The future is just as bright for No. 1 Crusaders

Saint Louis linebackers Nick Herbig (19), left, and Jordan Botelho lead the way in the 2020 recruiting list from Hawaii. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Since its inauguration in 2016, the HHSAA Open Division has known no other winner than Saint Louis.

The Crusaders made history by winning their third consecutive state title with a 38-17 rout over Mililani that was not as close as the scoreboard indicated.

Saint Louis (11-0) racked up 444 yards of total offense. Defenders were flying all over the field, never giving Trojan quarterback Dillon Gabriel room to breathe. It was clearly the most dominating win for the Crusaders during their current state title streak after two straight competitive games with Kahuku.

The scary part? Next year’s team could be even better.

The Crusaders will surely miss the presence, leadership and consistency of captains Faatui Tuitele, Arasi Mose, Junior Wily and Gino Quinones but project to return a core that contributed heavily to coach Cal Lee’s 18th total state crown.

The linebacker tandem of Nick Herbig and Jordan Botelho was absolutely menacing on Saturday night. Both are juniors.

Herbig sacked Gabriel four times and finished with five tackles for loss and six tackles. He also blocked a punt and returned it for a 5-yard touchdown.

“It feels amazing, man. Playing for coach Lee, he’s the greatest coach of all time. Just following in everybody’s footsteps and living up to the hype, it feels amazing, man. Unreal,” Herbig said. “I always dreamed of this — playing in front of everyone in the state championship, I’m just speechless. It feels amazing.”

Botelho racked up 2.5 tackles for loss to finish with six total tackles. His 74-yard scoop-and-score killed any hopes of a Mililani rally and extended the Saint Louis lead to 38-10 with 59 seconds left in the third quarter.

“It’s amazing. It’s just a blessing, honestly. We all deserve it, we all work hard and we’re all just blessed for that,” he said. “It’s great. “We work hard and we just come out and play hard and it feels great. I feel proud and I do this for my family and I’m just grateful for this.”

Both beamed about the other when asked, and the chemistry off the field seems as solid as it was against the Trojans.

“Nick, he’s great. He’s a baller. Me and him, I don’t know. It’s something special,” Botelho said. “That’s my boy and I love him. Just greatness.”

The feeling is mutual for Herbig, who sees the potential for the 2019 Crusaders to be special.

“Jordan’s my boy and he’s a baller and we got a lot of players coming back,” Herbig said. “We’re gonna be real good next year, too.”

Stanley McKenzie will return to hold it down for the defensive line, and ball hawk Kamo’i Latu should be back as well.

An underclassman Saint Louis fans can expect to emerge as a playmaker next year? Mason Tufaga, a backup linebacker for the 2018 team who produced when his number was called. The sophomore already holds offers from Hawaii, Utah and Oregon State. His father, Wes, is an assistant on the Crusaders’ coaching staff and played collegiately for the Utes. Mason’s older brother, Isaiah, recently finished his freshman season for the Beavers.

On offense, Jayden de Laura, another junior, passed for 251 yards on 19-of-30 passing. Although he struggled at times with two interceptions while getting sacked four times, he became the first starting quarterback to win a state title for Saint Louis as an underclassman since Timmy Chang in 1998. de Laura also returns his top target in Roman Wilson, who had seven receptions for 148 yards.

Lee says he hasn’t and will not give any thoughts toward next year’s team for the time being. But among the rising seniors, four in a row is attainable.

“I feel we’ll do good,” Wilson said. “I feel if we work hard and do the same things we’ve been doing, I think we’ll have a good season.”

Mililani quarterback Dillon Gabriel (3) was hurried by Saint Louis defensive lineman Faatui Tuitele (91), right, and linebacker Nicholas Herbig (19) during the first half. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.


  1. Shaking my head November 26, 2018 7:13 am

    all of a sudden because st louis 3 peats its a big deal about recruiting. Majority is Kahuku people crying. Get it through your heads , its a private school. Kids are from everywhere. And the OIA wants out of the merger and states with the ILH? Let me tell you if that happens, OIA footbal will be weaker than ever. Cause Saint LOuis and Punahou will compete at a national level where even more kids will want to go there for the national exposure as far as getting to the next level. So OIA people, think about it before you make things more worse lol. And it doesnt look good either next year lol, saint louis is loaded with returners and probably 4 peat lol.

  2. KalihiFB November 26, 2018 8:37 am

    More than 3 years ago when Kahuku beat St. Louis in the championship game when Tua was a junior, someone posted (don’t know if from Kahuku fan) that St. Louis just got beaten and Kahuku will push Cal Lee back into retirement again the 2nd time. Cal Lee remained in the program doing what he does best, and look what happened the next 3 years. Remember Lee brothers (Cal, Ron, Tommy) all live and breathe football and coach with passion. As long as St. Louis program reloads (not rebuild) with Cal Lee, we will never heard the end of it. I think we all should see beyond the high school state championship games keep pushing our great players into the college programs. Mililani, Punahou, Kahuku, and many others have all given the NCAA their great athletes to represent the 808. That is more important. If people are upset at the private schools vs. public school, then no more merger in football, basketball, baseball, etc, and no more state tournaments. Then people can be less of the critic.

