CLOSING THE BOOK: 2019 Punahou Buffanblu

Punahou receiver Raydan Kiaaina-Caires (25) celebrated with offensive lineman Trent Nomura (70) after his touchdown against Saint Louis. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

>> 10-2 overall, 7-1 ILH Open Division

>> Kale Ane is 154-67 in 21 seasons leading the Buffanblu.

>> LB Kahanu Kia, 6-2, 210, Jr.; DE Tevarua Tafiti, 6-2, 203, So.; QB John-Keawe Sagapolutele, 6-0, 185, Fr.; WR Raydan Kiaaina-Caires, 5-10, 158, Jr.; DB Kilinahe Mendiola-Jensen, 6-2, 153, Jr.



Punahou fans can lament not being in the state tournament, but they will have to get in a long line.

The 2019 Punahou Buffanblu won 10 games for the first time since Kale Ane‘s outstanding unbeaten squad in 2013 and was perhaps a healthy Hugh Brady away from joining those legends. This year’s defense might have been even better than that one, giving up 9.8 points per game while Saitui Moea’i‘s group gave up 9.7 with a far easier schedule. Those two units rate as the best in Ane’s long tenure in charge. 

The offense slipped to 29.3 points per game from the 35.4 Brady and his boys achieved the previous year.

With the help of that defense, which posted five shutouts to match the 2011 team, the Buffanblu had a point differential of 19.5 for its highest since 2014. That number ranks 10th-highest for an eligible Oahu team that failed to reach the state tournament. Five of those teams are ILH teams and David Tanuvasa‘s 2000 McKinley team leads the way with a 25.5 mark when the tournament was still in its infancy. That team fell to eventual state champion Kahuku in the first round of the OIA playoffs when star running back Va’a Fonoti broke his ankle in the first quarter.

Punahou’s historical equivalent is last year’s Moanalua crew, another outstanding defensive team that fell short with a late loss.

Ane joins a list of fellow coaching legends Wendell Look and Fred Salanoa as leaders who built great teams that turned in their pads before the state tournament. Only Kamehameha’s Kanani Souza has had his heart broken twice.

Highest ppg for a team to miss the state football tournament
1. 2010 Kahuku, 28.9 (10-0*)
2. 2018 St. Francis, 27.9 (1-8*)
3. 2000 McKinley, 25.5 (8-2)
4. 1999 Kaimuki, 23.1 (8-1)
5. 2013 Saint Louis, 22.9 (6-3)
6. 2000 Kamehameha, 22.3 (9-2)
7. 2001 Iolani, 21.4 (7-2)
8. 2008 Saint Louis, 20.4 (8-2)
9. 1999 Kamehameha, 19.9 (11-2)
10. 2013 Radford, 19.8 (7-3)
11. 2018 Moanalua, 19.6 (8-1)
12. 2019 Punahou, 19.5 (10-2)
*=Ineligible for state tournament.

Punahou’s season could have completely imploded when Brady went down in the second week against Farrington after putting up 353 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions in five quarters. In that brief moment, Punahou went from having a quarterback just 48 yards from 3,000 in his career (with 33 touchdowns and just nine interceptions) to feeding a freshman quarterback to the likes of Cal Lee and Abu Maafala

That freshman was John-Keawe Sagapolutele, and with Brady’s help he blossomed into one of the state’s best quarterbacks, leading the team with 2,068 yards and 16 touchdowns. Considering state career passing leader Dillon Gabriel had only 472 yards as a freshman, consider the Sagapolutele watch on. The youngster took a snap in every game this year and threw for at least one touchdown in every game except one after Brady’s injury. He was a game manager initially, but grew more confident as the year went along and had a 65-percent completion percentage against state-tournament teams Campbell, Saint Louis, Kahuku and Mililani, and a 55-percent mark against schools that have turned in their pads. He never went over 300 yards, but he did cover 271 against Kahuku’s stout defense.

Sophomore Ian Eveleth was a capable backup, getting into seven games and finishing with 198 yards on 23 attempts. 

