It was almost enough, even by Cal Lee’s almost unreachable standards, that Saint Louis had limited a potent Punahou offense to a single touchdown by halftime.
Top-ranked Saint Louis went on to capture the ILH Open championship with a 45-21 victory over No. 2 Punahou at Aloha Stadium on Saturday night. Punahou was limited to 16 rushing yards on 13 carries, eschewing the run in favor of five-wide sets.
“We’re just listening to Coach, trusting in the plays he was calling. We’re just trying our best to contain them,” said linebacker Nick Herbig, who had six tackles.
After Punahou quarterback Hugh Brady was knocked out on the first offensive snap of the game for the Buffanblu, backup Kobe Muasau played the rest of the way and finished with 308 passing yards on a whopping 63 attempts. He completed 35 passes, throwing for three touchdowns with three interceptions.
The Crusader defense was in takeaway mode, forcing six turnovers. Three were by safety Kamo‘i Latu (two picks, one fumble recovery). One of the fumbles was forced by LB Kila Kamakakawiwo‘ole. Safety Junior Wily had an interception in the fourth quarter to stymie Punahou’s hopes for a comeback.
“It’s good fun. It’s always good fun playing this game. I’m going to play this game as long as I can,” Wily said.
Along the way, however, Crusaders linebacker Jordan Botelho was disqualified in the second quarter after a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The head official said after the game that Botelho’s availability for the first round of the upcoming state tournament depends on the HHSAA’s rules, which may differ from what the ILH abides by.
“Jordan’s a huge asset to our team. Any time a guy of his caliber goes down, it’s really hard, but our team was able to rally up. People stepped up and made plays,” Wily said.
Lee, a longtime defensive coordinator and the winningest head coach in Hawaii prep football history, was baffled by the multiple conduct penalties. One came on Punahou’s first snap of the game when Botelho sacked Brady — injuring the junior on the play — and returned the fumble for a touchdown. Botelho did a dive over the goal line, triggering the back judge to throw his yellow flag.
“He just kind of somersaulted into the end zone. That’s a 15-yard penalty,” Lee said.
There were other boo-boos for both teams for some rather impolite chatting. Lee will have a clear message when he talks with the team about the win.
“Congratulations, you won the game, but I don’t like the talking. These guys, I don’t know. They do too much talking. I don’t know if it was ever like that,” Lee said. “They watch (TV) and then they act. They score a touchdown and you think they’re in the three-ring circus, giving you all the jumps and all that stuff. Celebrations. I don’t like it. You score a touchdown, be humble.”
Beyond the concern about Botelho’s status, the longtime head coach was glad his team played well. The last time they met on Sept. 15, Saint Louis pulled out a 35-28 win.
“They’re a good football team. We really had our hands full. We were fortunate enough, we had a few (forced) turnovers, big plays. We’re very happy for the kids’ sake,” Lee said. “(Muasau) is definitely a good one.”
Wily, like many of his teammates, will be ready to hammer out any kinks.
“We have a lot of work to do. We can’t be satisfied. We just got to keep working hard. We’ve got a bye week, so we can take this week to rest up and do our thing,” he said.
Herbig, a junior, is also hoping Saint Louis wins its third-straight state title.
“It feels amazing. We just need to go out there and finish strong,” he said.