Standout Saints unsure about future with school’s closure

St. Francis’ Jonan Aina-Chaves will have to find a new school to play football at for his senior season. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

They are humble gladiators with a simple dream, to bring the utmost success and glory to a tiny school in Manoa Valley.

A lot changed, however, on Monday afternoon. When news hit campus, Jonan “Bubbah” Aina-Chaves may as well have been hit by a bolt of lightning. The prolific junior running back and his classmates learned that St. Francis would close its doors at the high school and middle school.

The football team, which rose quickly to prominence over the last few years, is no more. Aina-Chaves, a Star-Advertiser All-State first-team selection, was sad and almost numb.

“I’m just speechless. I feel bad for my school,” he said on Monday night. “It was a great three years. I got to know new people and bond with them in football and other sports. They’re my brothers.”

In his two seasons on the gridiron, Aina-Chaves was one of many talented individual players who helped elevate the program.

2017: 229 carries, 1,646 yards, 17 TDs
2018: 137 carries, 1,289 yards, 15 TDs

The explosive Aina-Chaves also has 19 receptions for 406 yards and four TDs. With the school remaining open until this year’s seniors graduate, looking ahead may seem like a maze for all of the St. Francis underclassmen. They will be eligible to play immediately for any other Interscholastic League of Honolulu school. That was the case in 2010 when Word of Life Academy closed its doors. Juda Parker finished high school at Saint Louis, becoming All-State defensive player of the year. The offensive player of the year was his new teammate, quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Aina-Chaves says a relative at a nearby powerhouse and three-time Open Division state champion has chimed in.

“I hear from my boys at Saint Louis. Junior (Wily) is my second cousin. We play rugby together for Waikiki Beach Boys. His dad (Maafu) is the coach,” Aina-Chaves said. “Junior is serious. He wants me to be part of the (Crusader) brotherhood. Real talk. I still got to talk with my dad about it.”

Another possibility would be Mililani, the defending OIA Open champion.

“My neighbor plays for them,” said Aina-Chaves, who resides in Kalihi and may have to seek a district exception.

Staying home to play for Farrington is another option.

“But I want to stay out of that trouble life,” said Aina-Chaves, whose younger brother, Jonah Aina-Chaves, was a backup quarterback last season.

The only plus, Aina-Chaves noted, is that he would be able to participate in offseason exhibition games if he goes to a public school. The ILH prohibits underclassmen from playing in non-league sanctioned events.

As reported in Tuesday’s Star-Advertiser, Aina-Chaves’ teammate, Fa‘aope Laloulu, expressed his emotions about the school’s planned closure. He has offers from Arizona, BYU, Hawaii, Oregon, San Diego State and USC.

“We’re all taking it hard. We were hoping to come back and finish out our dream,” the 6-foot-7, 340-pound junior left tackle said.

“I should find out where I’ll go by the end of the school year,” said Laloulu, whose home district is Kalihi, or Farrington. “I’ll miss the atmosphere and the academic support we get here. They made sure we were up to par academically. We have teachers who are here early in the morning or late after school for us.”


  1. Austin Chang January 8, 2019 3:07 pm

    Oh boy, you can thank fifth year senior for messing up this season. But lots of talent on that team, am pretty sure they going to recruit some people from St. Louis, am surprised many football players live at Kalihi, they need to bring the culture back to Farrington, bunch underclassmen and lots of talent in Kalihi they will be unstoppable next year. Freshman QB

  2. ILH January 8, 2019 3:39 pm

    Ai ya. Maybe bringing in boys wasnt a good idea.

    Regardless, great run , for as long as it lasted.

  3. Hi Haters January 8, 2019 4:16 pm

    They’ll probably end up at The MOST RECRUITED HIGH SCHOOL EVER that Doesn’t Play for their City . Mililani . Lol . Millville . Lol . Stay Private schools You’ll Go Farther Kids .

  4. Mahatma Gandhi January 8, 2019 5:13 pm

    Hi Haters, Mililani got to recruit if they want to be competitive with the ILH. No other way to do it. You know St Louis recruits big time, destroying the competitive balance of Hawaii high school football, so why you got a problem with Mililani doing it?

