Tua Terrific: Improv in the Clutch (video)

It was a night to exorcise Saint Louis missed opportunities in state-title games of the past, including last year’s loss to Kahuku.

It was also a night of straight-up, no-guts-no-glory play calling. It was Saint Louis’ night at the end, a stunning 30-14 victory over No. 1 Kahuku. Three clutch field goals by Jacob Tobias, who hadn’t made a FG all season, were huge.


But there was no play as crucial on Saint Louis’ side of the ball, as the one with 6:16 left in the game. Leading 16-14, the Crusaders had fourth-and-1 at its 29-yard line. Punt on fourth-and-1? Saint Louis has done that before in a title game, trusting its defense, but ultimately falling short.

Defense? The Crusaders defended well on this night, so trust was not an issue. It was simply time to seize the day. Or night. Carpe diem.

“We just wanted to make sure we secured the ball and don’t give it up, let the clock do its job,” head coach Cal Lee said. “Let me tell you, it was a tough decision, honestly. We’re on the 30-yard line and sometimes you go with your gut feeling and I said, hey, let’s go for it.”

The play? The concept was for QB Tua Tagovailoa — playing his most clutch, scintillating game in a career loaded with incredible performances — to line up and look for a crease on the left side and gain that one yard.

The potential problem? Saint Louis didn’t have the play in its book, particularly under center, which is what the coaching staff drew up during a time out. It was sandlot football-meets-Goliath defense on an extremely short field should the play fail. The Big Red Giants of Kahuku seemed to have the edge here against a Saint Louis offensive line that is trained more for pass protection than short-yardage banging.

This is where Tagovailoa’s supreme football IQ and incredible knack — instincts — once again blended to give Saint Louis the play of the season. He stood in the gun, then walked toward his center, barking what seemed to be audibles. Without stopping, he kept ambling to his center, took the quick snap and Kahuku’s defense — seeing an under-center snap for the first time by Tagovailoa — was as startled as most fans in Aloha Stadium.

“We never practiced that. I mean, you see that in NCAA and NFL, where they start from shotgun and go underneath,” Tagovailoa said. “It was just one of those things where you trust your coaches and they trust you, you go out and do it. My coach told me to go under center, but I told him I’m going to walk up, and once you walk up, it shows where everybody (on defense) was going in their gaps.”

Tagovailoa quickly found space around left tackle, sneaking straight to the spot — saving all the time it would’ve taken had he been in the gun — and eluding tacklers for a 28-yard gain. Saint Louis capped the drive with a touchdown, opening a 23-14 lead on a 30-yard run to paydirt by Tagovailoa with 4:44 to play. It turned out to be the clinching score, and Tagovailoa’s epic performance — 16-for-25, 243 yards, 136 rushing yards and two TDs — capped a championship night and a championship season.

“Thank the Lord,” Lee said.

VIDEO BREAKDOWN
Pre-snap

> As Tagovailoa walks forward from the shotgun to under center, Kahuku’s defense adjusts.


> Left DT Aliki Vimahi and right DT Samson Reed, in three-point stances, quickly move toward the middle to close the inside gaps. Nose tackle George Lauhingoa is already lined up on C Eliki Tanuvasa.

> Sophomore linebacker Miki Ah You, planted at the edge to Tagovailoa’s left, tightens his spacing. After lining up over the slotback, he sells out and shuffles over the left tackle. In fact, he is slightly inside of Crusaders LT Michael Minihan.

> MLB Sioeli Naupoto virtually matches the QB step for step, hovering in, to the right of the center, filling an A-gap, anticipating a sneak.

> All-state CB Kekaula Kaniho is the lone safety, and he, too, practically bum-rushes the expected point of attack. His timing is perfect, churning into a full sprint as the ball is snapped.

All in all, it was the perfect alignment and adjustment to stop a QB sneak. Tagovailoa simply had the better chess move. With 10 Red Raiders at the line of scrimmage — four covering receivers in Saint Louis’ trips formation — and Kaniho selling out to stop the sneak, it still was a difficult plus-play by any QB.

Post-snap
1. With the entire O-line selling the sneak, Minihan crashes toward the middle while Ah You sees Tagovailoa darting toward the perimeter. Ah You has one shot at making a play, but he’s already lined up just inches too close to the inner workings of the trenches. In a split-second after Tagovailoa receives the snap — 0.5 to be precise — he manages to get his right arm on Tagovailoa’s midsection. The QB has already gained momentum, and though Ah You causes Tagovailoa to twist slightly, the QB regains his balance, shakes the defender off and continues around the left side.