  3. Lisa Vaimoui November 26, 2018 8:49 am

    Okay, so all you people, bickering and going at each other like a bunch of kids, “GET A FRICKEN’ GRIP” And, to all you keyboard warriors, why not come out of the dark and say who you really are?

    ILH ATHLETES got talent but not because of the recruiting. Parents along with their respective (child) student/student athlete in question decide what is best for all parties involved, TOGETHER. Sacrifices are made and lots of tears are shed throughout the years due to exaustion, financial hardships (if no scholarships were offered), and people like you all who don’t know how to be supportive and act like some grown up adults. When all is said and done, the kid graduates. Scholarship to college or not, at least the feeling of accomplishment will make them say “I DID IT”

    OIA ATHLETES are no different. Only difference is MONEY. Who says public schools are worthless? I know alot of successful people who have come out on top. Not just in football either.

    Football? All you people need to crawl out of your hiding space and STOP!!! Life is not only about football, sheesh. Many will go on to college with a scholarship and graduate but only about 3% will make it to the NFL… NATIONWIDE!!! Many from the ILH and OIA have made it throughout the years, so, SURPRISE… it don’t matter where the student althete goes to school, it only matters what they make of themselved.

    With that said and to not take away from these young men who represent their school and our Aloha state in FOOTBALL…

    CONGRATULATION to the young men of (KALAEPOHAKU) ST. LOUIS on holding on to that state championship title and the KOA Trophy, 3X the charm.

    Congratulations to the young men of Mililani on a great season and fighting until the end.

    But let’s not forget…”ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN ON ANY GIVEN DAY”

    ~~~A proud Kahuku Red Raider Alumni (c/o ’89) and a very proud and supportive Saber mom (c/o ’21).

  4. Coach C November 26, 2018 10:01 am

    The 2 year “merge” should end with StL. being crowned 2019 Champs. With an average margin of 33 pts.a game and many mercy rules, it will not change. The merge was meant for competitive games. Not happening. The OIA go back to a 9 team Open format then play the ILH champs for States. With teams like Campbell and Waipahu New coaching, they stepping up. We can be competitive in our own league. Don’t worry folks the OI A has numbers and that is their strenght. Public school cannot compete against $$$ and resources that the ilh has. Simple.

  5. To da hale November 26, 2018 10:46 am

    I still don’t get why people don’t like the merger.
    It’s ok if Mililani mercy rules Farrington (just using the Govs as an example only), but it’s not ok for St Louis to mercy rule them?
    Maybe being in the Open division will push all the teams to work harder and get better.
    What if the hurricane didn’t cancel the first Crusaders vs Mililani game and lets say Mililani lost. Then Mil worked even harder and met again in the championship game and beat the defending champs. Wouldn’t that have been great to see?
    As a HS football fan, this scenario would have been awesome to see.
    So to me, the merger is a good thing for HS football.
    Just my 2 cents.
    Also, enough about recruiting, fingers can be pointed at teams in both leagues.

  6. notes November 26, 2018 11:18 am

    Lets just see stl travel to the mainland, its not economically feasable and puns wont do it bcuz they are not a catholic school that needs football to stay alive. remember stl almost closed its doors in 20014 bcuz they werent winning?

    I encourage stl to leave the islands that would be best for everyone, they can only field 60 kids and hawaii has more then enough to stay in the islands and compete in the OIA. in the 90s when stl was winning prep bowls kahuku had more kids in the nfl. fact is stl wants to remain a big fish in a small pond and walk around town feeling like they special wit they shirts and car stickers

  7. Shaking my head November 26, 2018 11:29 am

    you are so hilarious lol, you must be a bandwagon kahuku guy who probably was eating hot dog and popcorn in the stands in high school lol. Saint Louis can play at a national level. Kahuku? Probably not. Not with the pop warner offense that they have. Trust me, Kahuku can be great like, it all comes down to coaching. Kahuku has the material year in and year out to win it all. They got athletes and its proven. But when you still acting like pop warner, trying to run over all the small schools with the big bodys they have, of course its easy, but now when you play the big boys like mililani, Punahou, and saint louis, they simply get out coached. Bottom line end of story. Thats the real truth. Kahuku is still caught up in that old style smash mouth football lol. It aint happening anymore so please adapt. nough said. Lol

  8. notes November 26, 2018 11:34 am

    What did Cal and Ron lee do at Kalani? nuff said! easy to win when all the elite popwarner kids that attended camps in the mainland arrive at the STL doorstep!

    im not impressed!

  9. ILH November 26, 2018 11:58 am

    Hows about this?

    OIA and ILH break up, again.

    Pre-season is open season to compete against any team from the other league. 2 pre-season games.

    OIA do however you like in your regular and post season.

    ILH- Kam and St. Louis split team to make an open team and a D-1 team. Pun to follow once they have more players.

