got RedRaiders from our side playing and coaching for the Crusaders so it’s a win win for our community..
88 it’s getting old already you talking about recruiting when did it become a crime for parents to send there kids too any school they deme fits to enhance there child education stop with the criticism bro unless it’s your own kids then you have every opportunity to make decisions for them
Referee Goshima should NOT referee any of St. Louis’s game’s, he is a St. Louis alumnus and is biased towards StLouis, We have ibserves this for years. How can you be the White hat and not see 2 guys in motion at the same time, how’s about those late hits out of bounds. Mililani got ripped off by biased officiating. Check out this post: #30 tells you about him and check out the video after also:
So why even talk about RRFL, Bred to wear Red, commitment, Loyalty, Ohana, Aiga & then say if a private school calls best believe my kid running across the mountain? “That’s Hypocrisy” unbelievable!
Great game. Hats off to St Louis for finishing the game strong. But I was wondering, Can someone explain to me how Apduhan was eligible to play this game? Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t he get ejected for throwing a punch in their last game vs Kamehameha. Mililani’s Agasiva was ejected for throwing a punch vs Kahuku 11/13 and he became ineligible to play their next game which was Campbell. I am not trying to indignify this situation. Just want some clarity on that. The announcers never addressed that on tv. So I just wanted to know.
To: 88 Just curious about why you would need a private school to show interest in your children before you would decide to allow them to be enrolled there? What do you mean by a private school showing interest? Are any of your children doing anything that you think would draw attention by a private school? I know of a family that was living in Section 8 public housing in Waimanalo and had a very bright son who loved to read and was attending Waimanalo Intermediate. I sensed that this boy was very smart when he was much younger by listening to him talk about subjects he seemed interested in. While he was at Waimanalo Intermediate, he somehow got the attention of people from ‘Iolani, maybe they were doing some kind of outreach effort looking for bright youngsters, this boy-Charlie, was noticed because of his academic performance or intellect and not for being an athlete. Obviously his family could not afford an education at ‘Iolani, or any other private school, but whether through financial aid or a scholarship, he went on to graduate from ‘Iolani and go on to enroll at the University of Southern California. The point here is that you may have to take the initiative to investigate and see whether there are possible ways for you to get the financial aid you may need to enroll your children at a private school. I know that Kamehameha-if your children are of aboriginal Hawaiian ancestry- and Punahou offer financial aid based on need and don’t want any child invited to enroll to decline their invitation due to lack of money. And if your child is invited to enroll at a private school with a partnership agreement with Kamehameha- again, provided your child is of aboriginal Hawaiian ancestry-then Kamehameha will assist you in paying for your child’s tuition, and I am not sure about this but possibly also other expenses. Both ‘Iolani and St. Louis have a partnership agreement with Kamehameha to assist Hawaiian students enrolled at those schools. And there may be other financial aid and scholarships available at other private schools. So you may have to go look and get the assistance you may need.
RedRaider4Lyphe doesn’t mean you go to Kahuku and only Kahuku. C’mon you guyz can’t be that stupid….
Fan of the game. No punch thrown. Just a kid who lost out playing in the ILH Final due to a bad call
Fan of the Game
100% the announcers should have made clarification. Appeal went through as expected.
Just a kid getting to play just 1 min of one of the biggest games of the season.
Spilt milk….movin on.
Fan of the game: Apduhan did not throw a punch at the Kamehameha player , he pushed the player as was seen in Monday’s replay of the incident, so the officials of that last game between Saint Louis and Kamehameha made a blind call, bad officials. hope i explained your question.
James rowland: just to let you know ref Goshima did graduate from Saint Louis many years ago, but let me tell you, he has made more bad calls then good calls against Saint Louis, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what school you went too, Vic is a ref too and graduated from Leilehua but has made a lot of bad calls against Saint Louis, usually if the games are close Vic usually is happy because that’s how Kamehameha won the close games this season, Vic kept the game close with some very bad calls, Cal Evans is a very good ref i hope he is the head ref this Thursday, but guess what, i bet Vic will be the ref this Thursday, a Leilehua grad pulling for the OIA.
Keoki1959 and ilh: Thank you for answering my question. I really appreciate it. Let’s see some good football tonight!!!