St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan was doused by his players last night as the Crusaders beat Castle for the state title.

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St. Louis wins its second state title,
after a 2-year drought, by beating Castle

Batts' return a backbreaker
Castle's 'small men' almost did

By Jason Kaneshiro

After two seasons of frustration, St. Louis officially regained its title as Hawaii's pre-eminent prep football power last night.

A crowd of 10,935 watched the Crusaders complete their climb back to the summit with a 34-15 win over Castle in the final of the Chevron State Football Championship at Aloha Stadium.

St. Louis (11-2) added a second state championship to its 14 Prep Bowl titles. The Crusaders last won the state championship in 1999 and reclaimed the title in Delbert Tengan's first year as head coach after falling to Kahuku in the previous two state finals.

"I'm just happy for our seniors as well as our coaching staff to come all this way and pull it out," Tengan said.

Castle ends its remarkable season with a 10-5 mark, exceeding all expectations by winning its first Oahu Interscholastic Association title and advancing to the state championship game.

"We had a lot of breakdowns, but St. Louis just played great as a team," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said.

St. Louis slotback B.J. Batts rushed for two touchdowns and provided a telling blow with a 99-yard kickoff return for a score late in the first half as the Crusaders ended their season with a nine-game winning streak.

"This one was for the seniors all the way," Batts said. "We had to let them go with at least one (championship)."

The St. Louis running game proved too much for the Knights as Justin Cabansag ran for 106 yards on 19 carries to go along with Batts' 73 yards.

The Crusader defense surrendered 210 yards and didn't allow a touchdown, holding the Castle offense to three field goals. The Knights' lone touchdown came off a blocked punt. The Crusaders recorded three sacks and intercepted three passes.

"That was key," Tengan said. "On offense we shot ourselves in the foot, but we kept them out of the end zone. The defense has done that all season."

"We knew what we had to do and we just did it," said St. Louis cornerback Jonah Lakatani, who finished with two interceptions. "We knew they were quick and fast, but we were prepared and came out and played with a lot of heart."

St. Louis quarterback Bobby George exorcised the demons of the previous two state championships by completing 11 of 20 throws for 170 yards and a touchdown.

"It's all the good feelings you can think of," George said of his emotions after the win. "With even one guy missing this would not have been possible. Our scout team was really important because they gave us a really hard time and it really prepared us for this."

The game ended with the mass ejection of both teams when tempers got out of hand and both benches cleared with 43 seconds left. All of the players who came on to the field were ejected and the officials ended the contest.

St. Louis slotback B.J. Batts looked for some running room against Castle's Antone Watanabe and Ernesto Lopez last night. Batts scored three times.

The first three possessions of the game ended in punts before St. Louis took the lead with 2:41 left in the first quarter.

Batts and Cabansag combined for 46 yards as the Crusaders marched 69 yards in 10 plays and scored on Bobby George's 4-yard strike to Shaun Kauleinamoku on a post pattern.

St. Louis struck again on its next possession as George found Shane Butcher running behind the Castle secondary for a 59-yard pass play down to the Knights' 1. Batts scored two plays later and St. Louis took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Castle offense awoke when Jared Suzui took a shovel pass from Jacob Ramos and scooted 21 yards to the St. Louis 36. Ramos then lobbed a pass to Ikaika Ho, who caught the ball over Lakatani and tightroped along the sideline before stepping out at the St. Louis 4.

But the Knights could get no closer to the end zone and settled for a 25-yard field goal by Ethan Gonsalves.

"Obviously that would have changed the complexion of the game, but we just wanted to get some points on the board," Maeda said.

After the teams traded interceptions, a fumble by Batts led to a 36-yard field goal by Gonsalves as Castle cut St. Louis' lead to 14-6 with 1:06 left in the first half.

But the Castle celebration was a brief one as Batts took the ensuing kickoff just short of his goal line, slipped out of the grasp of a Castle tackler and outran the rest of the Knights' coverage team for a tournament-record 99-yard return to give St. Louis a 20-6 halftime lead.

"Castle had the momentum and I knew I could do something to change that momentum," Batts said. "I didn't think about it; I just ran as fast as I could to the end zone."

The St. Louis defense held Castle to minus-3 rushing on 17 carries in the first half. But the Knights came out swinging in the second as Kawika Sebay's 22-yard run on a draw play gave Castle the ball at the St. Louis 16 early in the third quarter.

It appeared Castle scored its first touchdown when Ramos scrambled to his right and found Gonsalves in the corner of the end zone. But Gonsalves was ruled out of bounds and instead kicked a 32-yard field goal to draw the Knights closer at 20-9.

Castle running back Kawika Sebay looked for some running room behind the blocking of lineman Aaron Sasaki last night.

Momentum swung toward Castle when Batts booted Gonsalves' squib kick and was tackled at the Crusaders' 4.

But George moved the Crusaders out of danger with completions to Jason Rivers and Batts. St. Louis continued to march down field and Cabansag's 21-yard run moved the ball to the Castle 15.

Batts then took a pitch on the right side and was thrown backward by Castle's Antone Watanabe. But Batts miraculously kept his balance, reversed his field and followed a string of blockers to the 7. Two plays later, Cabansag dove in for a 3-yard touchdown run to extend the Crusaders' lead to 27-9.

As it has throughout its postseason run, the Castle special teams again provided a boost for the Knights as Kaleo Cordero blocked a punt by C.J. Santiago and Ernesto Lopez scooped up the ball and ran 23 yards for a touchdown with 8:48 left in the game.

But Batts ended all doubt with a 10-yard scoring run.

After the game, Tengan, who doubles as the school's basketball coach, wouldn't comment on speculation that this might have been his last game as the Crusaders' football coach.

"We'll see, it's too early to really say," Tengan said. "I want to sit back and evaluate what's happened. I'm looking forward to basketball and getting the Lt. Governor (assistant coach Duke Aiona) to work for me."

Said Batts: "I hope Coach Tengan comes back so we can do it again for him next year."

Castle also turned its thoughts to next season.

"I think we can be back next year," receiver Ikaika Ho said. "We only have a few seniors so if we work hard we might be able to get here next year."

Dave Reardon contributed to this report.

At Aloha Stadium

St. Louis (11-2) 7 13 7 7 -- 34

Castle (10-5) 0 6 3 6 -- 15

StL -- Shaun Kauleinamoku 4 pass from Bobby George (Kaeo Adams kick)
StL -- B.J. Batts 1 run (Adams kick)
Cas -- FG Ethan Gonsalves 25
Cas -- FG Gonsalves 36
StL -- B.J. Batts 99 kickoff return (kick failed)
Cas -- FG Gonsalves 32
StL -- Justin Cabansag 3 run (Adams kick)
Cas -- Ernesto Lopez 23 blocked field goal return (kick failed)
StL -- Batts 10 run (Adams kick)

RUSHING -- St. Louis: Batts 11-73, Cabansag 19-106, Jason Rivers 1-3, Wyatt Williams 1-(-5), George 4-(-14). Castle: Kawika Sebay 7-30, Jacob Ramos 16-22, Jared Suzui 1-5, Louis Mansanas 3-(-7).

PASSING -- St. Louis: George 11-20-1-170. Castle: Ramos 13-30-3-160.

RECEIVING -- St. Louis: Shane Butcher 3-91, Rivers 4-44, Batts 3-31, Kauleinamoku 1-4. Castle: Ikaika Ho 3-40, Suzui 6-73, Ernesto Lopez 1-8, Sebay 2-11, Matt Kanahele 1-28.

Att: 10,935

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