HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punahou's Kainoa Carlson went through a hole created by the Buffanblu offensive line in the first half of last night's game.
Punahou puts away Aiea
Punahou set the tempo, and with that came another victory.
Brett Kan threw two touchdown passes as Punahou overwhelmed Aiea 35-14 last night in the opening round of the HHSAA/First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships.
State Football Championships
Waianae vs. Kahuku, at Aloha Stadium, 4 or 7 p.m.
Punahou vs. Baldwin, at Aloha Stadium, 4 or 7 p.m.
Moanalua at Iolani, 2 p.m.
Kamehameha-Maui at Radford, 7:30 p.m.
Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Punahou (10-2) will meet Maui Interscholastic League titlist Baldwin on Saturday in the tourney semifinals. Aiea, ranked No. 5 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, finished the season 8-4.
A crowd of 5,297 at Aloha Stadium saw the Buffanblu control the tempo offensively, defensively, and for the most part, with special teams. Punahou's defense racked up five sacks by five different players, while Kan directed a balanced offensive attack. Kan passed for 258 yards, completing 22 of 34 attempts with two interceptions.
"Aiea's a very athletic team and they never give up. We knew they'd have a creative offense. We had to take away their screens and draws," Punahou coach Kale Ane said. "Their special teams made life miserable for us."
Conversely, Punahou's balanced offense kept Aiea on the field for long stretches of time. Punahou's edge in time of possession was 28 minutes, 49 seconds to Aiea's 19:11.
Miah Ostrowski caught nine passes for 100 yards, including two touchdowns. River Kim added seven receptions for 89 yards. Punahou's balance, however, is still a key part of the offense. The Buffanblu rushed 33 times for 124 yards, reaching a near-50 percent run-pass ratio for a second game in a row.
Third-ranked Punahou, playing on just five days' rest, kept Aiea's explosive offense under wraps much of the night. Na Alii quarterback Kali Kuia overcame a tough first half to finish with 209 passing yards on 16-of-31 accuracy. He was intercepted three times by an opportunistic Punahou defense that often sat back in a zone and rushed three linemen and a mix of blitzers. One of them was Sam Higgins, who got to Kuia on a second-half play-action call.
"In the OIA, every team bit on that play-action," Aiea coach Wendell Say noted. "But Punahou stayed on it. They have good discipline."
Higgins, a highly effective rover, knew the defensive unit had to be well-prepared despite the short week. "Most OIA teams we've played, they run a lot. We haven't played a physical passing team like Aiea," the senior said.
Keeping Aiea's dangerous receiving corps in control was a key. "We wanted to contain No. 3 (Lofa Liilii) and the quarterback. We pressed (Liilii) with a safety or linebacker with a zone behind him," Higgins said. "The quickness and route combinations they use are like no other teams."
Liilii finished with seven catches for 89 yards. He also ran for 52 yards and passed for 56 in a relief role. He returned two kickoffs for 145 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown, and two punts for 9 yards. Josh Blakemore added seven receptions for 91 yards.
Their offenses came from the same run-and-shoot DNA, but the two teams certainly weren't clones. After a quick three-and-out series to start the game, Punahou used a mix of formations to score on its next three possessions.
Ostrowski returned a punt 71 yards, cutting to the left sideline and breaking a tackle near the Aiea 20-yard line for the game's first touchdown. "I got good blocks from Maika (Murashige) and Dane (Costa)," Ostrowski said.
The Buffanblu led 7-0 with 9:59 to play in the opening quarter.
Aiea, which didn't have a single first down until the final minute of the first half, punted right back to the Buffanblu. Kan directed a 67-yard drive in six plays. Completions of 41 and 13 yards from Kan to Kim anchored the drive, setting up Colin Viloria's 13-yard touchdown run off left tackle. That gave Punahou a 14-0 lead with 6:47 remaining in the first quarter.
Aiea's shotgun attack continued to struggle, while Punahou mixed its run-and-shoot sets with offset-I slot formations. Kan efficiently guided Punahou on another scoring drive, a 66-yard march in 10 plays. Viloria scored his second touchdown, a 5-yard burst, to give his team a 21-0 lead with 1:06 remaining in the first quarter.
Punahou had little time to celebrate. Liilii returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards up the left sideline for Aiea's first score. Punahou's Higgins blocked the PAT attempt, but the lead was cut to 21-6 with 52 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The next two Punahou drives were stopped by the Buffanblu. Ostrowski dropped a sure touchdown pass. Then the Buffanblu drove to the Aiea 5-yard line late in the second quarter, but Kan missed Ostrowski, who got a hand on the pass. Adrian Labuda made a diving interception in the back of the end zone to end the threat.
However, Aiea's offense still petered out. Kuia's bomb to Liilii was no match for Punahou's double team, and Murashige intercepted on a diving catch at the Aiea 48-yard line. After a 20-yard pass to Kainoa Carlson, Kan found Ostrowski for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
No. 3 Punahou 35, No. 5 Aiea 14
At Aloha Stadium
Pun--Miah Ostrowski 71 punt return (River Kim kick).
Pun--Colin Viloria 13 run (Kim kick).
Pun--Viloria 5 run (Kim kick).
Aiea--Lofa Liilii 97 kickoff return (kick blocked).
Pun--Ostrowski 20 pass from Brett Kan (Kim kick).
Pun--Ostrowski 9 pass from Kan (Kim kick).
Aiea--Lahaina Olsen-Kuroda 6 pass from Kali Kuia (Liilii pass from Kuia).
Rushing--Punahou: Viloria 9-44, Kainoa Carlson 11-37, Christopher Wong 5-16, Kan 5-13, Zac Yamagishi 1-4, Matt Solomona 2-3. Aiea: Liilii 6-32, Matt Higa 4-10, Landon Dela Cruz 1-5, Kuia 7-(-2).
Passing--Punahou: Kan 22-34-2-258, Pono Akina 0-1-1-0. Aiea: Kuia 16-31-3-209, Liilii 3-4-0-56, Keenan Naole 1-4-0-11.
Receiving--Punahou: Ostrowski 8-100, River Kim 7-89, Carlson 4-52, Kyle Whitford 2-7, Yamagishi 1-10. Aiea: Josh Blakemore 7-91, Liilii 7-89, James Buchanan 2-51, Olsen-Kuroda 2-18, Joshua Asuncion 1-12.