  5. Nunya January 8, 2019 7:43 pm

    St Founder- Why you so jealous? Because they’re talented athletes? These kids made the All-State team and leads the state in their respected positions. They worked hard to get where they are, like everyone else. The grind for them, started way before they ever began high school.

    How can you call them monkeys and say they’re pilau and ghetto? Especially the kids mentioned in this article. Quite frankly, they are the exact opposite. They are respectful, hardworking, humble, smart kids with good grades. I know them personally.

    You obviously have never attended a St Francis game. I’ve been to every game this past season and I don’t recall any fights. Oh that’s right, because there weren’t any.

    And believe me there are MANY schools trying to grab these boys. St Louis included. You can’t deny God given talent. It will boil down to where their parents choose to send them.

    These Tongans you talk about have names. And they are damn good athletes with bright futures. Every school on the island got Polynesians Samoans Hawaiians Tongans but it’s a bad thing for St Francis to have their fair share? Cmon

    And no one was bashing Farrington. Just stating proven facts. There’s a history that you know nothing about. And it’s proven that Farrington has a bad apple that has caused problems with St Franco’s boys. Shoot the kid even cause problems with his own teammates at Farrington. And that’s facts.

    If you’re gonna bash these you athletes, at least have some credibility to your accusations. If not, shhhhh. I’m assuming your an adult, show some class.

  6. ??? January 8, 2019 7:49 pm

    @hi haters
    You get ahead in life with hard work, determination and perseverance; not with what high school you attend!!

    St Louis Academy will recruit St Francis studs like they did Parker & Asiata from word of life. Both making all state & Parker Defense player of the year.

  7. Ldub Twenty January 8, 2019 8:04 pm

    If St. Louis tries to recruit as many of these kids as possible, I say boycott playing them. Give them the “Bishop Gorman treatment.”

  8. ILH January 8, 2019 9:00 pm

    Who is getting that RB?? Thats what I want to know, Really.

    BTW, giong be funny watching these guys who been saying Saints 1x swallow their pride and have to switch to Saints 3x.

  9. Wake up January 8, 2019 9:46 pm

    Bye bye Troubadours. More like Saints last time. They gonna get eaten up in the Open. Shining is the D2 is a joke. STL don’t need um. The Lou will be fine without them.

  10. None ya January 8, 2019 10:07 pm

    If the shoe fits

    No one said any team needed these boys. St Louis been and will always be The Powerhouse in Hawaii football. There’s no denying that. But ‘The Lou’ is not where they’re planning to go any way. With all due respect, you assume these boys wanna go there.

    Tearing down young athletes is not my style. But these boys can make a positive impact at any football program on this island. Hawai’i has so much great talent that we should all be proud of. No matter what school you rep.

  11. ??? January 8, 2019 10:18 pm

    Be like Lebron, go to a team and try to beat the 3X champs and not like “Cup Cake” Kevin Durant and join them😂😂

  12. Lowtone123 January 9, 2019 9:14 am

    Let the recruiting begin!

  13. Big D January 9, 2019 9:26 am

    Every school wants these boys right now. You guys can say whatever you like. We no need them we just fine but believe me. Your head coach is looking to find a way.

  14. ILH January 9, 2019 10:46 am

    What about the coaches??

    Maybe one of the big schools will recruit them too.

    To be a manager. 🙂

  15. Rebel January 9, 2019 11:16 am

    If St. Francis students go to OIA schools, and the OIA follows their own rules, St. Francis student-athletes should only be allowed to go to the school where they live. I don’t think this is going to happen…

  16. SPORTSPARENT January 9, 2019 3:14 pm

    Rebel, that hasn’t been happening for decades. Student athletes go to public schools outside their district…it isn’t uncommon. Supporters of the schools with the big time programs that do well every year don’t want anyone to investigate or to change the rules to make it harder because they want those athletes to come to their schools. The ones that usually complain are the supporters of schools that aren’t doing as well and get beat by the power teams that recruit or take their players. It’s like anything else in life..if things are good, you like the rules, and if things aren’t you want to change the rules.

