By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Question: What comes between 91 and 92?
Answer: Usually a quarterback.
When the Saint Louis Crusaders' defense takes the field, that is usually the result. Those are the jersey numbers of defensive ends Solomona Aigamaua (91) and Scott Smith (92). If one of them doesn't sack the quarterback, the other one will, if not both.
"We always say, 'Meet you at the quarterback,'" left end Smith said nodding to right end Aigamaua. (View is from the defense's perspective.)
Whether it's getting to the quarterback first or just winning in wind sprints at practice, the two seniors push each other to be their best. Their play in turn has helped the Crusaders lead the always competitive Interscholastic League of Honolulu. The top-ranked Crusaders (8-0 overall, 5-0 ILH) can clinch their first Division I league title since 2003 with a victory against Damien, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Aloha Stadium.
Right end Aigamaua is 6 feet 3 and a svelte 205 pounds, while the 6-7 Smith is 240 pounds. Both are athletic; they will walk over to the McCabe Gym for basketball with their football coach Delbert Tengan, who coaches basketball, too.
While Smith has been playing organized football since he was in the fifth grade for the Windward Tigers youth league team, Aigamaua never played until he reached high school in American Samoa. In fact, at Leone High, Aigamaua was quarterback his freshman and sophomore years on the junior varsity. He wanted to try out for receiver when he enrolled at Saint Louis his junior year.
"But (the coaches) asked me if I wanted to play defense," Aigamaua said. "Hey, whatever helps the team."
Aigamaua said the transition wasn't that difficult from quarterback to defensive line.
"The coaches did a great job of breaking things down," he said. "It was easy. They teach you the basics before they teach you anything else."
Saint Louis defensive line coach Shawn Kalima said Aigamaua's athleticism allows him pick up nuances of the game fast.
"He adapted well," Kalima said. "He started playing for us last year. It was slow at the beginning, but he's really caught on fire this year. He worked really hard in the offseason to hone his techniques and he's made some great progress."
Smith was born into a football family. His father, George Smith, a Kailua High graduate, played defensive line at Colorado from 1982 to 1984. His uncle, Allen Smith, was an offensive lineman for Hawai'i from 1988 to 1990. Scott has attended Saint Louis since eighth grade, playing intermediate ball for two years before joining the varsity as a sophomore.
"It's in the blood," Smith said of his football lineage.
Kalima said Smith shows his love for the game.
"He brings a lot of energy to a game," Kalima said. "He has that boyish enthusiasm. He has a real sense of football. He has that football moxie, that something you don't coach. He has some natural instincts. That's what makes him special."
Because both have size and athleticism, it didn't take long for Division I colleges to notice. Aigamaua said he has offers from Utah, Oregon State, San Diego State, Oregon and Boise State. Smith has offers from Arizona, Washington, Oregon, San Diego State, Colorado, Boise State and UH. Both plan to take the SDSU trip together after the season.
They won't necessarily play defensive end in college.
"As he fills out, I see (Smith) as a defensive tackle," Kalima said.
As for Aigamaua: "He can play down (lineman) or outside backer (in college). He has that kind of athletic ability."
Meanwhile, the duo is focused on Damien. While the Monarchs haven't beaten the Crusaders since 1982, the Saints are as pumped for this game as they were for Kamehameha ("There's no better rivalry than Saint Louis-Kam," Smith said.).
"We're all level-headed," said Smith. "We respect all our opponents."
And for sure, opponents respect Nos. 91 and 92.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.