This is turning out to be a defensive struggle. The game was scoreless until Christopher Quinn’s 20-yard field goal gave the No. 1 Crusaders a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Kamehameha drove patiently and scored on a screen pass from Noah Sua-Godinet to running back Brandon Kahookele for a 7-3 Warriors lead.
Just a few plays later, however, Ryder Kuhns fired a bullet to wide receiver Drew Kobayashi on a simple sideline pattern, and Kobayashi went the distance for a 68-yard touchdown. The cornerback gambled big time on the play, opting to go for the pick, and Kobayashi, a sprinter on the track team, went untouched to the end zone with less than a minute to go in the half.
Kamehameha’s defense, on the whole, has done a good job bringing heat on Kuhns, but the Crusaders have been turnover-free so far. The Warriors’ offense has not been consistent, and that has a lot to do with a high-energy Crusaders defense.
Not the offensive scoring circus I was hoping for, but a fun battle to watch anyway.
T.J. Fitzsimmons drilled a 44-yard field goal for Kamehameha to tie the game at 10, but the Crusaders got another long pass from Kuhns to Kobayashi, and Kuhns followed with a quick slant pass to Devan Stubblefield for a touchdown.
Crusaders lead 17-10 with 6:42 to play in the third quarter. Again, as with the previous Saint Louis touchdown, Kamehameha was whistled for roughing the passer. That means another possession begins at the 20-yard line for the Warriors.
Micah Todd with a pick near the sideline and a 33-yard return to the Saint Louis 21-yard line. But Quinn misses the FG try.
The Warriors pound their way down the field and score on a 2-yard run by Kahoolele. But the PAT snap is bobbled and Jaisen Sanchez makes the tackle. Saint Louis still leads, 17-16, with less than 11 minutes left.
Fitzsimmons’ 46-yard try hooks a little left. Saint Louis dodges a bullet and gets the ball with 6:19 to play.
WOW. Gavin Panui picks off an overthrown pass by Kuhns and returns it 37 yards to paydirt. The 2-point PAT pass from Sua-Godinet to Kaulana Werner is good and Kamehameha leads 24-17 with 5:54 remaining.
The Crusaders’ ensuing drive begins with an incompletion, a personal foul and an illegal procedure. Then Kuhns overthrows Cui, the ball is tipped by Panui and linebacker Chad Souza picks it off. He stumbles and falls at the 2-yard line. Kamehameha ball.
Kahoolele powers in from 1 yard out to give Kamehameha a 31-17 cushion with 3:12 to go.
Kuhns overthrows two more targets, this last one picked off by Josiah Lucas and returned 70 yards for another Kamehameha touchdown. Warriors lead comfortably 38-17 with 2:20 remaining.
Final: No. 4 Kamehameha 38, No. 1 Saint Louis 17. Defense made the difference. Saint Louis’ defense played well, but got worn down in the second half by Kamehameha’s offensive line.
Panui said after the game that his team’s defensive line, with that constant pass rush, got to Kuhns’ head. That would be hard to prove, but the point is well taken. Kamehameha’s defense is playing lights out right now. They just cooled one of the state’s most potent offenses.