Flat, unenergetic, languid. Pick one of those words or use your own to describe St. Francis’ first-half performance in a 21-6 loss to Damien last Saturday at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
The Saints were outplayed in the first 24 minutes, and that’s as simple as it gets. But after the break, St. Francis (2-4, 0-2 ILH Division II) came out with fire and conviction.
Destin Pakele was front and center in the turnaround for the Saints, who trailed 21-0 at the half. Pakele is a hard-hitting linebacker, and St. Francis first-year head coach Kip Akana turned him loose at running back in the second half. On the team’s lone scoring drive, he carried the ball six times for 43 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown.
Prior to that, a head’s-up play by Pakele led directly to the score, when he dropped the Damien punter for a 12-yard loss after a high snap that was bobbled.
“I try my hardest, but it’s a team effort,” said Pakele, a 6-foot, 230-pound junior. “Collectively, we did put it together in the second half. We need to start faster. The coaches gave us a good pep talk at halftime, telling us we needed to move the ball with more of a high tempo.”
The tempo and rhythm were way more evident in the last 24 minutes, when the Saints looked like they had their precision down.
Two other times in the second half, St. Francis drove deep into Damien territory — once all the way to the 4 before losing the ball on downs, and another time with under a minute left to the Monarchs’ 24 before an interception ended the threat.
After the game, even the head of school, Sister Joan of Arc Souza, said, “The outcome may have been different had they played the first half the way they played the second half.”
Akana doesn’t know why the team started slow, but says it’s been a problem most of the season.
“It’s been a characteristic of this team,” Akana said. “We give up early leads and then have to play catch-up. It’s definitely not a strong point. That’s a coaching thing. We’ve identified that we start slow and now we have to take steps to fix that. This team is a bunch of scrappy fighters. They believe.
“Pakele is a gamer. He’s the one out there after practice, still running. And it paid off out there, the way he was running the ball in the third and fourth quarters.”
Despite an 0-2 record to start the ILH D-II season, St. Francis is not out of the race for a state berth. The Saints would need to win their last two games against Damien (1-0) and Pac-Five (1-0) and hope for some help. The Monarchs and Wolfpack play for sole possession of first place on Friday.
The Saints’ two league losses are were by 11 points (28-19) to Pac-Five and by 15 (21-6) to Damien. They were not blowouts. The rematches are scheduled for Oct. 2 against the Wolfpack and Oct. 9 against the Monarchs at Aloha Stadium.