For years, the battle between Kamehameha, Punahou and St. Louis felt like two Davids and one goliath--the Crusaders being the towering giant above scrappy Punahou and Kamehameha.
This year, however, the former ILH champions have their backs against the wall. After losing their second game to Kamehameha last Friday night, the Crusaders are now put into a position seldom seen in St. Louis history: fighting for their playoff lives.
"It was hard to take. I definitely lost some sleep that night because of all the pain, all of the work we put in, all of the fighting we had," junior linebacker Matty Malepeai said. "We haven't lost like this in a while. This game is important...I'm confident in my boys."
With the 34-31 victory, the Warriors have punched their ticket to next week's ILH Championship game and a first round bye. The winner of this week's semi-final between St. Louis and Punahou will go on to the title game for a chance to be in the state's open division playoff bracket.
Although Kamehameha head coach Abu Ma'afala admits that the job is not done, the number one seed in the ILH is a symbol of how far his program has come.
"To see that the seeds weren't just planted, but now taking root and fruit is coming forth means the world," Ma'afala said. "It's the way that we're winning, it's the way our players are carrying themselves, it's the way that they're handling this success, that's the most rewarding part for me...But the job isn't done yet. We're not going to get caught up on one win over St. Louis."
Meanwhile, the Crusaders are back at practice this week preparing for a Buffanblu squad that they've already beaten twice this year.
For St. Louis senior offensive leaders, they understand the importance of Friday's win-or-go-home game.
"We know how important this game is. We're playing Punahou, they're a really talented team," University of Hawaii commit and quarterback A.J. Bianco said. "We're going to get their best shot and they're going to get our best shot. We've got to be ready and play our game."
"Losing to the same team twice in one season is hard. We have to keep our head where it's been all season and that's winning a championship," wide receiver Trech Kekahuna said. "It's going to take a lot of heart, every single play, every down. It's all about playing Crusader football."