In four short years, St. Francis has gone from a football team to a football program.
Formerly an all-girls’ school, it went co-ed in 2006 and the student body is currently about equal in male and female enrollment.
In October 2012, the school got permission from the ILH and Sister Joan of Arc Souza announced plans to start a varsity program. Those plans came to fruition in the 2013 season.
St. Francis dropped their first 16 ILH games. It wasn’t until beating Pac-Five 12-9 last year that the Saints earned their first league win.
This season, the Saints went 3-1 in league play and were one win away from their first ILH Division II title and D-II state tournament berth before losing 20-12 to Damien on Friday night.
“Obviously we’re proud of what we accomplished this year,” second-year coach Kip Akana said. “Our goal was to win the ILH. We had 34 guys suited up. We had our next guys up but we just fell a little short today.”
The Saints’ backfield of running back Tyson Shimabukuro and quarterback Bubba Akana went down on the same play with 3:51 to go in the first quarter. Both were taken to the hospital.
Shimabukuro gained a first down but had the ball was knocked out by Damien sophomore Braxton Wilcox at around the Damien 30. It was scooped up by junior Pomai Kim and taken back to the Damien 49 where he was taken down by Akana, leading to the quarterback’s injury.
“No excuses, Damien did what they had to do,” said Kip Akana, who happens to be Bubba’s father. “Hats off to Damien, they played a good game. They played inspired and they were the better team today. We’ll be cheering for them (in the state tournament).”
The win marks Damien’s second ILH Division II championship in a row. It’s the first time the Monarchs have done so.
“St. Francis is a tough team,” Damien head coach Eddie Klaneski said. “They’re an up-and-coming team and they’ve been pushing us to the brink since they came in a few years back. We give those guys a lot of credit.”
With Shimabukuro (junior) and Akana (sophomore) plus a young core returning, do the Saints feel like things are shaping up for them to return to the title game next year?
“We believe so,” Kip Akana said. “We’re young, a lot of guys coming back. In the meantime, congratulations to Eddie and his staff.”