Slow starts doom Saint Louis in a long season that started more than 4 months ago

Saint Louis quarterback AJ Bianco found it tough going against the Kahuku defense in Thursday's Open Division state title game. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Following a season that got off to a slow start, it seemed only fitting that another slow start doomed the Saint Louis Crusaders in Thursday’s 49-14 loss to Kahuku in the Open Division title game of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships.

“Tough one to swallow for sure,” Saint Louis quarterback AJ Bianco said. “This [game] is what you work (for), but we just have to bounce back. Hopefully the boys learn from this and can bounce back.”

Before rolling their way to the final, Saint Louis opened the season with an up-and-down 2-3 record. A loss to out-of-state opponent Bishop Gorman on Aug. 20, more than four months ago, and two more to in-state rival Kamehameha had the Crusaders looking for answers early. With the season on the line, the team achieved what they couldn’t tonight: bounce back and run the table. Saint Louis found their groove in the ILH playoff, beating Punahou and twice taking down Kamehameha to fight back to another state playoff appearance.

“This team, we never quit. No matter what,” Bianco said.

The Crusaders needed the same push tonight, but instead saw a short-lived comeback cut short by Kahuku’s huge second-half surge.

From the beginning, it was clear that Kahuku was in the driver seat. After having a punt blocked to open the championship clash, the Crusaders watched the Red Raiders sprint off to three consecutive first-quarter scores, including Malosi Lefau’s 29-yard pick-6 off of a Bianco pass. Meanwhile, Saint Louis continued to struggle with incompletions and the relentless Kahuku pass rush. The Crusaders converted just three first downs in the opening period, never managing to move the chains twice in a single drive.

After watching Kahuku score their fourth unanswered touchdown to begin the second quarter, Saint Louis finally buckled down. The Crusaders put together their first sustained drive, moving the chains four times, one more than they had all of the first quarter. The team drove 62-yards down the field, before running back Boston Opetaia put the ball in the end zone with a 2-yard scoring run.

The defensive unit played their part, forcing a Kahuku three-and-out on the next drive to set up another Crusader score. Following another 60+-yard drive, Saint Louis finally cut the early deficit in half on Bianco’s 46-yard touchdown toss to slot back Trech Kekahuna. The Red Raiders turned it over on downs just before the half, and it looked like the Crusaders were well on their way back into the game.

The third quarter quickly shut down that notion. A 61-yard Kahuku touchdown on a screen pass from QB Jason Mariteragi to Kainoa Carvalho set the tone for a Red Raider second half that saw them score three times unanswered to put the game away. The three Kahuku scoring drives came one after another, while the three ensuing Saint Louis drives ended in two turnovers and a punt.

With the game squarely put away, Bianco did not see action in the fourth quarter, finishing with 143 passing yards on 11-for-20 passing in three quarters of work. He had a touchdown throw, but it was shadowed by a pair of interceptions. Bianco found success when looking for Kekahuna, who was the team’s receiving leader with 82 yards on four catches. 46 of his receiving yards came on the touchdown grab from Bianco. Jaysen Peters-deLaura followed with 52 yards on six receptions.

Instead, backup quarterback Kauna’oa Kamakawiwo’ole led the team into the final frame. Like Bianco before him however, Kamakawiwo’ole could do nothing against the energized Red Raider defense. His interception in the final three minutes made way for Kahuku to run out the clock and seize the Open Division crown.


  1. RR4Lc/o87 December 24, 2021 6:26 am

    Good game by both teams, just want to say that without Coach Cal Lee opening up the passing game for Hawai’i High School football, we as a state would not be able to compete against mainland teams, so thank you Coach Lee. Now Red Raider Nation has a slick passing game to go along with that 3 yards and a cloud of dust running game oh boy, Big Red might be on to something!

  2. 1st December 24, 2021 7:07 am


  3. 88 December 24, 2021 9:39 am

    MERCY RULE!!..😭😭😭😭

  4. 88 December 24, 2021 9:42 am

    I told all you clowns at the beginning of the season Kahuku is taking States this year and next. $h!eeet, if they had a season last year they would of took States too. Now you guys know and will always remember this game.. MERCY RULE!!!!!!!!!😂😂😂😂

  5. ILH December 24, 2021 10:29 am

    No mercy rule in the State Tournament, only in OIA/ILH play. Was always like that.

  6. RR4L-702 December 24, 2021 10:51 am

    No excuses. The better, determined, destined, and dominant team won. Nuff said. BOOM!

