HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leilehua celebrated its victory over Saint Louis on Friday in the Division I state championship game.
Mules get heroes’ welcome
When Leilehua and its green-haired coach, Nolan Tokuda, won the Division I state football title Friday night, another legendary Goliath from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu -- Saint Louis -- was denied.
Last winter, it was Kaimuki that stunned powerhouse Punahou in the boys basketball state final. In the spring, tiny Konawaena edged Punahou to capture its second girls basketball state crown in four years.
On Friday, the final 6 minutes and 13 seconds of an improbable victory by public-school Leilehua over private-school Saint Louis in the D-I final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA football state championships, was a study in the completely unexpected. So was the size of Wahiawa's celebration.
First, the Mules received a police escort from the stadium all the way to Wahiawa. "Both sides of Kamehameha Highway, cars were on both sides of the road," Tokuda said yesterday. "People with signs, yelling. Everybody was out. Right by Maui Mike, fireworks were going on, jumping jacks and sparklers. It was like New Year's."
Turning right on California Avenue, there was more.
"The fire department was blaring their horns, both sides people screaming and waving signs. We got to school and the band was playing. Then we got to Hugh Yoshida Stadium and we sang our alma mater," Tokuda said.
A first state title and a celebration to the max, all because of a defense that carried the load for three quarters before the Mules' offense kicked into gear. Art Laurel, Robert Siavii and Micah Cruz led the gang-tackling Mules. Ironman Allan Macam gave Leilehua its only points in the first three quarters with a a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"Our defense got us to through this game. To intercept a guy like (Micah) Mamiya three times, when he threw only three all year in a tough ILH is amazing," Tokuda said.
Leilehua, not Saint Louis, was disciplined and executed flawlessly in the final 6:13. It began with Saint Louis taking possession after Leilehua's Bronson Pausa scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. The Crusaders had a 16-13 lead and first down at their own 17-yard line. A brilliant performance by the offensive line resumed, and hard-running Keani Nishigaya added to his enormous night (164 yards).
The Crusaders picked up two first downs, but along the way, some odd things happened to a normally astute unit.
» Mamiya, the brilliant, unbeaten field general, ran out of bounds twice to stop the clock.
» The Crusaders picked up a first down in Leilehua territory, but were quickly whistled for a personal foul, bringing the ball back to the Saint Louis 41-yard line.
Still, the drive continued. On third and 6, the Mules stopped Nishigaya just short on a 5-yard run. The Crusaders, who had averaged 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, decided to punt with a little more than 2 minutes remaining. "We had thoughts of going for it, but our defense did a great job all season long," coach Delbert Tengan said.
Then, more oddities.
» Trevor Mau's punt had hang time, but lacked his normal distance. The ball bounded backward after hitting the FieldTurf and was downed by the Crusaders for a 15-yard punt.
» Quarterback Andrew Manley's first play on the next drive came quickly, as the Mules rushed onto the field and snapped the ball. Saint Louis was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.
The Mules then had the ball at the Saint Louis 48 -- the same spot where the ball was before the Crusaders punted.
» On the ensuing play, Manley went to Edieson Dumlao on the right side, and pass interference was called, tacking on another free 15 yards.
Manley then missed Dumlao deep, but connected with wideout Macam on the left side for 9 yards. After the next pass was batted away by the Crusaders' Ho'oikaika Cavaco-Amoy, Leilehua faced a fourth and 2 at the 25-yard line. For the first time in the game, the coaching staff told Manley to run a quarterback draw.
"We never even practiced it with him," Tokuda said. "He just said, 'OK.' It's like a kid playing PlayStation."
With Saint Louis' outside linebacker shading toward Leilehua's slotbacks, Manley found a crease and gained 4 yards for a first down with 1:15 to go.
Saint Louis, giving up the sideline short routes, saw the "Man Child" connect again with Macam, this time for 6 yards. On the next play, Manley faced eight Crusaders in the box and calmly rifled a perfect pass to Dumlao on a streak up the right sideline.
"Way back when (assistant coach Jon) Morikawa created this offense, it was to get 1-on-1, get the athletes the ball," Tokuda said. "We have small linemen, but our receivers are fleet-footed. They've learned the system since JV, what landmarks to hit."
With 36 seconds left, Saint Louis was nearly out of ammo. Mamiya's pass over the middle was picked off by Leilehua safety Cruz with 20 seconds to go.
Leilehua had its first state championship.
For Saint Louis, which seemed to have complete control after taking a 16-6 lead into the final quarter, there was only incredulous disappointment after going 11-0 only to lose in the final for a second year in a row.