‘We’re built for this’ — No. 1 Kamehameha rallies past No. 2 Saint Louis

Kamehameha linebacker Brennan Dupio (41) recovers a fumble by Saint Louis running back Keola Apduhan (32) during the fourth quarter on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, in Halawa. Kamehameha came from behind to win 34-31. Jamm Aquino/jaquino@staradvertiser.com.

Like the wind, momentum is a fickle fiend one minute.

A precious friend the next.

Kamehameha’s second narrow in over Saint Louis in as many tries betrayed all kinds of trends and theories. After all, ILH sports and academics are all about immense and intense competition. Iron sharpens, but in ILH football, it is that shot to the gut, the solar plexus, that has defined the Open Division.

Now, with a come-from-behind 34-31 win over Saint Louis, Kamehameha (3-1) can rest for a week while Punahou (1-3) and Saint Louis (2-3, 2-2 ILH) ravage one another in next week’s opening round of the playoffs. Finishing first in the regular season nets a reward that every coach and player dreams of. Even Kamehameha running back Noah Bartley, a true gamer who loves every game, practice and play, relishes the coming bye weekend.

“It feels good. I feel like we still have some stuff to clean up. This one-week bye is really helpful for us,” said Bartley, who rushed for a career-high 219 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. “We just had to lock in, kick in a gear and stay together. We just wanted to stay calm and collected, make sure that everyone’s in the right spots to do what we needed to do.”

Kamehameha running back Noah Bartley (21) scores the go-ahead touchdown against Saint Louis during the fourth quarter of an ILH football game on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, in Halawa. Jamm Aquino/jaquino@staradvertiser.com.

After Kealii Ah Yat’s pinpoint 20-yard strike to Blaze Kamoku on a post route — on third and 13 — Bartley and his blocking receivers and linemen came up big. His 25-yard touchdown run, with a strong resemblance to peak LeVeon Bell during his Steelers years, gave Kamehameha the lead. It was poetry by a smashmouth offensive line and normally bulldozing running back, getting out wide left as a unit, where Bartley displayed his tremendous vision and agility, waiting for creases to open up. He cut back at the perfect moment twice en route to the goal line. A Saint Louis defense that sometimes limited Bartley to two- and three-yard gains could do little to stop Kamehameha’s ground attack.

Kamehameha coach Abu Ma‘afala believes the Crusaders allowed the score to happen for time management purposes.

“Credit to Saint Louis. They were smart. The thing opened up like Red Sea because they told their guys, ‘Let ‘em score’ because they wanted to have two minutes on the clock. We should’ve told (Bartley) to fall down on the 1-yard line,” Ma‘afala said. “They let us score. It was an intentional go-ahead score so Saint Louis could come out and have the last play. Thank God our defense came through.”

Kamehameha head coach Abu Ma’afala, right, celebrates with his players after a 34-31 win over the Saint Louis Crusaders on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 at Aloha Stadium. Kamehameha came from behind to win 34-31. Jamm Aquino/jaquino@staradvertiser.com.

The teams combined for five possessions in the second half. Kamehameha had just two as Saint Louis turned the tables. When they met a month ago, it was the Warriors who held the ball for six minutes to start the third quarter, draining the momentum from Saint Louis’ potent offense. On Friday night, AJ Bianco guided the Crusaders on a 6-minute, 2-second drive deep into Kamehameha territory, but the strong gusts near the mauka tunnel sent Lason Napuunoa’s 28-yard field goal try wide right.

That didn’t cost Saint Louis the game. Leaning heavily into ball-control mode, the Crusaders, arguably, had their best offensive game plan and execution of the season — until that fateful fumble in the final minutes. After racking up 31 points in one half against a stellar Kamehameha defense, narrowing the second half down to a few possessions has its risks, but the percentages were with the Crusaders. They trusted their running game, including that double-tight end ace package, more than ever.

Top-ranked Kamehameha just happens to be a smidge better in a slow-tempo game.

“We just want to play. All the boys on those buses really just bought into that stick-together mentality,” Bartley said.

