Thursday night’s battle between Punahou and Mililani was waged on many fronts. One of the most important featured Punahou’s left tackle trying to contain Mililani defensive end Kelii Padello. It was very much a heavyweight title fight, so let’s treat it as such.
In one corner, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 310 pounds, Punahou junior Semisi Uluave. In the other corner, Mililani’s Padello (5-11, 200). Let’s get ready to rumble!
Padello hit the field for Punahou’s first offensive series like Aaron Pryor against Alexis Arguello — all out. Uluave sprinted from his position and ate up Mililani linebacker Jacob Afele before setting his sights on defensive back Jaren Zadio. Padello didn’t engage with the tackle on that play, but he certainly did for the rest of the series. Padello beat Uluave to the edge on Punahou’s second offensive snap, and all Uluave could do was wrap his arm under the speedster’s helmet. Padello begged for the call and the ref bought it and threw the flag as Uluave protested. Holding.
After showing Uluave his speed, Padello bull-rushed Uluave on the next snap and collected the quarterback with him for a sack. Padello then beat Uluave on an inside spin move to pressure Punahou quarterback Larry Tuileta again. Punahou ended the series with a punt. The round goes to Padello, 10-8.
Uluave came out for Punahou’s second series with a purpose, using his long arms to neutralize Padello on the first snap. Padello went around him on the second snap, but Punahou tight end Dakota Torres picked him up and did so again on the third play. Padello showed off his strength again on the next play, pushing Uluave back while teammate Rex Manu picked up Mililani’s second sack. Padello got the Trojans’ third sack two plays later when he beat Uluave on another speed rush and hit Tuileta hard from the blind side. Padello wins the second round 10-8.
“I wanted to use my speed more,” Padello said. “I just wanted to get to the edge and get penetration from there.”
Padello, who had been in a 2-point stance previously, dropped down to a 3-point stance and wasn’t nearly as effective. Uluave got to his man before he could make a move and dominated him on the first snap of the third series. Padello responded with an inside move on the next play, getting to Tuileta a split second after the QB got rid of it. Uluave won the next four battles easily, but Padello earned another hurry on the last play of the series when he stood up to use his first step. Round goes to Uluave, 10-9.
“We came out a bit rusty,” Uluave said. “We had two weeks off after the Farrington scrimmage, but after the rust came off and the jitters came out, we got to pound a little bit. Their defensive ends were really fast. They gave us great challenges today. I give them props. They were really good. For me, my advantage is I know the count. I have to get off the count as fast as I can and get my hands on their chest. They got me a good amount of times, so I know what I’ve got to work on.”
Uluave is figuring out Padello’s game and wins the first three snaps before letting Padello past him on the fourth but delaying him long enough for Tuileta to scramble to safety. Padello got a hand on Tuileta on the last play of the drive, but the veteran QB slid out of the danger and hit Luke Morris on fourth and 6 for the first score of the game. Round goes to Uluave, 10-9.
Punahou begins its fifth series by staying on the ground, and Uluave is a road grader. The combatants engage seven times on a long Punahou drive that ends with another touchdown pass, and Uluave wins each of them. The Buffanblu run the first three plays and pass on the next four. Round goes to Uluave, 10-8.
Now it’s Padello’s time to adjust. Uluave wins the first exchange, but Padello comes back and threatens Tuileta on a speed rush on the second snap. Davis Miyashiro-Saipa’ia helps Uluave with Padello and the pair swallow him up on one play, but after getting single coverage on the next, Padello hurries Tuileta again with a bull-rush. Fullback Kotoni Sekona helps Uluave with Padello on the last play of the series, but that allows Mililani’s Kaimana Padello to get a sack and force Punahou to punt. Round tied 10-10.
Padello begins the second half on fire, beating Uluave with a speed rush on the first play for another sack. Uluave punishes him on the next play, but Padello comes back with another speed rush on the third snap and nearly gets to Tuileta, who evades trouble. Uluave grounds Padello down on the next three plays. Round goes to Padello, 10-9.
Padello tries something different on Punahou’s second series of the second half, lining up on the left side away from Uluave. Senior right tackle Jared Caputy handles Padello on the first snap while Uluave controls Kaimana Padello. Uluave keeps his edge over Kaimana Padello, but Kelii Padello beats Caputy on the fifth play of the drive for his fourth sack. He went to the sideline after the sack and didn’t return. Punahou took advantage of it, scoring another touchdown on a run by Sekona. Round even, 10-10, since they never engaged.
“He’s heckuva fast,” Uluave said. “I told him when we were shaking hands, he’s a heckuva athlete. I give him props. When I saw him move to the right side, I realized me and him were having a good battle, now it’s time for him to see what he could do on the right side. I never underestimate my opponents. He’s a really good athlete, straight up.”
Padello begins the next series matched up with Caputy and is ineffective, so he moves back to Uluave’s side. Uluave overwhelms Padello on three straight plays before the defensive end goes to the sideline with a cramp and misses the rest of the series with his helmet off and chugging Gatorade. Padello keeps his helmet on for much of the second half, but stays put on the bench, only rising to stretch a little bit to work the cramps out. He would not return. Uluave, 10-8.
And the winner is…
Padello caused havoc for Uluave initially, but the junior offensive tackle grinds out a win in the money rounds, 85-84.
“I just need to hydrate more,” Padello said. “Get more electrolytes and stuff. We’ve still got a whole season ahead.”