It was thought that ‘Iolani would be the team to watch out for on the injury front as it makes the jump to Division I.
Instead, it was Punahou that had to overcome some injury concerns to pull out a 59-22 win over the Raiders on Friday in a game that was close midway through the third quarter.
Junior Nick Kapule had to quarterback the final three quarters for the Buffanblu with starter Ephraim Tuliloa knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. Kapule went 15-for-25 for a career-high 301 yards and four touchdowns and took the game over with two extremely well-thrown balls for touchdowns after ‘Iolani had cut the Punahou lead to 28-22 midway through the third quarter.
“We’re very lucky to have three quality quarterbacks and we feel comfortable with all three of them,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said. “(Kapule) was a little nervous at first but it was nice to give him some action. He picked it up and the receivers made some great catches.”
Tuliloa exited with a shoulder injury that Ane said wasn’t serious, but “we didn’t want to take any chances.”
Kapule made some great throws but was also helped out by some unbelievable catches. The best was a diving grab, full extension, by Ethan Takeyama in the middle of the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown that made it 21-3 in the second quarter.
Punahou also played part of the game without starter Wayne Taulapapa, who was hurt on the second drive. Backup Enoch Hanawahine scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to make it 14-3 while Taulapapa rested.
Punahou held a comfortable 28-9 lead when the Raiders scored on a late touchdown pass from Tai-John Mizutani to Keoni-Kordell Makekau to make it 28-15 at halftime. The Buffanblu had a chance to score late in the half but Helam Baldomero picked off a Kapule pass in the end zone.
The Raiders then drove the length of the field, helped out by a fourth-down penalty by the Buffanblu, and scored on another touchdown pass from Mizutani to Makekau that made it a one-possession game at 28-22 in the third quarter.
A 43-yard field goal by Jet Toner made it a two-possession game and then the Buffanblu exploded for 28 points over a six-minute stretch, helped out by two interceptions to turn the game into a blowout.
Taulapapa came back into the game to score twice and finish with 66 yards on 14 carries.
“Everyone stayed focus,” Kapule said.
Ane said the Buffanblu had a lot to worry about this game. Just six days earlier, the team was in California coming back from a 15-0 deficit to beat a talented Del Oro team 22-15 at Memorial Stadium.
Punahou has enjoyed a lot of success against ‘Iolani in recent years, winning 14 of the last 16 meetings, but Ane has always been very complimentary of the ‘Iolani coaching staff and knew the Raiders had the capability to make it a game as it did for two-plus quarters.
“I was concerned with everything,” Ane said. “Coming off a trip with not even a week of rest, the pro’s don’t even do that really. We played against a tenacious team — the weather was hot — and we weren’t even sure we would play (due to rain). There were a lot of distractions but the kids were resilient and I’m real proud of them.”
It took a solid effort from Kapule, who now leads the Buffanblu in passing. He’s 27-for-42 for 527 yards and six touchdowns with one interception while Tuliloa is 39-for-66 for 518 yards and eight touchdowns with two picks.
Is there a QB controversy? That remains to be seen. Kapule did his a job as a backup as he was clearly prepared to take the field Friday.
“When (Tuliloa) went down, I was ready,” Kapule said. “(The receivers) were making plays for me and making me look good.”
The Buffanblu (4-0, 1-0), who have won the last four ILH Division I titles, face Kamehameha next week at Aloha Stadium.