Ma‘afala gave his team a day off on Saturday. After all the preparation, hours of reps, and the emotional expenditure, some time to decompress after clutching up. Again.

“We were saying at the end there, ‘We’re built for this.’ This is what those long, grueling practices, all of these months of us just emphasizing the little things, pushing through the adversity when you don’t want to be there, continuing to give everything that you’ve got. Putting those emotions aside,” Ma‘afala said.

“Basically, our job as coaches is teaching them through football how to be men. Set our emotions aside and do what we need to do in order to get the job done. I’m so proud of them because it’s one thing to preach it, but it’s another for the kids to actually buy in and believe it. It’s been the same message five, going on six years. It’s amazing what happens when you have a team of people that come together for each other.”

It would be difficult to find any coach in the ILH willing to guarantee, to predict this year’s ILH Open Division football champion. Kamehameha clearly has the most balance in all three phases, but Saint Louis’ young defense showed vast improvement. Punahou’s front seven has played stronger and more consistently. The title is up for grabs, and one week of rest is priceless.

“Hat’s off to Saint Louis. That’s a great football team we just played,” Ma‘afala said. “An amazing (game) plan. For coach (Ron) Lee, a Division I (college) offensive coordinator. For (Kamehameha defensive coordinator) Matt (Wright) and his staff to have to face that three, four times this year, that’s an amazing adjustment they came out with. Everybody stayed calm. Players believed in the coaches. The coaches believed in the players. We had one bounce our way and thank God we’re able to finish out the first round on top.”

Wright’s defensive wizardry had the Warriors stifling Saint Louis and Bianco in their first matchup. This time, Bianco simply ran and ran past blitzing defenders and stand-still defenders alike. Bianco passed for 218 yards without a pick, and racked up 97 rushing yards, scoring twice, including a 45-yard jaunt to the pylon. However, in Saint Louis’ final series in the final 2:01, the Warriors brought heat from unpredictable angles and locations, and the Crusaders couldn’t get past midfield.

A fourth-and-short bomb in the final 15 seconds is another learning experience for Bianco, who started the fifth game of his career. The Crusaders could have opted for the shorter pass, then aim for a completion downfield between the hashmarks, burn that final time out and possibly get Napuunoa a final crack. Maybe a field goal try inside 40 yards and push the contest into overtime. Bianco’s pass sailed five or so yards too deep for William Reed and his defender.

There is no mercy for first-year starters and veterans alike. There is only the fateful, merciless wind.

At Aloha Stadium
Saint Louis (2-3, 2-2 ILH) 14 17 0 0 — 31
Kamehameha (3-1, 3-1 ILH) 7 13 0 14 — 34
KS—Sheyden Iokia 16 pass from Kealii Ah Yat (Winston Freitas kick)
STL—AJ Bianco 45 run (Lason Napuunoa kick)
STL—Blaze Holani 41 interception return (Napuunoa kick)
KS—Levi Ma‘afala 27 pass from Ah Yat (Freitas kick)
STL—Mason Muaau 42 pass from Bianco (Napuunoa kick)
KS—Noah Bartley 11 run (kick failed)
STL—Bianco 6 run (Napuunoa kick)
STL—Napuunoa FG 34
KS—Blaze Kamoku 20 pass from Ah Yat (Ma‘afala pass from Ah Yat)
KS—Bartley 23 run (kick blocked)

Individual statistics
RUSHING—KS: Noah Bartley 29-218, Kealii Ah Yat 8-32, Kamoku 1-0, Ma‘afala 3-11. STL: Keola Apduhan 4-37, Trech Kekahuna 4-38, AJ Bianco 15-97, Jaysen Peters-de Laura 3-5.

PASSING—KS: Ah Yat 14-21-1-161. STL: Bianco 15-23-0-218.

RECEIVING—KS: Bartley 2-21, Blaze Kamoku 2-33, Levi Ma‘afala 2-36, Sheydon Iokia 3-29, Raiden Morris 2-18, Peyton Kahahawai-Welch 2-24, Kahanu Kalahiki 1-6. STL: Kekahuna 6-39, Jaysen Peters-de Laura 2-16, Devon Tauaefa 2-26, Mason Muaau 3-103, Chyler DeSilva 1-21, TItan Lacaden, Random Cordeiro 1-13.


