Defense, special teams spark Punahou in comeback win

Punahou outside linebacker Nathaniel Kia (8) celebrates with tD.J. Utu after returning an interception for a touchdown against Kamehameha . Jamm Aquino/

Defense. Special teams. Running game.

It was the kind of game that began with all kinds of expectations for No. 2 Punahou. During pre-game, Coach Kale Ane’s smile was all over the jumbo screen of the Aloha Stadium scoreboard. After Kamehameha jumped to a 14-7 lead late in the first half, there was nary a grin on the Buffanblu sideline.

Kamehameha senior running back Tanner Moku, who returned early from a sprained MCL, ran like a bull in the first half. The Warriors moved the chains, had two long drives, and led at the break 14-13.

Punahou’s rally for a 47-20 win just wasn’t as simple as the score might indicate. The front seven, among the best in the state, had rarely given up so many rushing first downs all season. Punahou linebacker Legend Matautia called Kamehameha’s offensive line “one of the best in the state.”

“They’re well coached. They came out with some new formations. They had a couple of guys that weren’t playing in the last game, so it was a little different for us. We had to adjust and once we got going, the game went well for us,” Matautia said. “We had to go back to basics. Halftime, we pretty much came up with kind of a new defense and it worked. We shut them out until later in the game.”

Matautia had a sack, and sophomore defensive end Tevarua Tafiti had two takedowns. Linebacker Nathaniel Kia, a junior, came up with a high-flying interception and return for a 27-yard TD in the second half. Kilinahe Mendiola-Jensen also came up with a pick.

Punahou’s offensive line took control in the trenches during the pivotal third quarter. Then came one of the most scintillating punt returns of recent memory. Vincent Terrell’s 70-yard TD might have been the smoothest, most seamless series of blocks and runback action since Devon Stubblefield of Saint Louis returned a kickoff for a TD years ago.

“I don’t usually catch the punt returns. I just ran with my blocks. Of course, the punt team made great blocks,” said Terrell, who also rushed for 115 yards and two TDs. “Dillon (Lundberg) made a block. Zander (Manuel), Legend, Hiram (deFries-Saronitman). The whole team made great blocks.”

Terrell finished with 209 all-purpose yards.

Now the Buffanblu can focus on a rematch with No. 1 Saint Louis. Punahou led the nationally-ranked Crusaders 16-6 at the half last time before losing 25-19.

“We’re going to enjoy the win tonight. We know Saturday, Sunday we’d better be on Hudl watching film because that’s a great team over there,” Terrell said. “We’ve always been that team for the past two years. We’ve always been so close. I think this team knows we can do it. We can be the team to break the streak. We can be the team to finally beat Saint Louis.”


  1. ILH October 26, 2019 11:40 pm

    I heard someone say Punahou needs to beat Saint Louis twice to get to the State Tournament, but i’m looking at the play off schedule and it has nothing scheduled for after Friday’s game between Saint Louis and Punahou, meaning this is a one time shot for both schools, again does not sound fair, Saint Louis won every game, Punahou beats Kamehameha in the ILH play off, but yet If Punahou wins they would be the ILH champions and go to the states, so this is another screwed up system by the ILH administration, Blane Gaison’s doing it again ? Maybe if Saint Louis was in Punahou’s situation Saint Louis would have to beat Punahou twice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email