2. In the minds of most defenders, a ballcarrier follows his best blockers. Tagovailoa sold the sneak so well, no Red Raider anticipated he would run directly where his slotback was standing.

3. As Tagovailoa runs wide, this where Kahuku’s athleticism kicks in. Kaniho is at full throttle toward the A-gap. His back is literally facing Tagovailoa when Ah You reaches for him, and Kaniho is seemingly out of the play. He reverse pivots and makes a beeline parallel to the line of scrimmage. It is 1.9 seconds since Tagovailoa receives the ball when Kaniho takes two steps and gets his shoulder and two hands on the QB. Or that’s the plan. Tagovailoa is too quick. Kaniho’s shoulder and left hand miss. Already angling toward the left hash mark, Tagovailoa rips through Kaniho’s right arm and he’s off to the races.

3. Instincts take over here as Tagovailoa sees CB Stokes Nihipali-Botelho leave the left-side WR, Chandler Washington-Villanueva. Tagovailoa jukes on the converging Nihipali-Botelho and leaves him behind. Washington-Villanueva, wisely lets up instead of blocking Nihipali-Botelho in the back, then continues upfield with enough legal interference to help Tagovailoa complete a key 28-yard run.

It’s LB Tema Lindsey, who lined up on the opposite side of the play, who hustles and forces Tagovailoa out of bounds at the Kahuku 43-yard line.


One play almost never determines the outcome of an entire game. This one comes closest. The drive ends with a 30-yard TD run by Tagovailoa, who never stops with the chess game. When defenses take away his sideline potential, he simply exploits the land mass between the hash marks, which is how he scored through the middle of the most vaunted defense in Hawaii.

It was the series that turned a virtual stalemate into a championship moment. Leverage, momentum, and a 23-14 lead with 4:44 left.

Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) hits paydirt on a touchdown during the second half of the 2016 HHSAA Open Division state championship football game between the Kahuku Red Raiders and the Saint Louis Crusaders on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Aloha Stadium.  Saint Louis won 30-14 to claim the 2016 Open Division title. HSA photo by Jamm Aquino.
Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) hits paydirt on a touchdown during the second half of the 2016 HHSAA Open Division state championship football game between the Kahuku Red Raiders and the Saint Louis Crusaders on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Aloha Stadium. Saint Louis won 30-14 to claim the 2016 Open Division title. HSA photo by Jamm Aquino.

COMMENTS

  1. nano November 20, 2016 9:40 am

    Good job crusaders. #rr4l


  2. Matuu Pulotu November 20, 2016 9:54 am

    Congrats Tua, you proved you are the man last night. You are indeed the premier QB to ever come out of the 808 up to this point in time. Enjoy the ride and we will be cheering for you on your journey in football. Keep your faith as it will guide you and keep you safe. It was awesome to watch you these past couple of years and wish you the best in your future. Go Big Red.


  3. 88 November 20, 2016 1:17 pm

    This kid played a hell of a game. I thought after he fumbled twice and threw that pick that maybe he might be rattled like last year but that was not the case. He played like his life depended on it. All that hard work in the off season and sacrifice by his family really showed in his play. Excellent job by this young man. Tomorrow is Monday RedRaiders, first day of the 2017 season. let’s get to work!


  4. TopDoggs November 20, 2016 3:52 pm

    Kahuku fans ragged on me for trying to explain how real football should be played, They beat Farrington and Kapolei and told me to eat my words. Well Im glad Tua knocked some sense into you guys last night and showed how terrible your QB play and coaching really is.


  5. ToppCop November 20, 2016 5:53 pm

    Dog, Nuff already…….you giving the ILH a bad name. Pull over…..


  6. 88 November 20, 2016 7:03 pm

    That’s the problem. It ain’t about you. Dicks like you disappear when the team loses. But as soon as they win you come on here and make like you had something to do with it. Kahuku won 23 straight against ALL Hawaii teams. All not some but ALL. They just loss to a better prepared team
    last night


  7. Buzz November 20, 2016 7:09 pm

    #10 with the missed tackle. If #10 makes that tackle he doesn’t get the 1st down.
    Unbelievable 1st and goal and Kahuku fumble
    Those mistakes were very crucial


  8. Jeezy33 November 20, 2016 8:00 pm

    WOW! 88 is over here lecturing somebody about being arrogant and talking trash about other teams??? REALLY??? the same guy that’s been doing this for MONTHS and harping on about ILH conspiracies and slamming HHSAA officials and accusing them of conspiring against kahuku and all this crap?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!