  1. ??? October 16, 2021 2:47 pm

    Last weeks prediction from this guy? 3 TD’s?

    Top of the Mountain
    October 11, 2021 2:44 pm
    Kamehameha will get beat convincingly this week from the crusaders. The crusaders will win easily by 3 touchdowns. Mark my words.

  2. Hilo Heights October 16, 2021 6:36 pm

    Let’s jus wait for Top of the mountains to climb down first.. Then he can explain himself.. Maybe next time, no climb to high..Lol..

  3. ILH October 16, 2021 10:31 pm

    Maybe top of the mountains waiting now for the results in the next two to three weeks first before he comes forward again, we’ll see what happens in the next two to three weeks, still would not count Punahou or Saint Louis out, even though Kamehameha is in the drivers seat right now. I’m not a Saint Louis fan but i did watch a live stream of the game and boy did the refs made a lot of bad calls against Saint Louis, i guess the refs won also last night.

  4. ItIsWhatItIs October 17, 2021 6:59 am

    @ ILH
    I agree with you on the ref statement!! That white hat should never call a STL game again. He seemed to have it out for STL last night. But hats off to the Kamehameha coaching staff. Another good game plan from them. Side note, has UH offered Bartley a scholarship yet?

  5. Honest October 17, 2021 9:14 pm

    Please watch the game closely. Penalties are usually called after St. Louis makes a large gain or scores a touchdown. So many times after big plays, St. Louis had to go back and start over, this time first and twenty or first and twenty five. If St. Louis is going to win, they have to win big where the referees can not effect the outcome.



  6. ILH October 18, 2021 8:21 am

    Honest: You said that exactly right, especially Vic the head referee that night, that’s how you beat Saint Louis, with the Refs help, that’s how they keep the games close, like you said when Saint Louis is way ahead, the Refs can’t do too much, needs to see all these refs where they graduated from or where there kids went to school, they don’t like Saint Louis cause they are always up there, give Kamehameha credit for the win, but a lot of bad calls by the refs did not help, that’s why I’ve always said, when you are ahead keep building the lead and stop slowing down the game , cause you never know what can become the out come of the games.

  7. Humble Pie October 18, 2021 8:27 am

    or Maybe Kamehameha is just the better football team, Stop making Excuses, Pointing Fingers, Blame it on the Refs, QB is not as good, Crying to Mom and Dad , ETC. ETC. ETC.
    Just be Humble, Shot your Mouth, and continue to work hard, a little prayer doesn’t hurt also.
    PS. Here comes Mililani, Kahuku and New life Punahou.

  8. ILoveHawaii October 18, 2021 9:24 am

    Or maybe that OL is always holding and are getting caught more often?
    And can you explain why they couldnt stop Kam’s offense? How did the refs help with that?

    I must say, it is refreshing to NOT see any Kam supporters on here talking ish or arguing against these allegations of ref interference.

    Or maybe they dont wanna jinx it.

    Question: can you talk ish after you won the ship or do you have to brag about it before you win to brag about it after you win?

  9. rrforlifebaby October 18, 2021 11:06 am

    It’s kind of funny listening to people complain about the officiating after St Louis loses. Talk about calling the kettle black. lol eat the crow and take the L. omg, i sound like Crusader fans talking to RR fans. lol


  10. ILoveHawaii October 18, 2021 12:41 pm

    Took awhile but RR’s are actively in the chat.
    Especially since they SASA Kapolei.
    Welcome back!!

    They can see the light…………

    BTW, since when is Hilo allowed in any discussion about the OPEN?
    The nerve.

  11. Hilo heights October 18, 2021 12:59 pm

    If you must know I’m an actual graduate of Kahuku high school and resides in Hilo now, but I like the excuses St. Louis is giving, when you watch the Kahuku games the ref is never on our side and we rack up over 100 yard in penalties every game.. but it doesn’t stop us from playing hard nose football.. A PUBLIC SCHOOL that’s always in the mix.. I just see Kamehameha as a better football team then St. Louis THIS YEAR.. Must have struck that NERVE.. How does it feel..