  7. overcome December 24, 2021 10:55 am

    sls had its momentum halted in their first possession by the ref calling the pass caught by #17 on about kahuku’s 10 yard line incomplete. #17 caught the pass by both hands and fell on his back, then with one hand moved to place the ball on the ground in order to get up. bad call by the ref! it was complete, and from the 10 they would have likely scored. then few plays later kahuku blocked sls punt, and eventually scored; lifting kahuku’s momentum.

    #17 also caught another long pass that may have led to a score. but the ref charged him with a penalty. the defender was pushing him and all 17 did was to extend his hands to ward off the defender who was running off balance and fell.

  8. Bleed Red December 24, 2021 11:33 am

    I would like to preface this post by saying in no way does 88 represent our community. Our families and young men are built on hard work and integrity. We teach our children to try their best, compete, but always demonstrate humility at all times.

    Saint Louis is the four time defending champions. And for a good reason. Last night, our boys did their job, and won the title. But both teams should be proud. It isn’t easy to get to a championship game in any sport.

    And with the pandemic and so many changes in our lives, we should not only applaud these two great teams, but all the kids who are out having fun and representing their schools and often communities.

    It sickens me to come on to these boards and have a member of our community come on here and so absent mindedly speak with no class.

    We are not taught to insult. We are not taught to boast. Our children leave it all on the field and after the game is done they shake hands and are friends with their opponents. That’s called sportsmanship.

    88 you really need to tone it done. Your posts make me wonder if you are from our community. Our Kupuna do not teach us to act in this manner.

    To our boys, you did wonderful and represented our school and our community well. Let’s keep working to defend the title next year!

  9. RR4L-702 December 24, 2021 11:55 am

    No excuses. The better team won. Kahuku was determined, destined, and relentless in their pursuit for perfection and the championship. Congratulations to the Red Raider Nation.

  10. RR4L-702 December 24, 2021 12:00 pm

    My previous comment was awaiting for moderation. Then not posted at all. I tried to comment again and it’s awaiting moderation. Maybe HPW kind of biased to negative comments directed to St. Louis.

  11. HI HS FAN December 24, 2021 12:01 pm

    Congratulations Kahuku!

  12. HI HS FAN December 24, 2021 12:03 pm

    No excuses! The better team won. Hats off to Kahuku.

  13. Paul Honda December 24, 2021 4:26 pm

    “Awaiting moderation” … show us the screen shot. Never heard of that here. Unless you used a naughty word, maybe.

  14. Hawaii Fan December 24, 2021 4:28 pm

    @overcome, Yes 17 had caught the ball but the db disrupted the catch when the wr was going to ground which it made it look like he had possession but it was just on his body and by his one arm, it wasn’t secured. The ball was still moving around. And about the offense pass interference. It actually could’ve been called both ways. They were both hand fighting and some refs are going to allow that but when 17 had made the bigger action to push off which eventually made the defender lose balance and his position on the ball, it was an easy call. 17 should have just try to make a play on the ball without pushing off and that would’ve probably been a pi on the defense. I am not rooting for either side but in my opinion, don’t take it out of context because I believe all the guys that played last night on both teams put there all into there craft. Much respect for them. But I personally think Stl lost there momentum when these wrs was dropping wide open passes especially when it’s 3rd down. There was around 6 or 7 times where if the receivers had caught the ball it would’ve been either a touchdown or first down. I believe if they would have caught them, it would’ve been a whole different ball game. But the better team won last night. Congratulations to Kahuku.

  15. 96730to89 December 24, 2021 4:41 pm

    @overcome… i don’t recall you complaining about the refs missing a hand full of personal fouls for late hits out of bounds and the illegal motion resulting in STL gaining momentum against Mililani. Hmmmm….odd.

  16. ILH December 24, 2021 5:54 pm

    Saint Louis won the States 2016,2017,2018 and 2019, now Kahuku wins it , that’s how it goes, better team won last night, nuff said, Congratulations Kahuku and to your great community.

  17. 88 December 24, 2021 7:21 pm

    @BleedRed shut the hell up! You want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya then go to… We have been talking trash to each other on the forum for YEARS. It’s all for fun. Nobody on this site takes any of the things said here personal. I have been going back & forth with girls like ILH, Root not Recruited, iLoveHawaii etc since 2015. It’s Karen’s like you who ruin everything for the rest us.

  18. Bleed Red December 24, 2021 7:49 pm

    Like I said. 88 doesn’t reflect our community and the good people. It’s an embarrassment to our players, our school, and our community to have 88 speak on our behalf.

    We all know some of our children read these blogs. Coach advises the players to stay off. But some still come on here.

    How irresponsible for an adult to come in here and show such little class.

    On behalf of the Kahuku Football Team, the community, and all Kahuku High School Alumni, I would like to apologize for the behavior of 88.

