Plenty at stake when Kamehameha and Punahou hook up


POSTED: Thursday, November 05, 2009

This is a tale of two seasons.

For this year's comeback kids in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, the season began with several bumps on the road. Then came redemption. Growth. A shot at the title.

Does the turnaround refer to Kamehameha? Or Punahou?

Try both. The title contenders meet tonight at Aloha Stadium in what amounts to an elimination game for Punahou, the defending state champion.

Kamehameha (9-1, 6-1) was a title contender coming into the season, but was voted No. 6—behind Saint Louis and Punahou—by coaches and media in the Star-Bulletin Preseason Football Top 10 in early August. The Warriors defense allowed five points total in wins over Hilo, Kailua and Waianae. Then came a stunning 20-17 loss to 'Iolani, and suddenly they were behind the curve in the cutthroat ILH Division I race.

What to do? Kamehameha figured it out in its next game, stifling Punahou in a 28-10 win. That triggered a six-game win streak. Tonight, the No. 2-ranked Warriors have a chance to seal an ILH title for the first time since 2004 against the same Buffanblu.

Of course, Punahou (5-4, 5-2) is not quite the same team today, either. After starting the preseason at No. 4, the Buffanblu lost to Kahuku (now ranked No. 1) and Mililani. By the time they lost to the Warriors, they were 1-3 overall, and a jubilant win over then-No. 1 Saint Louis was tempered by a 35-12 blowout loss at 'Iolani.

Even then, however, coach Kale Ane didn't lose his vision.

“;We've been down before,”; he said. “;You really don't know how great you can be 'til you're tested.”;

The Buffanblu have been tested. A bye week followed the loss to 'Iolani, and they've gone 3-0 since, averaging 35 points per game. They unveiled an old-school Wing attack, aka the wildcat, in a 26-3 win over Saint Louis with Jeremy Ioane and Steven Lakalaka in prominent roles. Running back Stabren Caires rumbled for a season-high 135 yards against Saint Louis.

The possibility of more wildcat—which really isn't much different from the concepts that former coach Charlie Ane, late father of Kale, brought to Punahou years ago—has to be intriguing and challenging for Kamehameha. Not that the Warriors are worriers, but they'll be prepared.

In their 10 games, Kamehameha's defense and a ball-control offense sparked by running back Ryan Ho have produced results. Opposing offenses have managed to score these game totals: 3 points, 2, 0, 20, 10, 0, 6, 20, 7 and 7. That's 7.5 points per game.

Pac-Five vs. Word of Life, Aloha Stadium

There is no other team that throws the ball as often as the Wolfpack (6-5, 3-5 ILH). Quarterback P.J. Minaya leads the league in passing yardage. He had a 279-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 33-14 win over the Firebrands a month ago.

WOL running back Awa Poggi has flourished in coach Joe Onosai's throwback offense, leading the ILH in rushing despite stacked defenses that put eight, nine and even 10 defenders in the box.