Posted with permission, article and pictures, courtesy of Bedrock Sports Hawaii
Story by: Nick Abramo
Punahou is back on the map as one of the top handful of football teams in the state after the Buff ‘N Blue put down the hammah hard in a 52-7 rout of Waianae on Friday.
And for fans who were not there or didn’t catch it on TV, it’s not just the score that was impressive. It was the cohesiveness and aggressiveness and that “want-to” that Punahou showed and that great teams need to have.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. A 3-0 extra-fast start is wonderful for the Buff ‘N Blue faithful. But the toughest games are coming up and the team knows that all too well. First comes defending Open state champion Kahuku on the North Shore next Saturday. And then it’s six games against those ILH rocks otherwise known as defending Open league champion Saint Louis and Kamehameha.
Will Punahou be ready for that? It was only one year ago when the Buff ‘N Blue went 1-4 and lost their final game 35-0 to the Crusaders in the playoffs.
Despite that last-place finish in 2021, most observers now see Punahou as the front-runner heading into the ILH season, but that’s still only very much on paper. The real gauge of Buff ‘N Blue strength will come Saturday against those Red Raiders, who are off to a high-flying 2-0 start with a game at home against Leilehua tonight.
“Everything needs to get better,” said Punahou running back Alai Williams, who scored two touchdowns against the Seariders. “We gotta perfect what we have to do — our run game, our passing game, our defense – even though the defense had an amazing day today. Everything needs to get better.”
In a nutshell, tt was a complete victory with all units contributing, but the most impressive was the defense and its tremendous cohesiveness.
“They work as one — doing everything together,” Williams added.
Said linebacker Alika Cavaco-Amoy, “Somebody does good, we shake their hands. Somebody does bad, we pick them up. Mess up? Next play. That’s the mentality we had coming into this game.”
Cavaco-Amoy also talked about the way the offense has played: “We can run, we can pass, our O-line is great at blocking. We can throw the ball deep if we want to. We can throw the ball short. I think the versatility of our team is great this year.”
And Cavaco-Amoy even added a few solids for the linemen on the other side of the ball from him: “We’ve got (6 foot 2, 310-pound) Tui Muti, we’ve got Skyden Hanisi (6-2, 285) who is a dog and a captain, and a young guy, KJ Hallums (6-2, 275), who is only a sophomore and he’s real good.”
In the three games, powerful running backs Williams and teammate Iosepa Lyman have a combined seven TDs and 290 yards rushing, and no one is doubting the Punahou passing game of University of Hawaii commit John Keawe-Sagapolutele (550 yards and five TDs passing overall) to veterans Astin Hange, Kalen Smith, Noah Macapulay and Luke Uechi.
Against Waianae (1-2), three fumble recoveries and a blocked punt led to Buff ‘N Blue touchdowns. And the only points scored against Punahou’s defense in 2022 so far were by Waianae’s Akoni Halemano on a 2-yard run.
That 72-yard scoring drive by the Seariders was against the Buff ‘N Blue’s second-string defense — all the way to the Punahou 1. The starters went back in to stuff Waianae three straight times before Halemano’s bootleg TD that will likely be remembered as a learning moment because just before the snap a Buff ‘N Blue coach yelled “Watch out for the boot” so loudly that it could be heard in Honolulu.
Yes, on the field so far, Punahou is stocked with a complete team. But the fireworks are just beginning.
Thom Kaumeuyer, the Waianae coach, was asked to compare the relative strengths of Kahuku and Punahou. Last week, his Seariders lost to the Red Raiders 41-6.
“I think they’re similar on both sides, offense and defense,” Kaumeyer said. “I think Punahou’s passing game is a little bit more thought out as far as routes and combinations go, and Kahuku does a fantastic job as a team not making mistakes and capitalizing on mistakes by their opponents.”
Is Punahou going to be ready for the Red Raiders?
“We can’t let up,” Williams said. “Starting tomorrow (Saturday), we have practice already.”
“We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge of playing Kahuku,” coach Nate Kia added. “And then we go into ILH play and that high level of competition. It’s like a seven-game NBA series. Teams are making adjustments every time you play them. I feel good about our trajectory. Everybody has been executing at a higher level each week. For us, everything we do is execution and relentless effort every play. We present them with more challenges and they step up to it. Our goal every week is to be ready for the next test.”