Give Mililani a little assist for helping Punahou into its third straight state championship game.
The Trojans had their way with Punahou’s offensive line in the Buffanblu’s 24-14 win at Mililani early in the season, specifically defensive end Kelii Padello. All Padello did was torch both of Punahou’s tackles for four sacks and keep pressure on Punahou quarterback Larry Tuileta throughout. Punahou went to work immediately after the win, moving Semisi Uluave from tackle to guard and putting Davis Miyashiro-Saipa’ia in Uluave’s spot on the edge.
So does Padello get the credit for pushing one of the finest offensive linemen in the state out of his position? Uluave’s coach says not to get carried away.
“(Padello) gets credit for being a really good player,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said. “If you don’t adjust to things, usually they keep happening again and again. We try to do things to help our team be better and that was one of the things we thought might help.”
Punahou probably still would have run the table with Uluave at tackle, but his shift inside helped build a powerful running game that it didn’t have early in the year. The Buffanblu went into the season expecting a Tuileta-Kanawai Noa connection to be there when it needed tough yards, but quickly learned that sophomore Wayne Taulapapa running behind 310-pound Uluave and 260-pound fullback Reupena Fitisemanu was a pretty effective weapon. Uluave has lined up in the backfield at times, too.
“(Uluave) is just a big beast who creates space,” Ane said. “He is a load wherever he is at. He is going to be able to play all three positions (guard, center, tackle) eventually and that makes him more versatile at all levels, especially the next one.”
Even though Uluave will not have to contend with Padello’s speed, he certainly won’t have it easy. Mililani is stacked all down the line. Tackle Rex Manu, who played at Punahou as a freshman, had three sacks against Campbell in the semifinals mostly because Tamatoa Silva ate up blockers for him from the other tackle spot. Silva missed the Punahou game, but Manu still had a sack in that one. For all of the beef lined up across from Uluave, Kainoa McCauley and Julius-Pedro Mausau, containing Padello will be the most important task. The senior has 19 sacks this year.
“We are going to try different things, just be aware of him,” Ane said. “They have got great guys inside, Rex Manu and (Tamatoa) Silva and their other guys are good too. You can’t really load up on one guy so it makes it tough. You have to get the ball out quickly, maybe move the pocket a little bit and run the ball. You have to run the ball.”
Uluave had the decided edge on running plays against Padello — Uluave probably has the edge against anyone in the state when he is run blocking — in the first meeting but got ate up on the passing plays. Now he hands that duty off to tackles Miyashiro-Saipa’ia and Jared Caputy.
Punahou worked on plenty of one-on-one coverage in practice yesterday, but Padello has certainly caught the Buffanblu’s attention.
“I still remember, it is not that long ago,” Ane said. “We are hoping for a different scenario this time around, he is a battler. He challenges you and he never quits and you really respect people like that.”
Thursday practice notes: Kanawai Noa still has a black cast on his hand, but it didn’t effect him. He made a lot of catches on deep balls in the second half of a practice that didn’t end until after the sun went down … The Buffanblu practiced just as long on Wednesday, while the Trojans were on the field for no more than an hour and a half … Kicker Charles McDonald booted 40-yarders with ease … Punahou basketball coach Darren Matsuda had his boys running sprints on the track before taking them into the gym. There is not much he can do, though, he said, he has 11 players on the football team … Defensive end Canton Kaumatule did not participate early — he was getting treatment for his various injuries — but Ane said he will be ready … The Buffanblu spent a lot of time with balls in the air, and Tuileta looked sharp even if a few of his receivers didn’t.