For the second year in a row, Saint Louis safety Isaiah Tufaga made a game-changing play against his hometown team on the biggest stage possible.
In Saturday night’s 31-28 victory over Kahuku in the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships, the Laie native intercepted Red Raiders’ quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava for a 40-yard touchdown that gave the Crusaders a 24-7 lead with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
“Shoutout to my teammates for doing what they did so I can do my part,” Tufaga, the Oregon State and 2018 Polynesian Bowl commit said. “It was just breaking on the ball, doing my job and that’s what I did.”
In last year’s state title game between the two teams, Kahuku was on the 1-yard line trailing 16-14 in the fourth quarter. With a chance to take the lead, current Oregon State freshman Kesi Ah-Hoy fumbled right before crossing the plane. Tufaga was there to snatch the ball out of the air in the end zone, and the rest was history. The Crusaders scored two more touchdowns en route to a 30-14 win.
After Tufaga’s pick-six on Saturday night, the momentum seemed to have swung entirely in the direction of the Crusaders. But if there’s anyone who understands the resiliency of the Red Raiders, it’s him.
“It’s always a great feeling to go up against all my friends and family, but at the end of the day we gotta do what we gotta do,” he said. “Shoutout to the community of Kahuku and Laie for raising me to be the man that I am today.”
The senior became one of the men of Kalaepohaku as a freshman in high school, and he still makes the commute from the North Shore to Kaimuki every day.
In the aftermath of three consecutive championship game matchups against the same players he grew up with, Tufaga closed out his prep career by taking the last two. Moving forward, he knows he’ll take pieces of both communities with him.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but overall it’s a great blessing for us and my family, teammates, all the Saint Louis alumni and everyone who supports us,” said Tufaga, who added seven tackles in the game.