For as good as Sagapolutele was, his presence slowed the Buffanblu into running 48.1 snaps per game after 63.3 the previous year during Brady’s peak. Ane wasn’t about to panic and turn to Kahuku’s caveman offense, but did have the luxury of calling 5-percent more running plays than the year before to make use of his team’s best playmaker in Vincent Terrell

Terrell finished 38 rushing yards away from becoming the first Punahou player since Wayne Taulapapa in 2015 to reach 1,000 yards in a season and was an even bigger threat on special teams. Like Taulapapa before him, Terrell was a one-man show in the backfield with 72 percent of the carries after splitting with Sitaveni Kaufusi and getting less than half last year.

Terrell didn’t start the job as the hog of the backfield, getting only four carries in the season opener against Kailua, but his responsibility grew immensely once Brady went down. Terrell broke out with 120 yards at Long Beach Poly and came home to torch Waianae for 179 yards and four touchdowns on only 12 carries. After being collared for 40 yards on 13 carries by powerful Saint Louis, Terrell torched Campbell for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Terrell’s last game over the century mark, and sixth of his career, came against Kamehameha the week before Saint Louis held him to 5 yards on nine carries.

Terrell got 104 carries when the team got back from California, the rest of the running backs got five. He led the private schools in the Open Division in rushing yards, collecting 393 more than runner-up Kawika Clemente of Kamehameha.

The receiving corps needed to step up without Brady. Tasked with replacing Tamatoa Falatea‘s 1,000-yard, 11-touchdown season from a year ago, Koa Eldredge was the man, leading the crew with 808 yards on 70 catches but only getting into the end zone five times. He finished his career with 133 catches, 1,879 yards and 20 touchdowns despite being in Falatea’s shadow.

His targets took a small dip when Sagapolutele took over, but he made up for it with an incredible 14 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in the first Saint Louis game, his only time over the century mark this season. He added nine more catches with a touchdown in the rematch, but was held to 64 yards. Raydan Kiaaina-Caires led the team in receiving touchdowns with six and covered 694 yards on 50 catches. He started the season with back-to-back games over 100 yards but didn’t do it again until week 11 against Kamehameh. He did haul in a season-high eight balls with a touchdown in the finale against the Crusaders.

Kiaaina-Caires and Eldredge were the only boys to catch at least one pass in every game, but Moku Dancil-Evans and Christopher Paige were nearly as reliable. Dancil-Evans started the season on fire with all three of his touchdowns in the first two games and ended up with 441 yards while Paige had the opposite experience with only three catches in the first five games but 20 after thatm sparked by an outstanding 5-144-1 line against Waianae for his only game over 67 yards. The Buffanblu had three different players go over 100 yards receiving in a game this year and another, Dancil-Evans, stopping at 99. The Buffanblu had only two players to reach the mark last year under Brady after having five receivers do it in 2016 with Stephen Barber and Nick Kapule. Senior Kanoa Kalahiki was off to a good start with nine catches and a touchdown in the first three games before he was injured against Kamehameha.

The sudden end to the season should ensure that the Buffanblu come back hungry next year, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the state — including Saint Louis. The loaded defense will return with Nathaniel Kia, Siupelimani Uluave and Andrew Canonico all returning for their last shot as seniors to try to accomplish what Legend Matautia, Zander Manuel and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Alaka’i Gilman couldn’t. The offense will have Sagapolutele and Eveleth returning under center but won’t have Brady’s invaluable support. They will have Kiaaina-Caires and Paige to throw to with one of them needing to fill Eldredge’s shoes. The running game will be a complete mystery with Terrell moving along with offensive linemen Mason Takamoto, Solatoa Moea’i, Trent Nomura and Michael Yamada. Zachary Johnson and Theodore Chun are the only returnees to have a carry this year, and they combined for only 39 yards on 12 carries. 

Punahou running back Vincent Terrell (19) was tough to tackle all season. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.


