Here is the rest of my preview on the Kaiser-Lahainaluna semifinal game in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships. The following was cut from my story that ran in Wednesday’s Star-Advertiser (subscriber content).
Another (Kaiser) senior, Thomas Buntenbah-Leong, is a converted cornerback who transferred from Kailua and jumped at the chance to carry the ball. The 5-11, 185-pound utility player has gained 658 yards (11 per attempt) and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He has also hauled in a team-high 18 receptions for 277 yards and two more TDs. He’s also a weapon on kick returns, utilizing his speed.
The Cougars will go to four-wide, shotgun sets with Kahoalii Karratti in the pocket. The former Konawaena slinger has passed for 1,339 yards and 11 TDs (with just six picks). His numbers were huge a year ago at Konawaena, but at Kaiser, he’s become more of an on-field coach, directing changes pre-snap flawlessly.
Kaiser opened up the playbook just a wee bit against Konawaena, using fulllback/linebacker player Parker Higgins as a play-action target out of the backfield. Even Fitou Fisiiahi lined up a couple of times as a tight end, hauling in a touchdown pass from Karratti.
“We can’t be so one-dimensional against good football teams like Lahainaluna because they’ll load the box on us,” Kaiser coach Rich Miano said. “We have a whole bunch of stuff we can do offensively. I just want to do it well. That’s what I’m concerned about, not the amount of packages and personnel groups we have. Just executing.”
There are a number of D-II teams with standout playmakers like Kaiser. But the difference is that the Cougars are fast, big and strong defensively and cover ground from sideline to sideline. That agility and speed will be necessary against Lahainaluna’s offensive package, an old-school offense with all of the modern amenities.
Lahainaluna has its biggest, strongest team ever, coach Garret Tihada said. But the Lunas have some proving to do before they feel like this is their best squad ever.
“It remains to be seen. It depends on how we do,” he said.