St. Francis’ Kekahuna steps up with Aina-Chaves out

St. Francis defensive lineman Tapena Tuitupou (12) and St. Francis linebacker Jackie Johnson (15) sacked Pearl City quarterback Makanaokalani Canyon (12) during an OIA-ILH Division II game in 2018. St. Francis closed its doors after that year and Johnson is now a senior at Roosevelt. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

St. Francis’ most prolific playmaker spent most of Friday night on a trainer’s table, his right ankle heavily wrapped.

But before and after an injury to running back Jonan Aina-Chaves, the Saints defense set the tone for a 27-13 OIA-ILH Division II win over Pearl City.

St. Francis junior Shepherd Kekahuna opened a dynamic two-way performance with a 57-yard interception return on Pearl City’s second play from scrimmage and finished with two of the Saints’ four picks. Tapena Tuitupou was in on three sacks, Sione Lolohea was a menacing presence on the defensive front and the Saints held the host Chargers to 145 yards of total offense, including 30 on the ground.

“Our offense struggled a little bit and you have to give credit to St. Francis’ defense,” Pearl City coach Robin Kami said. “They’re fast and strong and they came attacking us.”

Kekahuna nearly had a third interception and contributed three receptions for 96 yards on offense with receptions going for 33, 42 and 54 yards.

“He is awesome,” St. Francis coach Kip Akana said. “Jonan Aina-Chaves gets a lot of ink but Shepherd is the same kind of player and that’s what I tell everyone.”

Kekahuna’s receiving production was part of a record-setting night for quarterback Bubba Akana, who finished with 256 passing yards and two touchdowns. His yardage total surpassed the previous program record of 245 he set last season against Damien.

That said, Aina-Chaves has been the centerpiece of the Saints offense and they were rightfully concerned when he was carted off the field after a 46-yard run with 2:26 left in the first quarter.

“He leads our team, so to see him go out is terrifying,” Bubba Akana said. “I hope he comes back soon.”

Aina-Chaves averaged 219 rushing yards in the Saints’ first three games and scored eight touchdowns on the ground. He’d also caught 10 passes for 128 yards and a score. He set the school’s single-game rushing record with 248 yards against ‘Iolani last season and already broke the mark twice this season with 263 yards against Radford and 270 against Waialua.

St. Francis running back Jonan Aina-Chaves ran for 66 yards on five carries before leaving Friday’s game with an ankle injury. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Kip Akana said the initial prognosis was the ankle wasn’t broken or dislocated and Aina-Chaves will have an X-ray on Saturday.

“He’s one of the best running backs in the state,” Kip Akana said. “I’m sure the first thing teams do when they scheme Saint Francis is to stop No. 4 and for him to go down that early in the game certainly changed the complexion. But the team rallied around each other and was able to get the job done.”

St. Francis hampered its efforts with 12 penalties for 120 yards in but managed to improve to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in ILH D-II heading into a bye week. The Saints next face Pac-Five on Sept. 15.

“We’re short on numbers, we asked the kids to step up and fill in and contribute and I think for the most part they did that today,” Kip Akana said. “Too many penalties, too many turnovers and we gotta get better.”

Friday’s loss didn’t impact Pearl City’s status in the OIA D-II race and the Chargers (2-2, 2-0) face McKinley on Sept. 7.


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