John-Keawe Sagapolutele12174-288-72,06816
Hugh Brady222-34-03535
Ian Eveleth714-23-21981
David Dikeman12-2-0431
Koa Eldredge121-2-0320
Vincent Terrell1216596213
Zachary Johnson38320
Nathaniel Kia124100
Theodore Chun2470
Legend Matautia12141
Koa Eldredge12230
Ian Eveleth61-30
Hugh Brady23-210
John-Keawe Sagapolutele1228-1210
Koa Eldredge12708085
Rayden Kiaaina-Caires12506946
Moku Dancil-Evans11334413
Christopher Paige10233474
Vincent Terrell12151462
Noa Takeyama24760
Kanoa Kalahiki39661
Payton Macapulay23501
Treyden Buder-Nakasone33260
Zachary Johnson32250
Kai Miyaki11131
Samuel Harvey1140
Patrick McInerny2230
Punahou receiver Moku Dancil-Evans (6) led the Buffanblu in receiving yards through the first four games. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
Punahou’s Hugh Brady threw five touchdown passes in the Buffanblu’s season opener against Kailua. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
Punahou’s Raydan Kiaaina-Caires ran downfield after a catch against Long Beach Poly. Photo by Victor M. Posadas/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Punahou celebrated a touchdown after a pick-6 by Alaka’i Gilman (11) in a 44-13 drubbing of No. 8 Kapolei. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
Punahou outside linebacker Nathaniel Kia (8) returned an interception for a touchdown against Kamehameha. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
Punahou defensive lineman Tevarua Tafiti (10) celebrated with teammates after running back a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Campbell. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
Punahou running back Vincent Terrell rushed for four touchdowns in a win over Waianae at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.


  1. LOu November 18, 2019 2:38 pm

    Next year. Win ILH go to STATES. Simple.

  2. ILH November 18, 2019 4:36 pm

    If Cal Lee remains at Saint Louis, Crusaders again the team to beat, I’m sure everyone at Punahou just hoping for Cal Lee to step down, but June Jones might be his replacement, lol

  3. really November 18, 2019 4:40 pm

    Sagapolutele is transferring to STL. That’s the buzz I am hearing.

  4. ILH November 18, 2019 5:37 pm

    They already knew what it takes to get to states so just gotta get ready again for next year. Just worry about punahou getting more kids to College than being in the State tournament. I think they only have 6 kids out of the whole team that has offers. OIA schools got about the same or more. Let’s concentrate on the more important issues.

  5. ilh November 18, 2019 5:59 pm

    Saint Louis don’t need Sagapolutele, Apo is already groomed to be ready next year, Sagapolutele can’t scramble, only pocket passer

  6. ILoveHawaii November 19, 2019 8:45 am


    What are you talking about?

    “Just worry about punahou getting more kids to College than being in the State tournament”


  7. ILH November 19, 2019 12:59 pm

    Football players in general. Academics I know they got that hands down but talking about the football players that deserves a scholarship to the next level just Incase they don’t get an academic scholarship. I know a lot of kids that graduated from their is paying for their schooling after graduation ( players). Nothing crazy just from what I see. Best school in the state though hands down.

  8. Politics November 19, 2019 3:17 pm

    Sad, the number 2 team in the state cannot play in the state tournament. Beat Kahuku, Mililani, and campbell and yet those 3 teams are in the state tournament? GEEZ, whats going on with this picture

  9. To da hale November 19, 2019 7:40 pm

    How many players (doesn’t matter which school) get a D1 offer and either can’t get in due to academics or can’t handle the academics and drop out.

    That’s a number or percentage I would be interested in…..

  10. ??? November 20, 2019 4:59 pm

    Stop crying & Listen to Post #1

  11. 9 | 6 | 7 | 6 | 2 November 20, 2019 5:50 pm

    Politics – brah, it’s been like this for how long and you still crying?

  12. be fair November 20, 2019 6:03 pm

    @ posts #1 & #10
    True and fair statement.
    However, on the flip side of those comments, how about Mililani and Campbell?
    Win the OIA or get out of the state tournament.

  13. Uneven Playing Field November 20, 2019 8:45 pm

    Agree with #12, apply that “win or go home” logic to Mililani and Campbell who’d be out. Punahou #2 team is out but Campbell less than .500 is playing Kahuku for the 3rd time this year and lost by more than 70 points in the previous 2 contests. Why is STL playing Mililani #3 in the rigged state tourney. No more 20 year olds playing for OIA teams based on the “No Child Left Behind” statute, no more crooked principals ignoring their own 2.0 rule and no more 15-25 GEs for Mililani, Leilehua, Moanalua and Campbell based on NCLB.

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