Kahuku hosts Punahou to headline the first weekend of the OIA-ILH alliance
JAY METZGER / SPECIAL TO THE HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER
Kahuku’s Wes Alo-Maiava ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns last week against Konawaena.
Two words of joy: Open Division.
Punahou and Kahuku are meeting in a regular-season game for the first time, and powerhouse football programs are drawing an even brighter light in Hawaii high school football as the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and Oahu Interscholastic Association battle in a combined, merged football schedule for the first time in almost a half-century.
Old Honolulu Stadium is long gone, having closed its doors in the mid-1970s. That left a void. There was nothing like the aura of playing inside those pink walls. The King Street facade declared the week’s UH football opponent — often enough a small-college powerhouse like the Texas A&I Javelinas — or a Hawaii Islanders Triple-A, PCL opponent like the Albuquerque Dukes.
But the scalper’s delight was to have an ILH tripleheader ducat. Before he went on to Michigan State and the NFL, Kale Ane was a junior lineman at Punahou in 1969, just before the public schools bolted and merged with the Rural Oahu Interscholastic Association to form the modern-day OIA.
“I remember they were tough games. Crowds were crazy and the atmosphere was electric. We’d have 20,000 fans at the old stadium. Kalani was tough. McKinley always had great athletes. Roosevelt had a couple of (college) D-I players. Kaimuki had great athletes,” said Ane, now in his 20th season as Punahou’s head coach. “We all grew up together. Then it felt like the Great Wall of Berlin went up.”
The wall is officially down now.
The Buffanblu were idle last weekend while No. 2 Kahuku rolled over Konawaena 61-9. The Red Raiders have the makings of a powerful, sleek offense, and Washington-bound Miki Ah You is in command of a disciplined Big Red defense.
Kahuku showed a willingness to play smashmouth and a certain frequency of aerial marksmanship by first-year starting quarterback Robbie Sauvao. He threw for three first-half touchdowns against Konawaena, set up by an offensive line that plowed consistently for running backs Wes Alo-Maiava (nine carries, 130 yards, three TDs) and Toalei Lefau.
Sterling Carvalho’s debut as head coach left quite an imprint: an offense willing to go to an accurate short passing game when the box is stacked. Carvalho didn’t get to witness the public/private schools version of the ILH, but he’s stoked about the changes.
“As a competitor, as a coach, we love the format. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. Now everything can be laid to rest. We can see each other in the regular season and postseason,” he said.
Punahou’s bye last week has left a bit of mystery.
“In a way, it’s a disadvantage. We want to see them, especially with a new offensive coordinator. We didn’t really get to see them or scout them to see the real Punahou,” Carvalho said.
Not so mysterious: Punahou’s 6-foot-3, 225-pound Maninoa Tufono. The state’s top-recruited linebacker released a video on Monday, announcing his oral commitment to Southern California.
“It’s very nice. I thought it was well done,” Ane said. “I wanted to get a popcorn and a soda. It was like being at a movie. I wasn’t even aware that he was making that commitment or decision. ”
Tufono is big and athletic, but his success this fall will be partly due to the defensive unit’s balance.
“He’s going to have a lot to do between the tackles,” Ane said. “We’re going to turn him loose at times. He likes to get in the action, take on blocks, shed them and get to the quarterback and running back. He’s an ideal linebacker with that mentality. He’s always had the ability, but always tried to do too much. Now he’s trusting his teammates to do their jobs. He’s learned to play within the process and still make big plays.”
Tufono’s presence in the trenches leaves little room for opposing playmakers.
“(Linebackers) Trent Shiraki, Legend Matautia, they’ll get a lot of action when the offense goes away from Maninoa. It’s a lot like when DeForest (Buckner) played defensive end for us,” Ane said.
It matters more than ever with a new starter in the pocket. Stephen Barber graduated, which means returnee Hugh Brady has the inside track over an athletic Kobe Muasau.
The receiver corps has a host of returnees, including Koa Eldredge, Tamatoa Falatea and Noa Takeyama. Punahou also has its version of thunder and lightning in the backfield with Sitiveni Kaufusi (6-3, 225) and Vincent Terrell.
The return of left tackle Duke Clemens is reassuring. The three-sport athlete committed to UCLA. Center Blake Feigenspan and right tackle Salatoa Moea‘i, who have D-I college offers, provide additional talent and experience.
The secondary is deep. Kainalu Pu‘u-Robinson and Jarrin Sato man the corners, with versatile, tall Kaulana Makaula playing corner and safety. Alaka‘i Gilman and Jonah Henry are over the top, while Marist Liufau is in a rover role that he could thrive in.
Not loaded enough? Place-kicker Tim Horn, with 60-yard range, committed to Washington in July.
PUNAHOU BUFFANBLU (0-0) AT KAHUKU RED RAIDERS (1-0)
Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Carlton Weimer Field
TV: Spectrum (1016)
Series record: Punahou leads 9-6
First meeting: Pun 40, Kah 0, Sept. 9, 1950
Last meeting: Pun 13, Kah 10, Nov. 15, 2014
Memorable meeting: The Red Raiders lost the first six games of the series and beat Punahou for the first time in the Shawn Akina Memorial Classic on Aug. 26, 1989 in Doug Semones’ debut as Kahuku head coach. Mark Atuaia rushed for 157 yards but fullback Andy Moeai handled the scoring with four rushing TDs, all 3 yards or less.