UCLA commit Matt Sykes goes off in No. 1 Saint Louis’ 34th straight win

Saint Louis receiver Matthew Sykes (18) hauled in one of his two TD receptions in a win over Farrington. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

By maximizing his targets, Saint Louis receiver Matthew Sykes helped create opportunities for his teammates on Friday.

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound senior set the tone for the top-ranked Crusaders with a 50-yard reception on their first play from scrimmage and took his last catch of the night 66 yards for a touchdown to highlight No. 1 Saint Louis’ 41-7 victory over host Farrington at Skippa Diaz Stadium.


Sykes went into halftime with five catches covering 159 yards with two scores to help power the Crusaders — ranked sixth in the USA Super 25 and seventh in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 poll — to their 34th consecutive win.

“Matt’s a real threat,” Saint Louis coach Cal Lee said. “I’m glad he showed it tonight.”

Sykes’s first catch showed his ability to stretch a defense, getting behind the secondary to snag a deep ball from quarterback Jayden de Laura to spark a surgical first-quarter. De Laura completed all eight of his throws in the period, finding Koali Nishigaya for a 10-yard touchdown and scrambling away from pressure before finding Sykes for a 14-yard score.

Sykes’ final catch quelled a brief Farrington uprising in the second quarter after the Governors came up with interceptions on Saint Louis’ first two possessions of the period. The Govs converted the second into a scoring drive to trim the Crusaders’ lead to 21-7.

The Governors continued to build momentum when they dropped de Laura for a loss of 7 on the Crusaders’ next drive. But the Crusaders restored order when de Laura threw a quick hitch to Sykes, who shook past a defender and raced up the sideline for his second score of the night.

“That was important because we don’t like to make mistakes like that,” Sykes said of the turnovers. “We had to come back and score more points so everybody else could get in.”

After a touchdown to open the third quarter, Saint Louis sent a new batch of receivers into the game and a total of 10 Crusaders had at least one reception before heading to the bus.

“Everyone on our team is good, everyone can make plays,” Sykes said. “So in a game like this it’s good we can get everybody in.”

The interceptions represented an uncharacteristic wobble for de Laura, who entered the night completing close to 75 percent of his attempts with just three picks in 169 throws. He matched that interception total in the second quarter with picks by Farrington’s Abraham Talapu and Koali’i Kama-Toth on consecutive attempts and another by AJ Fernandez on a deep ball intended for Sykes just before halftime.

But de Laura came out sharp again after halftime and finished with 21 completions in 28 attempts for 376 yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) to cap an eventful week in which he committed to Washington State.

Nishigaya (six receptions, 80 yards) also drew considerable attention in the wake of his 263-yard receiving night against Mililani a week earlier. Nishigaya was voted the USA Today Super 25 Top Star in an online poll that closed on Friday. He received 25,286 votes, good for 52.16% of the poll, nearly double the total of the runner up. He was also invited to the Polynesian Bowl this week.

Aside from Farrington’s lone scoring drive, the Crusader defense did its part with 11 tackles for losses. Linebacker Nick Herbig was in on four of Saint Louis’ six sacks.

While Saint Louis closes the regular season at Waianae on Oct. 11, Farrington heads to Kahuku with a chance to shuffle the seeding in the OIA Open Division playoffs.

The Governors (2-6, 2-2) clinched a postseason berth last week and could create a three-way tie with Kahuku and Campbell if they can leave the North Shore with a win on Oct. 12.

Although the Governors fell behind early against Saint Louis, coach Daniel Sanchez came away encouraged by their effort against the Crusaders, a marked improvement over a 72-6 defeat a year ago.

“I liked that fact that they didn’t give up and I think we took some positive things out of this game and it’s going to make us better to finish off the season and into the playoffs,” Sanchez said.

“We did some stuff defensively, but Saint Louis is Saint Louis. That’s why they’re one of the best teams in the nation.”


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