    ILH Open- Pun, Kam, Lou (commit to utilize one of their pre-season games against a national team- enter into 2 year agreements with national teams traveling to Hawaii in 1st or second yr)
    ILH Div 1- Kam, Lou, Dam, Iol, Pac, St. F

    No more ILH Div 2.

    2x against team on same level, 1x against team in opposing level. 8 regular season games

    Also, no more intermediate programs. Schools to implement flag, pylon-like, league for all 6 and 7th graders. All 8 and 9th graders to participate on JV, exceptional 9th graders are able to play on Varsity.
    Lineman to participate in Derby-ish training and do 1v1 at pylon games while 7 on 7 is going on.

    State tournament-
    OPEN- Oahu only- OIA top 2 vs. ILH top 2
    Div 1- Statewide- OIA , ILH , Maui, Kaui, Hawaii (1 entry)
    Div 2 – Statewide- OIA , Maui, Kaui, Hawaii (1entry)

    Just another thought- Increasing the amount of 8 man football in our state?? and adding that level to the state tournament.

    just ideas.

  10. Charles Amai November 26, 2018 12:17 pm

    All teams need to step up.

    2015,2016,2017 were all exciting finals. No fans want to go to a known blowout and the players don’t fight at 100%.

    This is about 808 football and making opportunities for the students and to ensure they are competitive at the next level.

  11. Charles Amai November 26, 2018 12:25 pm


    Time to buy a new living room recliner..Too many miles on the one you have now.

    It’s clear you know nothing about coaching or team enclaves.

    By your logic, Kahuku should be undefeated. Sit back and watch the show. Stay blessed

  12. shaking my head November 26, 2018 12:52 pm

    again you are hilarious lol. We talking reality kinds of stuff. Obviously the kalani’s , waialua’s, kalaheo’s, or any of the small schools cant win a state title, lets be real here. But if he was at a kahuku, farrington, waianae, yes definately take them far year in and year out. its people like you that give kahuku a bad rep. its hurts the kids and the people in the community. and the funny thing is you want to talk about recruiting, have you seen how big the kahuku kids are compared to mililani and even saint louis lol. Kahuku is massive and still cant push around those schools. Why? out coached with speed and smartness. Again dont make a fool of yourself you sound very uneducated.

  13. to good times November 26, 2018 1:11 pm

    notes – take St. Louis, Punahou, Mililani AND Kahuku out of the equation and you have a very competitive league. What do you think? Ban them from football because they’re always just too good for the other teams.

  14. suspense November 26, 2018 1:48 pm

    to #3, lisa. well said!!

  15. To da hale November 26, 2018 1:49 pm

    Maybe the Open Division needs to cut a team or two.

  16. shaking my head November 26, 2018 2:29 pm

    What ever happened to Too Meke? Lol . Did he jump the bandwagon too?

  17. Coach C November 26, 2018 3:03 pm

    #5. To da hale, correction on mercy rules. StL. Had 6 mercy rule games. That’s 35 plus points. That’s 60% of their 11 game record. Cal Lee assembled a small college team with 100 plus,double numbered system. You need big $$$ for that. Public school cannot compete with that. WalkawayfromMerge.

  18. T103 November 26, 2018 3:14 pm

    Just for the record, T103 is me, T103…. I ain’t pretending to be nobody but me, small kine offended u think I’m mr Punahou. hate them guys lol I’m a hater, only cuz they always so good at everything! So I relish wen they not in states in ANY sport lol. U hurt my feelings hahahaha.

  19. ToppDoggs November 26, 2018 6:03 pm

    You guys need a big brother to look up to and the Saints know that, we ain’t going no where!

  20. Education First November 26, 2018 7:41 pm


  21. Choloropicrin November 26, 2018 8:09 pm

    STL should repeat next year as they are loaded on both sides. I do expect the two LBs, Herbig and Bothello to be amazing again. However I do think a lot of their success came from the dirty work that Tuitele and Quiones (both going to PAC12 schools) was doing on the Dline, which allowed the LBs to fly around and play fast.

    Delaura, #14 and their center will be the anchors on offense.

    Mililani strength next year will be their defense.

    Kahuku will always be tough and should be improved.

    Campbell’s window is next year. If they can put it together and survive the OIA they should be the favorite opposite STL in the 2019 title game.

  22. Lou November 26, 2018 11:15 pm

    What happens when a Mililani recruits from Wahiawa? Leileihua drops one level to D1. Waianae should drop to D1. Almost no $$ resources on the West.

  23. Charles Amai November 27, 2018 2:50 pm

    OIA Parents and Alumni…..START RAISING MONEY FOR THE KIDZ!!!!!

    If you think the Crusaders have a HUGE endowment….THINK AGAIN.

  24. Coach put me in!!! November 28, 2018 7:47 am

    The kid that was ineligible for St. Francis was on the roster at aiea jv. He suited up and practiced with the team. Also, participated in a control scrimmage. There’s no such thing as red/grey shirt in high school.

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