  12. Good Story October 18, 2021 1:06 pm

    @I love Hawaii

    Took a while cause now you know…now everybody know…we’re a lot better than most people thought.

  13. Hilo Heights October 18, 2021 1:18 pm

    Hats off to Kamehameha football team.. They don’t have that luxury to pick there football team, instead they get dealt a bunch of academic athletes who has to go through a tough process to get in that school and then play football together… Good job coach Ma’afala… Just giving credit where credit is due..

    Btw Hilo is on Hawaii Island.. I love Hawaii? Pppppffff…

  14. ILoveHawaii October 18, 2021 1:33 pm

    Nice. That is more like it.

    Who da heo thought RR’s was junk must not live in Hawaii, thats for sure.
    Macho as usual…….now everybody know……… lol.

    Ok Hilo, it checks out:
    Blames refs for losing – check
    Stuck on private vs. public nonsense – check
    Uses Pppppffff….. in a sentence – check

    You are a RR.

  15. Hilo Heights October 18, 2021 2:00 pm

    I don’t know, who complaining about the refs right now, I was jus saying we face that every game,even against kapolei this past weekend, but we not complaining.. Giving example if you read, but all you worried about is Hilo Heights name.. Sole.. all you need to know is Kamehameha is better then St. Louis this year and we will see what Public school even Kahuku will match up against any Private school.. plain and simple..


  16. Superstitious October 19, 2021 8:44 am

    The Crusaders wore all white Uniforms the 1st game vs KS= Loss
    The Crusaders wore all Red Unis this time 2nd game vs KS = Loss again
    Maybe they need to go back to the Old School Uniform that the Old Championship Teams / Cal Lee Era Mystique, Tough, the hard nose, Dirty, Hungry, Blood, Sweat, Rugged, like the Past SL teams used to do it. Heart, Toughness, and Defense and Not Flash. Go Back to Old School SASA
    “Unfurl Your RED and BLUE, and he (GOD) who guides our Destiny, may our Hearts keeps True to You”

  17. ILoveHawaii October 19, 2021 10:25 am

    Yup, they loss because of the uniform they were wearing.
    Sounds legit.

    Hilo – In that case, no more bringing up anything ref related anymore…..Sole…….plain and simple.

    Trustno1 – How does this behavior continue without repercussions? I guess when you winning, you can do no wrong. Me thinks the Millilani admin might be in over their head with this “group” and are too deep to do anything about it. Im not a fan but I can tell you this, if he was to ever become a HC in the ILH, I am sure they would become a force to be reckoned with. Imagine if he was to become the next HC at Lulu?? O.M.G.

  18. Trustno1 October 20, 2021 8:22 pm

    ILoveHawaii- I agree with you! No repercussions! Coach York will never be a headcoach for St Louis! Maybe for his Alma Mater Iolani! The last time an Iolani guy was the headcoach at the Lou, the program was in shambles! Coach York is a good coach but not for the Lou! 808vsEverybody! Good luck to all the teams this week!

  19. Pakelika October 23, 2021 9:22 am

    The 2013 ILH football season was the latest that an I’olani graduate, Matt Wright, was St.Louis’s head football coach. To say that the program was in shambles means one of the following: you have your own unique, peculiar understanding of what the word shambles means, you have an erroneous recollection of the 2013 ILH and St. Louis football season, you have a very active and vivid imagination that has invented a fictional account of that season. Look up newspaper accounts of SL games that season, ask players, parents, coaches, others who witnessed SL games that season. No one could honestly corroborate your conclusion about the state of SL’s football program that year. 3 narrow losses and not winning a championship, while being a disappointment, doesn’t come near the program being in shambles; it is an insult to Coach Wright and his coaching staff and players to say such an incorrect and unsubstantiated, unsupportable statement. Moreover, you have no reason to assert that Coach York would not be a good coach at SL or wherever he may go; if you meant to say that he would not go to SL, then that is entirely different from saying that he would not be effective and be a winner there.

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