  9. Jeezy33 November 20, 2016 8:03 pm

    “88 November 20, 2016 at 7:03 pm
    That’s the problem. It ain’t about you.”

    LOL but with kahuku and you talking trash, it was ALWAYS about you. and now you’re getting on top dog for doing EXACTLY what you’ve been doing for months? and your only defense is basically that you’ve been talking trash longer than he has? So you say a few congratulatory messages to Tua or whoever, after spending MONTHS trashing everything ILH and st louis, and now you think you get to play the victim?

    lol oh, 88. poor, poor 88. I guess this is what humble pie must taste like, huh?


  10. Pun Alum 95 November 20, 2016 8:10 pm

    88, 23 wins is very impressive. But when examining the wins, the only one that stands out to me is last year’s title game vs. St Louis. When you look at teams like Kaiser, McKinley, Castle, Moanalua, Waipahu, Redford, and all the overmatched OIA teams, it’s not a fair contest and Kahuku was expected to win. Winning is nice, but when you are beating team that you are favored by 20-30 against (if not more), then it kind of waters down that long winning streak. The OIA has 1 and sometimes 2 good teams.


  11. Pun Alum 95 November 20, 2016 8:16 pm

    Last year’s win over Mililani would have been impressive if Mililani were at full strength which they were clearly not.


  12. Jeezy33 November 20, 2016 8:22 pm

    punahou alum 95, knowing 88, what he’ll do is deny deny deny, probably insult you personally, and then accuse you of being other users, like “you, education first, jeezy, al… ALL of you are the same person posting under different user names!!!”


  13. Pun Alum 95 November 20, 2016 8:55 pm

    Wow that is unfortunate if he is doing that. Everyone has the right to their opinion. It seems that some people get very upset with there is a disagreement. I hope I don’t offend anyone. But I just looked at all of the 23 wins in the archives. I think only the win that stands out is the ST. Louis win. That’s a great win. The Mililani one last year in the playoffs would stand out if Miton didn’t miss most of the season and wasn’t still hurt. The Waianae and Farrington stand out a little since they are solid teams. But most of the wins are against teams that have no chance of beating them.


  14. TheHeartlessPrick November 20, 2016 9:20 pm

    Unfortunately all OIA teams feel real when they are successful in their league. But what is there to brag about? There is no comparison between an ILH League vs OIA League. A lot of OIA supporters here seem to think differently but in the reality stand point the ILH’s worst D1 team made it to the D1 Division Championship.


  15. Alpha November 20, 2016 10:35 pm

    TheHeartlessPrick November 20, 2016 at 9:20 pm
    Unfortunately all OIA teams feel real when they are successful in their league. But what is there to brag about? There is no comparison between an ILH League vs OIA League. A lot of OIA supporters here seem to think differently but in the reality stand point the ILH’s worst D1 team made it to the D1 Division Championship.

    Being that I’ve given my time to a few of these oia schools (Farrington, McKinley, Kaimuki, Waipahu, Castle) alot of these football players come from less fortunate communities. So any success on the field they get of course the are going to feel real, players, fans, supporters don’t have much to feel real about. They pretty much represent the community they come from, blue collar folks who work hard and enjoy what’s left after bills are paid. . . So, is it wrong to be proud or “feel real” with success? Or is it only for the upper class? Just wondering. Outside of Kahuku H.S almost every OIA team knows their not at the “Open Div” level, but when the H.S in your community has some success and they support their homegrown kids, it’s a beautifully thing. And IMO the ilh worst team was spoon feed the D1 championship game, just one problem. The #5 OIA team. . .


  16. TheHeartlessPrick November 20, 2016 10:51 pm

    @Alpha
    Being that I’ve given my time to a few of these oia schools (Farrington, McKinley, Kaimuki, Waipahu, Castle) alot of these football players come from less fortunate communities. So any success on the field they get of course the are going to feel real, players, fans, supporters don’t have much to feel real about. They pretty much represent the community they come from, blue collar folks who work hard and enjoy what’s left after bills are paid. . . So, is it wrong to be proud or “feel real” with success? Or is it only for the upper class? Just wondering. Outside of Kahuku H.S almost every OIA team knows their not at the “Open Div” level, but when the H.S in your community has some success and they support their homegrown kids, it’s a beautifully thing. And IMO the ilh worst team was spoon feed the D1 championship game, just one problem. The #5 OIA team. . .

