So that’s how you celebrate receiving a scholarship offer from UCLA.
Life is good for sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. A 47-20 win by Saint Louis over Kamehameha on Friday in the ILH D-I playoffs was another productive night at the stadium for the southpaw.
Even as Kamehameha’s talented defense brought the pass rush, kept coverage tight and yes, even intercepted one of his passes, there wasn’t much they could do to stop the Saint Louis offensive machine.
The Crusaders amassed 540 total yards, including 291 on the ground in 39 carries. Another soph, Jahred Silofau, ran for a career-high 181 yards on 20 attempts and Tagovailoa, the dude with a ton of TD passes (29 coming into the game), actually ran for three scores in the first half without throwing a TD strike. He finally threw for a TD in the second half, and after running for 84 yards and three TDs, he’ll need all the rest he can get before the Crusaders get ready for No. 1 Punahou next week.
• Timing is everything. Ron Lee probably called it, being the offensive coordinator. A double pass using a backup WR (Colton Nascimento). When you have, arguably, the most accurate QB in the state, most OCs wouldn’t dare bother with a trick play. But it was the right time. Kamehameha’s safety bit once Nascimento caught that little flare pass behind the line of scrimmage, clearly behind Tagovailoa. The pass was a perfect spiral, not a wobble at all, and Drew Kobayashi reeled it in for a 54-yard TD. That turned a 26-14 game into a 19-point lead. Not a backbreaker, but all the momentum Kamehameha had gained by starting the second half with a TD drive, poof.
• Shutdown defense by Saint Louis? It’s been awhile since we saw the Crusaders really stymie a high-level D-I offense, but that’s what they did. Kamehameha got its yardage through the air: 324 combined yards between Fatu Sua-Godinet and backup Justice Young. But its bread and butter is the rushing attack, and the Warriors mustered just 89 yards on 19 carries. Super sophomore Jordan Bayudan got just six attempts for 29 yards.
Sua-Godinet finished with 244 yards through the air with one TD, and he ran for 47 yards on 11 carries. But it wasn’t the normal Kamehameha comfort zone. They much prefer to run the ball as a primary strategy, and Saint Louis just would not let them. That decision by the Crusaders worked out.
• Ground and pound Crusaders. For a few moments, Silofau was running downhill early and I thought I saw Prince Brown out there. Not that Silofau is anywhere as big as Brown was during his career at Kalaepohaku roughly a decade ago. But with four running plays, including a few old-school draws, in their first six snaps, it was clear that Lee was determined to make Kamehameha play honest defense. It could have backfired; STL punted on its first series. But Silofau picked up 13 yards on a draw to start the second possession, and the Crusaders had the Warriors just off balance enough.
• Purist, maybe not. Though Ron Lee is a staunch believer in the four-wide (a.k.a. run and shoot) offense, he and brother/head coach Cal Lee have never been married to one formation. Back in those Brown days (before and after, too), they’d line up with a jumbo formation, I set, if the situation called for it. Against Kamehameha, on second and goal from the KS 3-yard line, they went to wide splits and double tight ends when Jonathon Manalo scored on a 3-yard run.
Later, tight end Spencer Johnson entered the game and lined up on the right side. It was an unbalanced line and Kamehameha committed heavy to that side. Tagovailoa then took the snap and snuck around the left side for an easy 1-yard TD run. Ron Lee is as fiery an OC I’ve ever been around during a game, but it’s still a game of logic, and I don’t know if anyone else gets an edge with numbers the way he can when his guys are executing properly.
• Game of Kane. Kamehameha deserves credit, too, for utilizing Dylan Kane as much as they could on offense. Kane is one of the state’s top cornerbacks, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound sprinter during track and field season. He caught the first two pass attempts from Sua-Godinet, then leaped high in the corner of the end zone to pull in an 11-yard TD. It looked like he could — or would — dominate this game on both sides of the ball. But he tweaked his leg a bit during that first half, and he was never 100 percent after that, though he gutted it out and finished with seven catches for 50 yards.
I’ll have to go upload my game video and take a close look to see if and when Tagovailoa truly tested Kane, the cornerback.
(Update, Saturday, 8:45 a.m. — One of our astute readers, STL714, noted that while Kane played a lot of WR in this game, he did not play defense. I went back to my game video and scanned through all of Kamehameha’s defensive snaps. True. The Warriors had Chad Farias at left CB all game. Akili Gray lined up at right CB. Farias did a pretty good job on Saint Louis WR Drew Kobayashi. He swept in from behind on a post route to pick off one pass.
But Farias also bit on that double-pass play from Tagovailoa to Nascimento to Kobayashi. Farias started the play deep, about 9 yards back, which in hindsight probably led him to see the first pass too clearly, more or less. Kobayashi finished with five catches for 98 yards, including 54 yards on the trick play. But yes, Kane didn’t play on defense. Maybe it was the gimpy leg, or as our astute reader noted, the Warriors wanted a different type of DB there for the rematch.)
It’s amazing, really, to see future Division I college players like Mika Taufa putting the heat on Tagovailoa, and he just played his game. Kane out there in coverage, no forcing the ball to his side. Did I mention Tagovailoa is only a sophomore?
