While giving a postgame interview to the media in the early hours of Sunday morning at Aloha Stadium, St. Louis wide receiver Jonah Panoke was interrupted by teammate Mitchell Quinn.
“He’s the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)!” Quinn yelled to the cameras while embracing Panoke. “He’s the G.O.A.T!”
There would be a lively debate whether or not Panoke truly is the greatest receiver in Hawaii high school football history, but he made, without a doubt, the biggest play in the history of the Open Division state title game as the Crusaders defeated Kahuku, 31-28.
Panoke lined up at the line of scrimmage with less than 40 seconds remaining in the game. He had struggled hauling in the ball earlier on, but when quarterback Chevan Cordeiro let fly a 53-yard bomb down the sideline, there was no way that Panoke was going to let his defender beat him to it.
“I dropped two deep balls today and Chevan told me to just go, you gotta do it and win the game,” Panoke said. “So I saw the ball, and I just knew I had to make a play.”
Panoke saw the ball land in the hands of his Red Raiders opposition.
The game looked to be over as everyone in Aloha Stadium thought that Kaonohi Kaniho made the biggest defensive play of his life, picking off Cordeiro.
But Panoke stole the ball from Kaniho’s outstretched arms and ran into the end zone. It was as shocking as it was impressive, leaving even his head coach Cal Lee at a loss for words.
When asked where Panoke’s touchdown grab ranked for him in terms of the biggest plays he’s witnessed from the sidelines, Lee lifted his right arm up and rose it to the sky, shaking his head.
“Honestly, he had good coverage. He had good coverage, but he just took it away,” said a speechless Lee. “I can’t say enough about that. That was a big play. Huge.”
Although he had dropped two passes earlier in the game, Panoke was the No. 1 target for Cordeiro for one simple reason.
“I chose to go with Jonah because he was one-on-one. I just threw it up and he made a great catch,” he said.
The Cordeiro-Panoke connection has been a long time in the making. Both commits to the University of Hawaii, the two could continue to make history in Aloha Stadium in the years to come - a thought not lost on Panoke despite the emotion of a second-consecutive state title victory.
“It feels amazing. My senior year, and it’s great to end it like this, with another win … Since second grade, to finish the season off as seniors and then to the next level.”
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