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StarBulletin.com

Waianae finds plenty of things to like


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POSTED: Sunday, August 16, 2009

For the first 23 minutes, the Saint Louis Crusaders owned Torii Field and all opposing forces that offered resistance.

But for much of the next 22 minutes, the Waianae Seariders looked like the team in control.

Which tale tells the story clearly? Maybe both.

Saint Louis went into Friday's game with a No. 1 ranking and backed it up with a 35-0 run. Then came Waianae's robust rally. With 3:24 left in the game, the hometown Seariders were within 41-35.

Two factors made top-ranked Saint Louis' eventual 48-35 win over the 10th-ranked Seariders quite interesting—and give fans of both teams plenty of hope for improvement.

» Waianae's defense played without some key contributors. Middle linebacker Chivas Paris is still out with an offseason injury, but is expected back within a week. Leo'o “;Handsome”; Tanielu missed the game because a mid-week leg injury and may return in two weeks. Defensive tackle Eleu Wilson, who scored a touchdown as a fullback, played despite a flu and 100-degree fever.

» Saint Louis coach John Hao said his team used a regular rotation. Waianae's 35-point outburst came against a quality defense that returned six starters from last season.

               

     

 

FRIDAY
                                                                                                                                                   
Saint Louis41
Waianae35

       

       

At one point, Crusaders quarterback Jeremy Higgins came out of the game during an early series in the third quarter and backup Marcus Mariota completed one pass for 9 yards. But with Waianae's new run-and-shoot spread offense clicking, Higgins was back on the field quickly.

Saint Louis amassed 400 passing yards and 183 rushing yards (10.2 per attempt). Indicative or misleading? Some big gainers from Higgins to his receivers came on screen passes, but those were eventually snuffed out by Waianae's defense in the second half.

In fact, the Seariders permitted just 13 points by the visitors after halftime, and Higgins' numbers reflected the shift: 322 yards before halftime and 69 afterward.

“;We expect the growing pains,”; Waianae defensive coordinator Jason Hussey said. “;I'm glad we played the No. 1 team in the state. Now we know where we need to make the corrections. Saint Louis is well coached, great schemes, great athletes, and I think we fit that bill, too. We're just a work in progress. The good things give us confidence.”;

Waianae's offense, which was predictably clunky early, got into a groove behind Puletua Wilson. The junior southpaw finished with 242 passing yards (17-for-32) and scrambled for another 85 on 10 carries. He didn't lose a fumble and was picked off just once, at game's end.

That's quite a weapon to have in the wild West of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference.

“;We won't have to be a dominant defense,”; Hussey said. “;Not with the offense we have. Thirty-five points against a defense like that?”;

Waianae's second-half output, 257 yards, was more than double its total in the first half (116).

To be fair, it was the first contact for the Crusaders with another team. Still, their defense spent much of the second half chasing Wilson and quarterback-turned-slash back Keoni Napierala-Rose. No amount of preparation can guarantee locking down those two.

Napierala-Rose, a senior, lined up at running back and receiver with big results: He rushed for 63 yards and caught four passes for a team-high 109 yards, completely looking the part of deep-threat playmaker. James Wilson was highly effective on medium routes and caught six balls for 74 yards and two scores. It was Puletua Wilson, though, who had Hao shaking his head.

“;He made our defensive linemen and linebackers get mad. We had him when he's in the pocket, then he's out,”; Hao said. “;It's hard to cover a scrambling quarterback.”;

The game also kept fans in their seats longer than usual at Torii Field. The pass-first Seariders were in shotgun mode most of the night—they still ran the Wing-T occasionally—and the Crusaders were in “;gun and pistol”; sets exclusively. That made for a game that lasted about 3 hours and had more of a old Western Athletic Conference shootout than a typical Waianae grind-it-out scrum.

 

               

     

 

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