    Every year, it happens more and more. Whether they use an exception or claim to move into another district, it happens every day….its happening right now! Who knows, if the OIA changed the rules or cracked down, Farrington might have one of the best football programs in the state and all the weaker OIA schools would probably be a little better. I even see it in youth sports!

  17. Whatsamattau January 9, 2019 4:05 pm

    The St. Francis RB says he lives in Kalihi but is considering Mililani, and his neighbor, also from Kalihi, is at Mililani now, playing football. Isn’t that proof enough. Ha Ha…

  18. ilh January 9, 2019 7:39 pm

    Cal Lee already got them, hehehehehehehehe

  19. An Observation January 10, 2019 8:13 am

    Reality, most of them will end up going to an OIA schools (whether in their district or via GE to their desired school), given that many of them were likely on scholarship to one of the cheapest tuition private schools on O’ahu. Private schools at this point have already allocated most of their money in scholarships toward students already in their own system. A few may be given the opportunity to play at an ILH school. I would think for those upper classmen (to be juniors and seniors) it would be to their advantage to go to a smaller schools other than St Louis. St Louis is a system football program and not having been in the system from the intermediate level would limit their play time. If however they were to attend Damien or a school that feeds into PAC-5, they would get plenty of play time opportunities.

  20. TEE January 10, 2019 9:53 am

    Good luck to all of these student athletes. Recruiting isn’t a problem. Usind recruiting as an excuse to why your team loses is the problem. Recruiting is a common practice on the mainland.

  21. John January 10, 2019 3:36 pm

    How bout u all stop recruiting da Farrington kids to win championships for ur school…st. Louis Punahou & Mililani star players all from Farrington…LONGLIVEKALIHI

  22. SPORTSPARENT January 10, 2019 5:32 pm

    Observation, you are forgetting that besides the scholarship money, the friends of the program money is also an option. Those funds are for the high end athletes. STF has a few of them, so lets sit back and see where these players land. If STF administration and coaches had handled things right, who knows, maybe they don’t have to close down 7-12.

  23. ??? January 10, 2019 10:13 pm

    STL Academy does not recruit. But this says it ALL:

    Saint Louis School released a letter Wednesday night saying the school would like to help the young men by “waiving all admissions application fees and SSAT testing requirements for Saint Francis School students.” 😂😂😂

  24. ??? January 10, 2019 10:16 pm

    Now let’s see how many “NON ATHLETES”
    St Louis accepts from St Francis??

  25. Q January 11, 2019 10:26 am

    Damien might be a great option for St. Francis students. Same type of Catholic Private School Education. Uprising Athletic programs, football, basketball, baseball etc. Convenient location in Kalihi. One of the lowest if not the lowest private school tuition. And last but not least COED….VIRILITER AGE!

  26. ??? January 11, 2019 2:52 pm

    80% of today’s Athletes don’t have Heart & Pride!
    Everyone wants the easy way to a championship like Kevin Durant “Cupcake”

  27. Wainakea January 11, 2019 7:32 pm

    St Louis has been struggling with numbers as a school, they’ll admit pretty much anyone from St Francis regardless of if they’re an athlete or not.

  28. An Observation January 12, 2019 7:14 am

    I get what you are saying, but the bottom line, STF is closing their 7-12 grade levels, there really is no other way to slice it. It is unfortunate, but that is the financial facts. The school may have bigger problems than their sports program, they may find it hard to keep the elementary school open over the next few years. This is a trend, small schools and small churches closing their doors. I still think most of these boys will end up at OIA schools, or a school like Damien. St. Louis may be offering them a spot, but again this is a system program that may be hard for the upper classmen to get quality playtime. I wish them the best of luck in their academics and sporting endeavors.

  29. notes January 12, 2019 8:18 am

    “Coach” Cal is gonna open up his man purse to buy these kids from their families and communities to use them in STL to get another championship. You know what they say: if you can’t beat em, buy em

  30. Stanford Yuen January 13, 2019 9:05 am

    C’mon guys, you are all forgetting the academic factor. Facts are that ILH schools have a better academic track record than the public schools. While i hate to say that, wouldn’t you want your kid to have the best education?…or go to a school that could be a link to a college. Again, its about the kid’s future, not the adult’s wanting to have a better football team at a public school.

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