HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kahuku vs. St. Louis: Round three.
For the third year in a row, the Red Raiders from the North Shore will take on the St. Louis Crusaders at Aloha Stadium for the Open Division State Championship. Two years ago, Kahuku upset the Crusaders 39-14, but were then upended in 2016 by St. Louis, 30-14.
But this season, both teams have shown moments of invincibility and moments of weakness. Both teams struggled early against the Mililani Trojans in recent weeks, although both teams came from behind to win. Kahuku had a close call against Waianae in the state semi finals, but the school's 10-7 victory over the Sea Riders just proved how tough its defense was.
Kahuku head coach Makoa Freitas is hopeful that his defense, as they have all season, shows up again Saturday night to stop the Crusaders' high-powered offense.
"It's going to be tough," Freitas said. "I trust in our defensive staff and we're going to gameplan and try to stop them."
Planning to go?
Aloha Stadium officials say they're expecting 20,000 people for Saturday's triple header — so plan ahead.
Going up against a stout Kahuku defense will be St. Louis quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. Against Mililani, Cordeiro played out of his mind to lead the Crusaders to victory in the second half with a little help from receiver Mitchell Quinn.
Cordeiro threw for 528 yards on 24-of-29 attempts and five touchdowns. Each of those scores winded up in the hands of Quinn, who had a historic outing in the state semi finals, hauling in eight receptions for 307 yards and five touchdowns.
"They have an explosive offense, a big physical defensive, typical things we expect from St. Louis year in, year out," Freitas said.
St. Louis head coach Cal Lee expects to put the ball in his quarterback's hands and let him go to work once again, but he understands that his offense can't expect to yield the same results against the Red Raiders like they did against the Trojans by just leaning on two players to save the day.
"We're fortunate that Chevan (Cordeiro) could find Mitchell (Quinn) but whoever (it's) is open, we got other receivers," said St. Louis head coach Cal Lee. "It's just a matter of who's open. But it's going to take an awful lot of hard work and effort because this isn't seven-on-seven, we play 11-on-11. There's people coming at us. So hopefully, we can have some protection and give (Cordeiro) a chance to throw the ball and have some success."
Lee will be looking for even more success this Saturday night as he has the opportunity to guide St. Louis to its second consecutive state title. He said that he and his staff have been so focused on preparing their players for the game that he never realized this season marks the third year in a row he has played Kahuku in the championship game.
"You know, it's funny. I never realized it was three years in a row. But over the years, we've always been lucky and fortunate to be there but it says a lot about the talent and kids that are over there because they're making it every year," Lee said.
"We're very fortunate to be in this predicament, playing against them. They're a good football team. It's going to be an exciting game for the fans. It's going to be a little heart-wrenching for the coaches, but that's football. And let the best team win.
Kahuku will take on St. Louis at Aloha Stadium Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.