And yes, he received a scholarship offer from UCLA on Friday. LIfe. Is. Good.
• The loss marked the end of the season for Kamehameha wide receivers Kaulana Werner and Kumoku Noa. Werner had two incredible plays. The first was a body-contorting, diving catch near the left sideline on a pass for a first down (30 yards). The second was a tipped pass that he hustled to get for a 28-yard gain. He wound up with just four receptions and 75 yards, but he made his presence known.
Noa finished with three grabs for 123 yards, including an 80-yard TD from the backup, Young. Noa is just a junior, and the timing on his play with Young, who had made a smooth side-step to avoid a sack, was impeccable. They’ll team up again next season. Young had just two pass attempts before Sua-Godinet returned, but it looks like the QB job is his next season barring anything unforeseen.
They’ll also have Bayudan, currently a sophomore, back next season, too. Not that any starting role is guaranteed, especially at Kamehameha. They always, always have major depth at RB.
• Sack party. Defensive lineman Alema Kapoi had a sack for the Warriors before leaving with an injury. In fact, after big No. 95 left the game, Saint Louis hammered the ball between the tackles on three of its next four plays. Manalo ripped a 22-yard gain. Silofau gashed for a 32-yard pickup. That set up a screen pass from Tagovailoa to Cash Searle for a TD and a 26-14 lead.
Saint Louis had two sacks — by Josiah Maglente-Tonu and Matthew Mariota — while trying to corral the speedy Sua-Godinet. Toa Augafa’s pick-six with 4 seconds left was icing on the cake. You may wonder why he didn’t just take the ball and run out of bounds or stop and take a knee, but for any kid in a big game like this, there’s an eternal memory by taking it to the house. So I don’t blame him. It was quite a runback, weaving from the right sideline to the middle of the field, then back to the right before scoring.
If it were a one-TD margin, then yes, maybe cutting the play short would’ve been prudent. The fact that Saint Louis’ defense is making so many plays is almost astounding. They’re not deep, especially up front, and they’re relatively young. Whatever it is those sage, ol’ ballcoaches are doing up there on the hill, it seems to be working quite well.
• The game began at roughly 9 p.m. (after a long first game involving Damien and Pac-Five), and didn’t end until around midnight. Here’s the game boxscore, which didn’t make it into the morning edition.
At Aloha Stadium
Kamehameha (5-3) 7 0 7 6 — 20
Saint Louis (6-3) 6 13 7 14 — 47
STL—Jonathon Manalo 3 run (kick failed)
KS—Dylan Kane 11 pass from Fatu Sua-Godinet (Noah Crabbe kick)
STL—Tua Tagovailoa 13 run (Noah Alejado kick)
STL—Tagovailoa 1 run (kick blocked)
KS—Sua-Godinet 8 run (Crabbe kick)
STL—Cash Searle 5 pass from Tagovailoa (Alejado kick)
STL—Drew Kobayashi 54 pass from Colton Nascimento (Alejado kick)
KS—Kumoku Noa 80 pass from Justice Young (pass failed)
STL—Tagovailoa 2 run (Alejado kick)
STL—Toa Augafa 55 interception return (Alejado kick)
RUSHING—KS: Jordan Bayudan 6-29, Sua-Godinet 11-47, Kaulana Werner 1-(-7), Kane 1-20. STL: Jahred Silofau 20-181, Tagovailoa 14-84, Jonathon Manalo 5-26.
PASSING—KS: Sua-Godinet 17-29-1-244, Young 1-2-0-80. STL: Tagovailoa 17-23-1-195, Nascimento 1-1-0-54.
RECEIVING—KS: Kane 7-50, Werner 4-75, Kumoku Noa 3-123, Alika Kaha‘ulelio 2-53, Elijah Cacal 1-7, Bayudan 1-16. STL: Keanu Souza 2-23, Drew Kobayashi 5-98, Allan Cui 3-19, Kaipo Mahoney 2-16, Jimmy Nunuha 3-59, Cash Searle 2-21, Nascimento 1-13.
• Here’s the target list.
> Kane: seven receptions, 50 yards, TD (11 targets)
> Peter Hanohano-Hashimoto: 0-0 (two targets)
> Werner: 4-75 (seven targets)
> Noa: 3-123, TD (six targets)
> Alika Kaha‘ulelio: 2-53 (two targets)
> Koby Ford: 0-0 (one target)
> Elijah Cacal: 1-7 (one target)
> Bayudan: 1-16 (one target)
> Keanu Souza: 2-23 (three targets)
> Kobayashi: 5-98, TD (six targets)
> Allan Cui: 3-49 (three targets)
> Leelan Oasay: 2-16 (three targets)
> Jimmy Nunuha: 3-59 (four targets)
> Cash Searle: 2-21, TD (three targets)
> Nascimento: 1-13 (one target)
• Finally, the trick of the night was not the double pass TD and it wasn’t even Wallen Te‘o’s clutch fourth-down bat-down of a Sua-Godinet pass. The greatest trick was this: Saint Louis ran the ball on 63 percent of their plays, big reversal from their norm.