    Nothing wrong with feeling “real” about beating.mediocre teams.
    The “spoon fed” team went winless in the ILH D1. So imagine if Kamehameha went in, the its ILH / ILH D1 & OPEN Champions.


  17. Alpha November 20, 2016 11:01 pm

    That’s who I was hoping went. . . Should have been both Kam nd Iolani, Waianae had no buisness playing this tourney.


  18. Alpha November 20, 2016 11:03 pm

    Waiakea*


  19. 88 November 20, 2016 11:14 pm

    @Jeezy33 Im talking trash to you dumb @$$. I aint talking trash to the kids. Im talking trash to the adults on this forum. Is that too much for you to comprehend?


  20. Alpha November 20, 2016 11:18 pm

    TheHeartlessPrick November 20, 2016 at 10:51 pm
    Nothing wrong with feeling “real” about beating.mediocre teams.
    The “spoon fed” team went winless in the ILH D1. So imagine if Kamehameha went in, the its ILH / ILH D1 & OPEN Champions.

    The whole ilh/ilh thing is just an assumption and your opinion. St. Louis yes, D1? No formula or stat out there will validate this claim. St. Louis is proof, Kahuku was favored by 2tds. Kapolei also proved the numbers wrong, that’s why the game is played on the field. As for the mediocre teams comment, ilh football teams is made up of kids from those mediocre teams/communities. . . So when oia schools play with what’s left, the community will support those kids. Community is a word private school people take for granted, because they are part of somthing bought not built, so they wouldn’t understand the pride that is behind these oia (mediocre) teams. . .


  21. 88 November 20, 2016 11:21 pm

    @Pun Alum- Last years Mililani team had the ALL TIME HAWAII leading rusher and current USC RB along with current Rainbow Warrior WR K.T. Saying they were not at full strength is an excuse because every team is not at full strength that deep into the season. I mean Kahuku didn’t have a QB all season. Could they have used that as an excuse if they loss? Can i use the excuse that this years Kahuku QB got hurt against Kapolei and wasn’t at full strength this past Saturday? No i can’t because its next man up.


  22. Kailua Boys November 20, 2016 11:54 pm

    There needs to beone division with all the open teams in it. Big 3 from the ilh and the top 5 oia.

    if kahuku just plays weak teams its hard for them to be truly tested and for them to grow. If anybody would want to create an open regular division it should be the red raiders.

    Its tough to see talent like there QB just not being properly developed when all you do is call run plays. I guess you got to decide what you want for your program? Do you want to just run over lesser opponents or develop players for the next level?


  23. Simple Simon November 21, 2016 2:24 am

    @Kailua Boys

    Did you forget that Kahuku beat St Louis last year? And that they have 8 State Championships (which is almost have of the state titles). Kahuku playing weak teams has nothing to do with anything because they have 8 Championships. So you can throw your argument out the window. Kahuku lost because Tua single-handedly beat them, PERIOD.

    1 division will not work because for the most part, it will only be Kahuku, Punahou, and St Louis at the top every year. The only reason they went into this open division is to give the middle feeders a chance to win SOMETHING. The sad thing is, Mililani won it (proves they are consistently middle feeders).


  24. Education First November 21, 2016 8:32 am

    88 November 20, 2016 at 11:21 pm
    @Pun Alum- Last years Mililani team had the ALL TIME HAWAII leading rusher and current USC RB along with current Rainbow Warrior WR K.T. Saying they were not at full strength is an excuse because every team is not at full strength that deep into the season. I mean Kahuku didn’t have a QB all season. Could they have used that as an excuse if they loss? Can i use the excuse that this years Kahuku QB got hurt against Kapolei and wasn’t at full strength this past Saturday? No i can’t because its next man up.

    —————————-
    Um that is not an excuse, it is the truth. So when that Patriots never made the playoffs the year Tom Brady got hurt and had to be replaced with Matt Cassell you are telling me that isn’t a factor? Are you that black and white and blind?

    Now I know you are stupid, but you keep giving new definitions to the word stupid. Pun Alum, don’t write anything more, you might get more stupid trying to debate with our friendly neighborhood idiot called 88.

