Punahou deep again


POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The doubters look at immense losses to graduation.

Defending state champion Punahou has moved forward, but just as a refresher, here's a good chunk of what they lost with the graduating class of 2009:

» Two-time All-State defensive player of the year Manti Te'o (Notre Dame)

» All-State first-team running back/wide receiver Dalton Hilliard (UCLA)

» All-State first-team wide receiver Robby Toma (Notre Dame)

» All-State second-team quarterback Cayman Shutter (Hawaii).

It doesn't end there. Kimo Makaula (Washington), their clutch tight end and backup quarterback — he probably would've started at most other programs as a passer — graduated, too. That team overwhelmed Leilehua 38-7 in the state final, but is hardly the same team this fall.

The good news for Punahou is four of the starters on the offensive line are back, to protect a newcomer at quarterback. Combine that with some playmakers on defense, and Punahou is ranked No. 4 in the Star-Bulletin Preseason Football Top 10.

2008: 12-1 (7-1 ILH)





        With the high school football season approaching, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10:

10. Waianae
        9. 'Iolani
        8. Mililani
        7. Kapolei
        6. Kamehameha
        5. Farrington
        4. Punahou
        3. Tomorrow
        2. Thursday
        1. Friday


On paper: Last year, even with the prolific offense and a defense that played its best after an early-season loss to Saint Louis, the Buffanblu needed a break to qualify for the state tournament.

“;We were lucky that Saint Louis was upset. We were very, very lucky we even got there,”; said coach Kale Ane, referring to the Crusaders' stunning midseason loss to 'Iolani that gave Punahou a second chance.

Back from the title team are left tackle Kaiwi Crabb, left guard Thurston Kino, Keenan Fa'atea (who has moved to center) and Kasey Romero, who shifted from center to right tackle.

“;He's a great center, but we need him out there for his quickness,”; Ane said.

Crabb, a second-team All-State selection, and the front five are quite familiar with offensive coordinator Darryl Kan's multiple formations. Kan asks linemen to protect in pass-happy shotgun formations and power-running offset-I sets, sometimes from one play to the next.

Former backup running back Stabren Caires, an electrifying kick returner, has the duties as the starting running back. Returning wide receiver Michael Suiter leads an unproven group.

At quarterback, Kaiana Eldredge and Liloa Travis are competing for the starting nod. Eldredge (6 feet, 180 pounds), son of former HPU baseball coach Boy Eldredge (now coach at Southern Utah), transferred from Utah to Punahou for his senior season.






Aug. 22 — Kahuku*

        Aug. 28 at Mililani

        Sept. 5 — Damien*

        Sept. 12 — Kamehameha*

        Sept. 18 — Saint Louis*

        Sept. 25 at 'Iolani

        Oct. 9 — Word of Life

        Oct. 17 — Saint Louis*

        Oct. 23— Pac-Five*

        Nov. 5 — Kamehameha*

        *-at Aloha Stadium

2008 (12-1)
» Punahou 37, Waianae 21
        » Punahou 41, Castle 14
        » Punahou 42, Central Kitsap 19
        » Saint Louis 40, Punahou 19
        » Punahou 28, Kamehameha 6
        » Punahou 44, Word of Life 6
        » Punahou 38, Damien 12
        » Punahou 49, 'Iolani 7
        » Punahou 57, Pac-Five 7
        » Punahou 21, Kamehameha 14
        » Punahou 41, Saint Louis 28




» Punahou 35, Farrington 28
        » Punahou 38, Leilehua 7


Travis, a burly 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior, looks more like a lineman, but has a cannon for an arm.

Like the offense, Punahou's defense returns six starters. Jonathan Sani Fuimaono will step up for Trevor Iosefa, a second-team All-State tackle who graduated. Linebacker Jeremy Ioane, also a second-team pick, has a knack for sacks. Ioane may see action at slotback and running back, too.

Sean McFadden, a returning second-team pick at safety, and Brian Suite bring vast experience to the secondary.

“;As the season goes along, the younger guys will develop and keep getting better,”; McFadden said.

Ioane and Kyle “;K.T.”; Tu'umalu will roam.

“;The linebackers and safeties are almost intertwined since we have a two-rover set,”; McFadden added.

The skinny: With roughly one month until the regular season begins, Punahou can afford to tinker and test new starters. A scrimmage with Farrington was a step in the right direction.

“;Farrington's very strong running the ball and that's something we've got to work on (defensively),”; Ane said. “;Our pass coverage is pretty good.”;

Timing on offense, with a new quarterback and virtually all new starters at skill positions, will take ... time.

Early on, the Buffanblu might just be in their share of low-scoring games.

“;As the season goes along, the younger guys will develop and keep getting better,”; McFadden said.

X factor: Sophomore Kamden Hilliard suffered another tough break. Hilliard, younger brother of Dalton Hilliard, was very impressive at the PIAA combine in early June, but suffered another knee injury and is out for the year. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound defensive end had been showing signs of potential.

“;With the graduation of our D-linemen, he would've fit right in,”; Ane said. “;It's sad 'cause he really worked hard. Hopefully, he rehabs well.”;

Punahou is getting a boost from Deforest Buckner, a varsity basketball player who also was a defensive end on the JV football team last season. The lanky 6-5 sophomore has a chance to make a difference.