Saint Louis' Benjamin Soliven broke up a pass intended for Kahuku's Frank Bracewell last night at Aloha Stadium.

Red Raiders return

Kahuku rallies to beat
Saint Louis for the state title
in an unbelievable finish

Kahuku completed a fantastic comeback to beat Saint Louis 27-26 last night and win the First Hawaiian Bank State Division I Football Championship.

The Red Raiders (14-0) trailed 23-7 in the third quarter, but fought like mad for three scores to steal it away. Trailing 26-21 with time running out, Toriano Taulogo's 62-yard punt return and Darren Magalogo's 3-yard TD run catapulted Kahuku to its third championship in four years in front of 15,061 at Aloha Stadium. The Red Raiders also won in 2000 and '01 before Saint Louis took the title a year ago.

The Crusaders (9-2) looked like they were about to seal the victory after stopping Kahuku on four downs on the Saint Louis 32 with 2:17 left, but they failed to move the ball and punted. Taulogo cut to the right and followed his wall of blockers before being dragged down by Stephen Lei at the 3 with 23 seconds left. The Kahuku side of the stadium erupted when Magalogo scored his second TD of the night off left tackle for the one-point margin with 19 seconds to go.

"We knew it (punt return situation) would come up," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said. "We just didn't know when. I'm glad we didn't wait until tomorrow.

"These kids sacrificed so much. For Hawaii, what more could you ask for. You just couldn't ask for a better championship game. To win the state championship is something to be proud of and to come from behind to do it is even better."

Still, the wild game wasn't over. B.J. Batts' return on the ensuing kickoff helped Saint Louis get into Kahuku territory, but C.J. Santiago's 55-yard field-goal attempt was short. A roughing-the-kicker penalty allowed Santiago to try again, and his 40-yard boot went wide right to end what will be remembered as a classic contest.

"We had our opportunities," said Saint Louis first-year coach Darnell Arceneaux, who shook his head in disbelief. "The kids fought all the way to the end. I said it earlier, this game could come down to the last play. I could have done a better job (on the punt return). I could have had him kick it out of bounds. So put it all on my shoulders. It was totally my fault."

Trailing 23-7, the hard running of quarterback Waika Carvalho and Paea Vaimoui started Kahuku's third-quarter comeback bid and set up Magalogo's 5-yard TD run and Vaimoui's 2-point conversion. Then, Taulogo's interception and 28-yard return and Vaimoui's 29-yard rumble led to Dustin Huddy's 2-yard score to make it 23-21.

Santiago's 36-yard field goal gave the Crusaders a 26-21 edge.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Saint Louis linebacker Dylan Moss said. "We can learn from a loss like this. I thought we had it, but you can never doubt a team like Kahuku. They had a great punt return. We're coached to never give up. Whether we're losing by one or 100, you play to end of the game."

Earlier in the third, Batts raced for 27 yards to set up Wyatt Williams' 1-yard run as the Crusaders took their biggest lead of the night, 23-7, with 7:52 left in the third.

With three straight second-quarter field goals by Santiago -- of 37, 26 and 37 yards -- Saint Louis broke open a 7-7 tie to take a 16-7 halftime lead.

Three turnovers -- two fumbles and an interception -- hampered the Red Raiders' first-half output of 168 yards from scrimmage. They finished with 244 yards on the ground.

"I was telling Coach to run to my (left) side all night," Kahuku center Jeremy Perry said. "We still had mistakes in the second half, but we pulled through."

Still, Kahuku had a golden opportunity but failed to get within less than a field goal before the half. Carvalho passed to Spencer Hafoka for gains of 38 and 24 yards to bring the ball to the Crusaders' 4.

Saint Louis linebacker Moss stuffed Vaimoui after a 1-yard gain and then defensive back Nuipitane Nahalea blitzed in to sack Carvalho for a 14-yard loss to stall the threat.

The Red Raiders struck first with an eight-play, 62-yard drive, capped by Vaimoui's 11-yard up-the-middle burst.

Saint Louis responded with Shaun Kauleinamoku's 5-yard TD run, which was set up by a 32-yard Kealii Perbera-to-Desmond Hanohano connection.

Saint Louis was trying for its 16th championship (Prep Bowl or state) since 1986.

Vaimoui finished with 131 yards on 17 carries.

Batts finished with 101 yards on 23 rushes.

"It was a hard-fought game," Saint Louis defensive back Gabriel Vierra said. "B.J. performed for us all year, making big plays. The ball didn't bounce our way at the end."

Kahuku 27, Saint Louis 26

At Aloha Stadium
Saint Louis (9-2) 7 9 7 3 -- 26
Kahuku (14-0) 7 0 14 6 -- 27

Kah--Paea Vaimoui 11 run (Michael Tuia kick).
StL--Shaun Kauleinamoku 5 run (C.J. Santiago kick).
StL--FG Santiago 37.
StL--FG Santiago 26.
StL--FG Santiago 36.
StL--Wyatt Williams 1 run (Santiago kick).
Kah--Darren Magalogo 5 run (Vaimoui run).
Kah--Dustin Huddy 2 run (pass failed).
StL--FG Santiago 36.
Kah--Magalogo 3 run (pass failed).

RUSHING: Saint Louis, B.J. Batts 23-101, Kauleinamoku 4-17, Williams 2-5, Kealii Perbera 4-(-9), Stanley Nihipali 1-(-13). Kahuku, Vaimoui 17-131, Waika Carvalho 9-38, Cy Naki 6-29, Magalogo 7-27, Huddy 6-19.
PASSING: Saint Louis, Perbera 13-25-2-180. Kahuku, Carvalho 3-14-2-96.
RECEIVING: Saint Louis, Desmond Hanohano 6-116, Kauleinamoku 3-14, Batts 2-14, Aaron Bain 1-22, Maka'ala Kuewa 1-14. Kahuku, Spencer Hafoka 2-62, Tevita Ofa 1-34.


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