    You want to compare an injured Milton who started for a D1 college this year as a true freshman to a Kahuku QB who is known for handing the ball off with a playbook of around 6-8 plays? That is your comparison?

    What is next? Are you going to convince us that a Lambo and a Kia are the same? It’s next car up? Many you take the care for being an idiot.

    And I love how you STILL HAVE NOT replied to my comment from 2 weeks ago when you thought the two words I provided for you (along with definitions) did not have the same meaning and you thought they were the same word? Do you remember you idiot?

    BTW don’t do anything bad to yourself. We need you on here. We need someone to pick on. You are the town punching bag. It’s like you are re-living your high school days. But instead of living it in real time, you are now living it in cyberspace.


  25. 88 November 21, 2016 9:53 am

    Are you serious right now Clown? Did I compare their abilities or did I just say injuries should not be an excuse because this late in the season everybody is dealing with injuries. Dude read slowly and sound it out. Maybe that will help you comprehend what is being written. And yes, comical and silly describe you clown. These are attributes you as a clown possess.


  26. Jeezy33 November 21, 2016 10:03 am

    lol 88, just stop already. Take the loss like a man. Eat your crow like a man. Enjoy your humble pie. That’s what happens when you run your mouth and you have no class. Obviously you don’t get it and that’s what makes it even more sad and funny.


  27. Jeezy33 November 21, 2016 10:05 am

    @Simpleton Simon”So you can throw your argument out the window. Kahuku lost because Tua single-handedly beat them, PERIOD.”

    Oh, so I guess it wasn’t the line that blocked the kahuku pass rush. The receivers who got open on a very good kahuku secondary. It also wasn’t the defense who shut out kahuku in the second half and only allowed 14 points all game and forced turnovers at the goal line or the coaching and prep work that made this happen.

    Nope. it was all Tua. He did it all by himself. that was the ONLY reason why kahuku lost.

    You whining kahuku fans are cracking me up.


  28. Diane Cho November 21, 2016 11:34 am

    I have a question for the Crusader faithful and hope someone can answer it. I saw a “shush/be quiet” hand signal used by Tua and other players several times. Does anyone know why? Sorry it seems like a stupid question but I just wanted to understand the rationale. Thanks so much!


  29. Kailua Boys November 21, 2016 11:50 am

    @Simple Simon

    I’m not saying Kahuku is not one of the top teams in the state, everybody knows that. I’m saying for their better development it’d be better if they played tougher competition week in and week out rather than playing cupcakes all year and trying to go 1-0 vs the ILH at the end of the year to win the championship. I know the players would love that! They would be forced to innovate forced to gameplan etc.

    Playing Punahou, St. Louis, Kamehameha, Kapolei etc every year would increase exposure, competition and player safety when talking about the weaker teams. It would be harder for Kahuku but don’t you want to see the best football being played? It would increase hawaii high school football all round.

    Everybody is stating their record vs hawaii teams in the state. Look at who Kahuku played. The most impressive win was st. louis last year but everybody else they were heavily favored against. You take those teams and I’m pretty confident both st. louis and punahou would of gone undefeated too. People bring up millilani and how that was a great win. The same millilani team that st. louis pratically put up 50 on in the first half of last years semifinal.

    If you want the easiest route sure its better to keep playing your schedule. If you want whats best for your kids and hawaii football in general, create one division.


  30. Red Raider November 22, 2016 10:57 am

    @Kailua Boys. . Kahuku has no control over OIA schedule . But calling the season cupcake competition ? .maybe if we got to play you guys and castle and kalheo the. Yes it would be cupcake , . The top of he OIA and ILH is equal . Look at the Facts we win more state titles than them and our # 3 beat their # 2 , their # 2 beat our # 1 . The open division is enough as far as top teams playing each other . IMO there will never be a open league cause ILH operates under different rules than OIA and they would never compromise .


  31. Education First November 22, 2016 12:56 pm

    @ Red Raider, you should win more state titles than anyone else. If you get to send 3 teams out of the 6 spots available (ILH has 1, MIL has 1, BIIF has 1), simple math will tell you that you have a higher chance of winning.

    If we played a numbers guessing game and we had to pick choose the correct number out of 20 and I get 10 guesses and you only get like 2-3, then most likely I will win.

    And the ILH and OIA operate under different rules and have their own agendas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.

*