    88 DOES NOT speak for our community and DOES NOT represent the family values we teach our children and to the student body.

    I can guarantee you that all of the Kahuku Faithful will agree with me. I am sorry to all the football supporters and bloggers on here that everyone is subjected to this type of behavior.

  19. Bleed Red December 24, 2021 10:22 pm

    I actually am speaking for our community since it’s common knowledge and I’m confident everyone will agree.

    Our community teaches our children to be classy, to show humility, and be fine citizens. I don’t know anyone who would not agree with that.

    We have pride yet do not need to show it or talk about it. It’s inside of us and that’s enough.

    I don’t know who taught you to act like this, especially as an adult. But I guarantee, our community doesn’t support adults who act and speak like you. It’s quite irresponsible.

    Please find me one person from our community who disagrees with me. I’m betting it will be quite difficult since most or all of our community members practice and teach these values that I mentioned above.

  20. Bleed Red December 24, 2021 10:29 pm

    88, I am going to assume you’re an adult. What kind of adult comes to a blog where children and teens visit and act like you do?

    You insult. You taunt. You swear.

    Our community exemplifies class, thinking of others, sharing, and being friends with our neighbors from other communities.

    You clearly are not a part of our community because I don’t know anyone who would teach or tolerate the way you behave.

  21. 88 December 24, 2021 10:44 pm

    What kind of an ADULT allows their children access to a blog where they know ADULTS are talking trash to each other? This is a sports blog you idiot. If you
    are allowing your young children access to this blog you got bigger problems then a bunch of guys talking trash to each other. You don’t speak for any community, any school or any team. Get that through to that empty thing you got sitting on your shoulders.

  22. 88 December 24, 2021 11:22 pm

    He wish…..

  23. I am 88's Daddy December 24, 2021 11:39 pm

    88 is pathetic. Trying to defend herself. But then again, she has to defend herself. Outside of Kahuku Football, what else does she have?

  24. Bleed Red December 24, 2021 11:46 pm

    It is a pretty sad day when an adult is trying to defend their lack of character. I stand by my comment that 88 does not represent the fine values of our community. And 88 is not part of our community. While we appreciate 88’s support of our school and team. We do not appreciate 88’s foul behavior and immature actions.

    On behalf of ur community, I apologize on behalf of 88 once again. Hopefully in time he will recognize that he is a poor role model for our student athletes and in no way symbolizes the fine men and women of Kahuku.

  25. 88 December 25, 2021 12:17 am

    It’s a pretty sad day when an adult feels the need to defend a community and team that doesn’t need her to defend them. Hopefully in time you will recognize that no one gives 2 buckets of monkey pi$$ about your support and what you think.

  26. strictly south December 25, 2021 8:38 pm

    The first written article to speak on 2021 State Champs has a headliner, focusing on St Louis, is sounding like a bunch of excuses for a Crusader team. Mililani and Kahuku would have been a better State Championship game. Crusaders are hurt because they got humbled. They got exposed against Mililani and should have lost that game. Everyone watching that game seen what the refs did to help the crusaders, form Illegal Motion to late hits, to holding almost on every play. Go watch the game on OC16 again. Then they got hammered by Kahuku! One of the most boring State games to date. Wasn’t even a close game. It wasn’t s a slow start that doomed St Louis, it was a much better team that dominated them. There was absolutely no chance. 49-14 isn’t a slow start. That was no chance to start by being outplayed by a way better team. Kahuku man handled the Crusaders with no excuse. At the end of the day its Sabers Baby lol! South will be making a come back!

  27. 100 December 25, 2021 10:18 pm

    Hats off to Kahuku, they deserved this championship and I know they worked their asses off for it. I’m glad the beat-up Saint Louis gave to Kahuku in the 2019 state final was a wake-up call for Kahuku. It is truly sad that adults on here are taking their anger out on these Saint Louis kids just because they could not beat Saint Louis when they were in HS. Get a life, please…

  28. Pakelika December 30, 2021 8:42 pm

    Hats off to those who have either destroyed or lost possession of their rear ends through extremely strenuous, exhaustive and lengthy effort to improve and refine their physical, athletic and grid iron skills and abilities; the foregoing sentence sums up in essence 100’s congratulatory salutation to the Rambiriers, or Ramblers of the Kahuku Intermediate and High School. To that might I add Banzai Tenno No Hekka! Ganbare! Gambatte oshigoto ganbatte ne

  29. Pakelika December 30, 2021 8:48 pm

    To 100: One does not “get a life,” life is the gracious gift of the Almighty Creator, regardless of what anyone believes

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