Fans of the Hawaii football team may very well have seen a glimpse of the future late Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
Saint Louis’ 31-28 victory over Kahuku in the HHSAA Division I Open championship game featured three UH commits. Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, receiver Jonah Panoke and defensive back Kai Kaneshiro are all Crusaders who have verbally pledged to join the Rainbow Warriors for the 2018 season.
Mitchell Quinn, another senior, could soon be joining them as well. He picked up an offer from UH after his performance five touchdowns and 307 yards in the semifinals against Mililani.
Saturday night’s game was the second year in a row that the Crusaders topped the Red Raiders for the state crown, but Cordeiro, Panoke and Quinn were asked to do far more than in last season’s matchup. Panoke had three receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown in Saint Louis’ 30-14 victory, while Quinn and Cordeiro didn’t register any stats.
Fast forward to 2017, and the trio was the hallmark of the team’s high-powered offense. Cordeiro was eager to get his first start against the Red Raiders, and he admits that it backfired in the beginning when he threw an interception to Alex Fonoimoana-Vaomu in the game’s first possession.
“The fans brought it out again. Kahuku is amazing. Their defense is good, their offense is good, they brought a good game and I wanna thank them,” he said afterwards. “I wasn’t nervous, I was actually pretty hyped. Starting off with that first pick, I just wanted to learn from it. I want to thank my defense. They got my back when I was throwing interceptions.”
Cordeiro finished 30-for-44 with three touchdowns and two interceptions, and his second pick came in the end zone with 2:35 to go when the Crusaders were down 28-24. When he got the ball back with 46 seconds remaining on their own 47, he was poised and ready.
“We practice for that one-minute drill every time,” Cordeiro said. “The whole team was excited, we were all pumped. Everyone believed that we were still gonna win.”
With the title on the line, Cordeiro went deep to Panoke, a receiver he’s been working with since the two were elementary schoolers. Panoke used every bit of his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame to come away with a 53-yard game winning touchdown.
“I’ve been with Chevan since the second grade and we’ve had a connection all the way up to senior year. It feels amazing to end it with a big win,” he said. “I mean, it’s amazing to just make big plays in front of this crowd. It’s exciting. It’s amazing to end my senior year with another ring.”
“I’m so happy for Jonah because Jonah works hard,” Saint Louis coach Cal Lee added. “And to be honest, he made a hell of a play because he had good coverage and he kind of took the ball away. Wow, I can’t wait to look at film.”
Panoke finished with eight receptions for 152 yards in the contest. When asked if the performance on his future home field was a sign of things to come, he smiled.
“Right now (the commitment) is solid,” he said. “I love the coaches, coach Stutz (Craig Stutzmann) and coach Rolo (Nick Rolovich), and all the coaches that sent me mail. It just inspires me to go with them and they treat me like family.”
The rest of Cordeiro’s touchdown passes went to Quinn, who had five receptions for 131 yards and two scores, including a 95-yard trip to the end zone in the second quarter.
Quinn’s rapid rise from being a seldom-used junior to finishing his senior year as the state’s leader in receiving yards and touchdowns was put into perspective afterwards.
“Just being a senior and knowing that I contributed, it feels great,” he said. “Seeing my boys last year, it was a great feeling still but being a part of it and having that feeling inside that I contributed, it feels awesome.”
The possibility of the trio all suiting up for the same college team appealed to Lee.
“If Rolo wants to throw the ball more, he’s got good pretty good throwers and receivers,” Lee said. “I mean, really good receivers.”