HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Louis' Marc Moody knocked the ball away from Kahuku quarterback Richard Torres.
Crusaders defense can only hold on for so long
The Saint Louis defense held on as long as it could.
It was nearly long enough to bring back a state championship to the Kaimuki campus.
But after keeping Kahuku out of the end zone for more than 47 minutes, the Red Raiders finally punched in a score with 23 seconds left in the game to claim the state Division I title with an emotional 7-6 win and send the Crusaders to a heartbreaking conclusion to the season.
"We had the game where we wanted, we want to end with our defense, that's our strength," Saint Louis coach Delbert Tengan said. "We wanted the game to end in our defense's hands and give credit to Kahuku they converted the plays when they needed to."
The Crusaders bent frequently last night but came up with numerous stops in the red zone and came within a minute of giving the school its first championship since 2002.
But it wasn't quite enough as Kahuku scored on a 14-yard pass from Richard Torres to Jordan Kapu and Kaika Sasaoka's extra-point proved the difference between elation and dejection in a game with no middle ground.
"It was whole combination of plays, it didn't come down to that last play," Tengan said. "We had our chances, and that's what hurts. We had our chances to win a state championship and I thought our kids played their hearts out. It's tough, it's really tough.
"It's going to hurt a long time, it's going to hurt a real long time. You don't get very many opportunities to win a championship, we realize that. It took us a couple years to get back to this to get so close, but yet so far."
The Crusaders surrendered 309 yards, but denied the Red Raiders on their first four red-zone opportunities.
Saint Louis thwarted a Kahuku scoring threat in the first half by recovering a fumble on its own 2 in the second quarter.
The Crusader defense spent most of the third quarter on the field as Kahuku inexorably moved the ball downfield on a 19-play drive that took more than 9 minutes off the clock.
But they finally held their ground at their 13, forcing a field-goal attempt that went way wide to the left in the final seconds of the period.
"We gave it our all, we played hard, I guess it wasn't good enough," said linebacker Jacob Barit, who finished with a game-high 7 1/2 tackles. "All we did was play with heart."
The Crusaders made another stop on fourth down at midfield with 10:25 left in the game to set up Saint Louis' lone score, a 9-yard touchdown run up the middle by Keani Nishigaya. But the extra point went wide, at the Crusaders led 6-0 with 6:52 left in the game.
The Crusaders gave ground again to the Red Raiders when Lehi Aumua ripped off a 62-yard run, but held fast at their own 8, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down.
But they couldn't come up with one last stop.
"I have no regrets," defensive lineman Scott Smith said. "We gave everything we had, we all believed we could do it. Just unfortunately they got one in the end zone at the end. They're a good team. We gave it our all.
"It's hard to come all the way 11-0 and lose the last game."