Part 3 (post game)
Punahou won the ILH championship with a 38-12 win over Kamehameha.
It is easy to forget, sometimes, how dominant this Kamehameha offense line and defense were this season. The Warriors have a grand total of two losses, and both came against No. 1 Punahou.
It’s been a special year for ILH football. Punahou remains unbeaten after this 38-12 win over Kamehameha, and this follows a string of games that included a trip to Southern California, where the Buffanblu beat heralded Helix 10-6.
The world of sports, like anything else, goes in cycles. This year, the cycle burned hot on the gridiron, where there are superb seniors, outstanding juniors and quite a few exceptional sophomores. One is Punahou running back Wayne Taulapapa, who has thrived in whatever formation his coaches ask of him.
On this night, Taulapapa was up against a very focused Kamehameha defense. Little did the Warriors know that the nimble playmakers is also a gifted pass catcher. For the first time this season, Taulapapa scored two touchdowns on receptions, creating scores with his agility and determination.
The one time Punahou ran that three-RB triple option, it was merely a ploy. Luke Morris threw a halfback option pass deep and incomplete. Kamehameha had it completely read, as a well-prepared defense would. But it was clear that Punahou was willing and able to shift gears at the start. After getting bottled up in its two-back sets on the ground in the opening series, the Buffanblu were all about four- and five-wide sets.
They even did the ‘Iolani thing (or is it vice-versa?) and lined up four receivers on one side of the field, with Kanawai Noa on the other. With the Kamehameha offense unable to sustain drives early, their defense eventually wore down. Covering five receivers in open, deep space was a huge challenge. It got to the point where the Warriors went cover-2, and the safeties rotated deeper at the snap.
That left all kinds of space underneath for Punahou tight end Dakota Torres. The Buffanblu also took advantage of the huge cushion given to wide receiver Kanawai Noa, who caught everything that Larry Tuileta sent his way for three quarters, mostly on out routes. Noa is playing with a cast on his right arm, the result of torn ligaments between his thumb and index finger.
It’s probably a wee bit crazy to play WR with that injury, but he was stellar. The only time the injury showed was late in the game on a couple of drops, but he was nothing short of spectacular, baiting the secondary with those out patterns until he drew tight coverage and burned the Warriors on a 39-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Noa finished with 11 grabs for 147 yards.
Defensively, it’s tough to argue against Punahou as the best in the state. I’d put Kamehameha right there with them, normally, but this was the third game of the season for defensive end Canton Kaumatule. He was dominant. He chased down Kamehameha’s lightning-quick running back, Kainoa Simao, at least twice, in the backfield. He literally shoved blockers out of the way, something that pretty much nobody did this season against an outstanding group.
All in all, Punahou was ready in every way. Well, except for those errors by the punt team that led to nine Kamehameha points. Nobody’s perfect.