Resilience doesn’t exclusively apply to times of adversity. Sometimes, handling success can present a challenge to be overcome.
So when the adulation following Saint Louis’ victory over Nevada power Bishop Gorman settled, coach Cal Lee took to the task of keeping the Crusaders grounded heading back into ILH play against a traditional rival.
“You have to make them focus, that’s the bottom line,” Lee said. “You have to talk to them, remind them, work them. Can’t just show up.”
Judging by the top-ranked Crusaders’ start on Friday, the message connected.
Focused and relentless, top-ranked Saint Louis pounced on No. 6 Kamehameha seemingly from the time the Crusaders finished their jumping jacks on their way to a 42-7 rout at Aloha Stadium.
Next up for Saint Louis (4-0, 3-0 ILH Open), which rose to No. 8 and 9 in the national rankings this week, is a three-week Open Division run against No. 4 Kahuku (Sept. 14), No. 3 Punahou (Sept. 20) and No. 2 Mililani (Sept. 27), all at Aloha Stadium.
Saint Louis built on the momentum of the Bishop Gorman win with three takeaways in the first half on Friday that propelled the Crusaders to their 30th consecutive victory overall and 11th straight in the series with Kamehameha, a streak stretching back to 2014.
The Saint Louis defense came up with interceptions on the Warriors’ first two possessions with Harvey Welch returning the first 22 yards for a touchdown just 16 seconds into the game. The second, by Kaiser Cambra-Cho, set up the Saint Louis offense’s first touchdown as quarterback Jayden de Laura led the Crusaders to the end zone on four of their first five drives of the night.
Safety Kamo’i Latu opened the second quarter by taking Saint Louis’ third pick back 60 yards for the defense’s second score and lineman Quincy Likio punctuated a dominant evening with a sack in the end zone for a safety on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“That really helps to fire up the guys when something like that happens,” Lee said of the quick strikes for the defense. “You can’t help but be excited for the team whether its offense or defense.
“You have to be real happy defensively. They played half a game so you’re happy they did something in a half.”
Since 2016, Saint Louis has allowed just 38 points in seven meetings with Kamehameha, and limited the Warriors to seven points or fewer in six of those matchups. A 23-12 Saint Louis win on Sept. 29, 2017 represents the closest margin in that span.
“We prepared for anything. (The Warriors) had nothing to lose,” Latu said as a teammate smacked him on a shoulder while proclaiming the senior “the best safety in the country.”
“Every day in practice we go over the plays and repetition and muscle memory and just knowing the plays.”
De Laura turned in another efficient performance, finishing 10-for-12 for 175 yards and two touchdowns in less than a half of playing time. He found Roman Wilson behind the secondary for a 34-yard touchdown in the first quarter and hit Makena Ramos-Kamaka on a 26-yarder late in the second period. Ramos-Kamaka opened that drive with a 56-yard reception for the game’s longest offensive play.
Kamehameha defensive back Paliku Kamaka represented a bright spot for the Warriors (1-3, 0-3). He returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, came down with another pick at the Warriors’ 1, and recovered a fumble on a Saint Louis punt return.
“He started as a sophomore. We saw he has the physical abilities to do it and just been continuing to challenge him to be better in the mental department,” Kamehmeha coach Abu Ma’afala said. “I told him at the half, ‘play within the system and take some risks’ and he did and it paid off.”