Silverstein sealed it


POSTED: Sunday, December 07, 2008

There was one unexpected factor that played into Friday's title win by Punahou in the Division I final of the First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships.

Punahou's defense had allowed a meager 2.3 rushing yards per carry coming into the game. Leilehua, with only 41.8 rushing yards per game on offense (1.8 per attempt), reached the title game by gaining the edge on defense and special teams, as well as a dominant passing attack.

But when Punahou jumped to a 21-0 lead, life got simpler for Punahou's defense. The Buffanblu neutralized Leilehua's offensive weapons by air and ground en route to a surprisingly easy 38-7 win. Leilehua simply could not move the ball on the ground.

Fans expected a chess match, but Punahou made one move that was never quite countered. With Cayman Shutter's primary targets, Robby Toma and Dalton Hilliard, bottled up by the Mules, someone else had to be open.

That someone was Mark Silverstein, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior who had just 21 receptions and no touchdowns entering the final.

“;That's what we said. We told him and Galen (Arakawa), we knew they were going to double-team us,”; Hilliard said.

Toma said it wasn't the first time Silverstein came through.

“;He was our X-factor in the Kamehameha game, too,”; Toma said.

Silverstein caught passes in traffic and open spaces cleanly, finishing with nine catches, 146 yards and the game's first touchdown.

“;There were two defensive players closing on me. Usually, (Shutter) doesn't come to me. I usually run (the route) shallow, but I ran it deep,”; Silverstein said of his score.

Silverstein's success undid the best-laid defensive plans of Leilehua.

Defensively, Punahou's three down linemen, plus Manti Te'o, set the tone. Punahou's secondary provided more than enough cover on Leilehua's top three receivers, Edieson Dumlao, Rico Newman and Cheves Aberilla-Ramento. The trio combined for an average of 202.5 receiving yards per game until the final.

They finished with 136 yards.

“;Most of the time, they were playing bump-and-run,”; Dumlao said. “;Props to their corners.”;

Leilehua's offensive struggles, with constant stoppages of the clock, meant a long night at the office for its defense.

“;The score doesn't show how hard Leilehua played,”; Toma said. “;I'm busted up.”;