Sunday, October 2, 2022
By: Wes Nakama
When the going gets tough in the ILH football second round, the tough get going. That was evident on both sides throughout Saturday night’s hardfought matchup at scenic Kuniakea Stadium between No. 5-ranked Saint Louis and winless-but-improving Kamehameha, with the visiting Crusaders prevailing, 30-7.
As noted by Saint Louis coach Ron Lee, “the game was tighter than the score,” and even the score was factually closer than the Crusaders’ 49-14 victory over the Warriors on Sept. 10.
“They improved a lot,” Lee said of Kamehameha, which fell to 0-5-1, 0-3 in the ILH. “When you gotta play everybody twice, they get better. They look at film, they can see things they need to improve and they adjust. I give them credit, we were lucky, very lucky. At the end they sputtered, but they moved the ball well against us. They play hard, and I’ve watched them get better.”
Saint Louis, which improved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in league play, dominated the play count and time of possession early in the game, but the score was still 0-0 two minutes into the second quarter, when the Crusaders finally broke through with Keola Apduhan’s 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal. That completed a painstaking 20-play, 69-yard drive, and Makena Kauai’s extra point made it 7-0 with 9:45 remaining in the second quarter.
Saint Louis extended the lead to 14-0 about six minutes later after Kekahi Graham’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Chyler DeSilva, capping a seven-play, 58-yard drive. But the Warriors defense kept it close going into the locker room by sacking Graham on the final play of the half at the Kamehameha 30-yard line.
“Our defense did such a tremendous job, they held us in this game early — I mean, it was 14-0 going into the half,” Warriors coach Abu Ma’afala said. “We gave up some plays, but we tackled a lot better. We had guys showing up, and it was a tremendous effort that they all gave.”
On its first possession of the second half, the Crusaders started in great field position when a short punt put the ball at the Kamehameha 30, and this time they capitalized right away. Graham first hit Yosei Takahashi for a 14-yard gain, followed by Apduhan runs of 20 and seven yards, the latter of which found paydirt.
But the Warriors responded with an impressive eight-play, 75-yard drive culminating in Keali’i Ah Yat’s 1-yard quarterback sneak to help cut the lead to 20-7 with 4:09 still to play in the third quarter.
Ah Yat, a fleet-footed senior who verbally committed to Montana, aggravated a previous ankle sprain midway through the second quarter and sat out briefly before returning to start the second half.
“I’m proud of Keali’i for gutting it out,” Ma’afala said. “He got his ankle rolled up, but came back in the game to finish.”
Saint Louis quickly drove to the Kamehameha 13 on the ensuing series, but lost a fumble that was recovered at the 9 by freshman defensive back Kaina Watson. The Warriors then advanced the ball to the Crusaders’ 34, before losing the ball on downs.
Saint Louis capitalized five plays later with Apduhan’s 33-yard touchdown run on a burst up the middle to help stretch the lead to 27-7 with 9:10 remaining in the game, and then effectively sealed the victory on Kauai’s 29-yard field goal with 4:12 left.
Apduhan, an explosive 5-foot-5 junior, finished with 97 yards rushing and three TDs on 14 carries.
“Our O-line, they work hard every day, working that inside run and how to run the ball,” said Apduhan, who describes his running style as “downhill, north-and-south.”
“If we keep doing that and keep pushing and plugging away at practice, we’re gonna be unstoppable both passing and running the ball,” he said. “Whatever play is called, we just gotta execute as a team.”
Lee said he was willing to take what the Kamehameha defense was giving.
“They played a lot of guys back, they kind of invited us to run a little bit more, and we did good (running the ball),” Lee said. “We could do better, we fumbled, we made mistakes. And the penalties.”
Graham still put up big numbers through the air, completing 24 of 33 passes for 316 yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions. Ah Yat was 7 of 16 for 64 yards with no picks, but he was sacked three times and hurried more than that. Dreyton Stone led the Warriors’ rushing attack with 61 yards on 15 carries, and Sunrise Solatorio added 38 yards on nine attempts.
The Crusaders travel to Punahou on Saturday for a 3 p.m. showdown at Alexander Field, while Kamehameha enjoys a bye.
Photos by: Grant Shishido
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