Punahou-Saint Louis showdown tops tomorrow’s games
Can anyone really talk about tomorrow's games without mentioning Punahou and Saint Louis?
Better yet, for those who wish the game was televised, stop wishing.
When No. 1 Punahou and No. 3 Saint Louis strap on the gear for their first matchup of the fall tomorrow, there will be fans at Aloha Stadium. Thousands of fans. Renting out the stadium costs money, lots of it. A TV broadcast would pull fans out of the stadium and kill gate revenue.
No TV is what works best for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu when it comes to rivalry games. So why does the public-school Oahu Interscholastic Association continue to televise games? Simple. There's no rental fee involved. The OIA plays games at school fields.
As for the Crusaders and Buffanblu on the field, it's been a back-and-forth relationship. Last year, Saint Louis won 28-14 and 7-0 en route to an ILH championship and runner-up finish at the state tourney. No foe has beaten the Crusaders in league play the past two seasons. Saint Louis went 22-2 in that span, losing only in state finals.
For first-year head coach John Hao, all the hoopla means little.
"I know there's going to be a lot of hype and a lot of people are going to be there," the former UH quarterback said.
Punahou has been looking up at the Crusaders since going to the state title game in 2005. Memories of that 28-21 loss - Kahuku stopped the Buffs inside the 10-yard line in the final minute - have lingered.
Can Punahou (3-0, 0-0 ILH) seize its destiny? Or are D-I gems Manti Te'o, Dalton Hilliard, Cayman Shutter, Kimo Makaula and Robbie Toma fated to finish second to the mighty Saints?
Hao has made the run-and-shoot a mainstay at Kalaepohaku again. It is what Hao, the former Saint Louis all-state quarterback, knows best. Though he promised new wrinkles since the start of fall camp, the Crusaders have done just fine out of their four-receiver sets.
"I haven't let the cat out of the hat yet," said Hao, who noted that Waianae ran directly at Punahou's defensive stud, Te'o.
"Against the best, you want your best position guy on him whether it's my best offensive lineman or running back or slotback," Hao said.
Crusader wideouts Billy Stutzmann and Lucas Gonsalves thrive on short and long patterns alike. First-year starter Jeremy Higgins has confidence in his deep ball, making the Crusaders attack lethal. He's thrown for 407 yards and four touchdowns on 35-for-48 passing. He's tossed just two picks and has run for a pair of scores.
Running back Austin Wakinekona has rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries, but he's also a threat as a receiver.
Punahou won't be averse to stocking its defense with Makaula (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), Hilliard and more.
"They're impact players regardless of offense or defense," Punahou coach Kale Ane said. "Their athletic ability and defense helps on both sides of the ball."
The two-way players should help significantly against the run-and-shoot, but if Hao throws in new stuff from the playbook, the strategy might not matter.
Shutter, who injured his shoulder in a nonconference game against Castle, isn't inked in as a starter yet.
"It's day to day. He's feeling much better," Ane said of Shutter, who watched last weekend's win over Central Kitsap from the press box. "He knows the meaning of this game. Cayman and Kimo both bring different things to the table."
In his start against Waianae three weeks ago, Shutter threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. His main target, Toma, has been astounding. In the games with Waianae and Castle, he was targeted 16 times by his passers and made 15 catches for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Against Central Kitsap, Toma added eight more receptions for 177 yards and another score.
Te'o had 14 tackles in a little more than two quarters of action.
How crucial is this game? Before returning to the islands from the Northwest on Monday, Punahou spent Sunday in a walk-through on a practice field at the University of Washington.
"It's a short week. We came back Monday and really couldn't do much practice. It was important to just get together," Ane said. "We had to move on to the next thing."
While Punahou offers multiple sets - four-receiver shotgun, shotgun with two running backs and I slot - Saint Louis had a bye last weekend to do extra preparation.
"John's very good with strategy and they have great coaches there. I'm sure they're dissecting every bit of information they can get," Ane said.
Hao won't be surprised with a low-scoring game. Saint Louis' defense, led by linebacker Joe Lacaden, may be vastly underrated.
"If it wasn't for our defense, the game with Farrington would've been closer. The battle's going to be won in the trenches," he promised.
Saint Louis and Punahou. Could there be a better rivalry?
Damien vs. Pac-Five
The Monarchs (3-1, 0-1 ILH) tasted defeat for the first time in coach Wally Aina's return. Pac-Five (2-2, 0-1 ILH) is coming off a brilliant passing performance, but Damien has more depth than Word of Life had last week.
No. 5 Farrington vs. McKinley
The Tigers (1-2, 1-0 OIA Red East) have a dangerous offensive tandem in Will Starks-Togiai and Tana Woodward, but Farrington (3-1, 2-0) specializes in defense.
Pearl City at Mililani
Pearl City's Colby Young threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns against Waianae. Sky Kaapuni has emerged as a an elite receiver for the Chargers (0-4, 0-2 OIA Red West). Mililani (1-3, 1-1) broke a drought with a big win over Waipahu last week.
Anuenue at Aiea
Na Alii (1-3, 0-3 OIA White) surrendered just 190 yards in the loss to Kalaheo. Anuenue (0-4, 0-3) ran for 277 yards against Moanalua with its new double-wing offense.
Lahainaluna at KS-Maui
The Lunas (1-1, 0-0 MIL) haven't played since shutting out Keaau 28-0 two weeks ago.
Konawaena at Kohala
Both teams are vastly improved in one of the state's toughest D-II leagues. The Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 BIIF) have won on the road already, but Kohala (3-0, 1-0 BIIF) is coming off a huge win at HPA.
Kealakehe at Hilo
The Waveriders (1-2, 0-0 BIIF) have been biding their time since losing to Kahuku two weeks ago. Hilo (0-2, 0-1) could rattle the BIIF D-I race with an upset.