Saint Louis blanks Mililani to reach Open final


Fri, Nov 22, 2019 @ Aloha Stadium [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
MIL(8-5-0) 0 0 0 00
STL(12-1-0) 7 14 14 035

HALAWA — As the old adage goes, defense wins championships. It wins semifinals, too.

Led by a stout defensive effort, top-ranked Saint Louis cruised to a 35-0 win over No. 4 Mililani in the nightcap of a semifinal doubleheader of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division Championships at Aloha Stadium Friday night.

The Crusaders (11-0) scored 28 points off of four turnovers by the Trojans (8-5) to lock up their spot in next week's state title game, where they will try for their fourth consecutive championship when they take on No. 4 Kahuku at Aloha Stadium next Friday.

It was the second time that Saint Louis has shut out an opponent this season and first since a 28-0 win over Kahuku on Sept. 14.

"Any time you shut out a team, especially someone like Mililani, I mean, you gotta feel real good and the credit goes to the coaches and the players. They did a hell of a job, my hat goes off to those guys," Lee said.

Mililani was held to 106 yards of total offense, its second lowest output of the season. The Crusaders recorded three interceptions off of quarterback Brendyn Agbayani and recycled all of them into points.

Brian Cox got the first pick, which halted the Trojans' second possession of the game and three plays later, quarterback Jayden de Laura tossed a 25-yard strike down the right sideline to wideout Roman Wilson for the opening score.

Later in the first quarter, Agbayani was intercepted by Bronz Moore. Three plays after the change of possession, Koali Nishigaya picked up five yards on a run to convert a third-and-2 and four plays after that, he received a pitch from de Laura on an option play on fourth-and-2 before he turned the left corner and scampered down the sideline for a 40-yard TD run.

The touchdown, which came two plays into the second quarter, and the ensuing extra point by Lason Napuunoa gave the Crusaders a 14-0 lead with 11:01 left in the first half.

"The defense made some great plays. They got us those two early picks in the first quarter, that was huge for us," said Wilson, who finished with nine catches for 74 yards — both game-high marks.

Saint Louis got a boost from its special teams units later in the second quarter. After a 49-yard punt by Mason Tufaga to pin Mililani at its own 2-yard line, the defense forced a three-and-out and the Trojans were forced to punt out of their own end zone. However, the snap to punter Manu Penitani was low and he struggled to corral the ball, which eventually was recovered by the Crusaders' Kaiser Cambra-Cho for a touchdown with 4:48 left until halftime.

Saint Louis built upon its 21-0 lead at the intermission with a 14-play, 73-yard drive to start that second half that culminated with Wilson's acrobatic 2-yard TD catch from de Laura while on his back.

"Jayden put it in the one spot he probably could put it in and I just stayed with it all the way," said Wilson, a University of Michigan commit.

On the scoring play, de Laura lofted a back-shoulder pass for Wilson, who was aligned wide right of the formation. As Wilson fended off the Mililani defensive back, he laid out for the pass and hauled it in while rolling backward before finding his way back to his feet.

"I mean, hey, we can't teach that," Lee laughed. "He's just an athlete that does a great job catching the ball and it showed tonight."

Lee said the long scoring drive coming out of halftime was executed about as well as he could have hoped for.

"Yeah, no really, I mean, whenever you do something like that — I mean, nothing against Mililani — but it kind of hurts when you do that to them," Lee said. "I mean, they feel it, the pain; it's not like a knife, it's like jab, jab, jab, so that offense did a good job."

The Crusaders sent the game into running time just five plays into Mililani's ensuing possession, when linebacker Lawaialani Brown jumped an Agbayani pass and returned the interception 70 yards the other way for a touchdown to close out the scoring.

"They ran up the seam and I guess (Agbayani) didn't see me," Brown said. "I undertook it and then I just picked the ball and then from there I just had to do my thing to get in the end zone. It was really surreal, honestly. It was my first touchdown my whole career, so it was nice."

Mililani picked up just seven first downs for the game. It was 0 of 9 on third downs and 0 of 5 on fourth downs. Of the Trojans' 11 total possessions, four resulted in turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) and four ended on turnovers on downs — they punted on their other three drives.

"We did a lot of preparation coming off this (three)-week bye. We got a film, saw a lot of their formations, a lot of key reads, knowing the play before the snap begins, so we already knew what routes they were coming out with," Brown said.

It was the first game for Saint Louis since a 21-14 win over Punahou on Nov. 1, which was preceded by another three-week bye.

The lengthy layoff mattered little for Brown and the defense, however.

"Defense, we're always hungry, always ready to play and we feed off of each other's energy, that's why our defense is so great (because) we're always trying to get better each and every day," Brown said.

Lee credited his players for handling the time off well.

"I thought they did a good job. I mean, considering three weeks, you know? I mean, we had a game, three weeks bye, we had a game, three weeks (off), that's tough on these kids, but you gotta feel real happy for them the way they played tonight, that's a credit to them. I give them all the credit," Lee said.

De Laura finished 15-of-26 passing for 99 yards without an interception.

Saint Louis rushed for 119 of its 223 yards of total offense and did not commit a turnover.

Agbayani threw for 74 yards on 12-of-23 passing in the loss.

It was the second win over the Trojans this season for the Crusaders, who came away with a 54-21 win back on Sept. 27 in a regular-season meeting.

Saint Louis extended its winning streak to 37 games and will try for its seventh state championship next Friday.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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