Monteilh big off bench

By Nick Abramo

Delbert Tengan is a champion in his first year as head coach, and he can give a large pat on the back to right cornerback Keao Monteilh.

Starting his first game of the season, Monteilh intercepted four Kamehameha passes to help boost the St. Louis Crusaders to their 17th straight Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship last night at Aloha Stadium.

"People are going to question why we didn't start him all year. He made me look good tonight, and it's a good thing because they might be firing me pretty soon," Tengan said, tongue in cheek, after the 27-12 win.

Monteilh's first-quarter interception of a Caleb Spencer pass led to St. Louis' first touchdown. His next three picks of Kamehameha backup Kawai Akina didn't lead to scores, but they had the effect of knocking the wind out of the Warriors. Two came in the crucial third quarter, with the last one occurring early in the fourth.

The four interceptions represented more than half of the takeaways for St. Louis as the Crusaders easily won the turnover battle 7-2. Defensive back Jonah Lakatani also intercepted a Spencer aerial, while Fale Laeli and Wilson Afoa recovered fumbles that led to points.

"The defensive line put a lot of pressure on their quarterbacks. And thank the Lord. Credit everybody but me," said Monteilh, shielding the spotlight from his accomplishment. "This win was huge for us. We played the biggest game of our lives."

St. Louis had been down this road before, splitting with Kamehameha once in the regular season and eventually beating the Warriors in the title game in 1997, '98 and '99 under Cal Lee. And now, they've done it again under Tengan, who was Lee's defensive coordinator the previous four seasons.

Akina didn't blame Monteilh, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound junior, for making the end of his night miserable. He also didn't blame the glove he was wearing after getting his throwing hand banged up in last week's regular-season finale. He threw two TD passes to give Kamehameha a short-lived 12-10 lead, but then fell apart. He was also responsible for the two fumbles when the ball fell backward while his throwing arm went forward.

"The glove actually helped me, because without it I have trouble gripping the ball," Akina said. "The game sped up (after the two TD passes) and I was getting hit, but that's no excuse. No, I can't blame him (Monteilh). I can only blame myself for what went wrong."

Monteilh was starting in place of senior Pase Fiaseu, who Tengan said was "banged up."

"Keao has been intermittently very close to starting," Tengan said. "It's open every week. He had a great game and he picked the right night to have a career game."

The states are up ahead and the Crusaders may have found a keeper in their defensive backfield.

"With our hearts, we should do good in the states," Monteilh said. "This team plays with a lot of heart."

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