By Billy Hull
No. 10 Punahou remained in the chase for a state tournament berth with its second victory of the season over No. 4 Saint Louis.
Stabren Caires rushed for 135 yards, and the Buffanblu picked off three Jeremy Higgins passes in the second half to preserve a 26-3 victory last night at Aloha Stadium.
Punahou (4-4, 4-2 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) crept within a half-game of league-leading Kamehameha, while Saint Louis (6-3, 3-3) likely saw its playoff hopes come to an end. The Buffanblu and Warriors will meet in the regular-season finale for both teams on Nov. 5.
“We know that we’ve got to win every single game we play if we want to continue our season,” said Punahou defensive back Brian Suite, who had eight tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
The Buffanblu executed in all stages of the game, but most notable was their ability to hold the Crusaders to a season-low three points.
Punahou frustrated Higgins, who despite completing 33 of 48 passes, couldn’t find the end zone. He was picked three times in the second half and only threw for 270 yards as the Punahou defensive backs kept the Saint Louis receivers from getting behind them.
“The kids tackled well, because even when you throw short their receivers are real dangerous,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said. “This definitely was one of our better performances.”
Higgins opened the game on fire, completing his first six passes on Saint Louis’ opening drive to get to the Punahou 1. But the Buffanblu escaped without allowing any points as Jesse Correa missed a 22-yard field-goal try.
Punahou responded by marching down the field, needing just six plays to go 75 yards. A big 40-yard pass from Jeremy Ioane to Jeff Pedrina set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Caires to put Punahou up 6-0.
The teams traded field goals in the second quarter as Punahou led 9-3 at intermission despite converting only four first downs to Saint Louis’ 13. Higgins completed 19 of 25 passes in the first half, but nearly all of them were short attempts in the flat as the Crusaders struggled to get anything deep.
“Our game plan from the beginning was as long as we could keep them underneath, we would be all good,” Suite said.
Jordan Fukumoto had 10 catches for 70 yards at the break, including four on the final drive before halftime to set up Correa’s 24-yard field goal as time expired to make it a one-possession game.
After J. Fairbairn’s second field goal gave the Buffanblu a 12-3 lead, Punahou tightened up its defense. Suite’s interception return put the Buffanblu up 16, and from that point on, Saint Louis fell apart.
On the final play of the third quarter, Higgins scrambled to his left and made an ill-advised throw that was intercepted by Sean McFadden, killing another Crusaders drive.
Saint Louis was able to force a quick three and out, but Higgins continued some poor decision-making, forcing another pass right into the teeth of the Buffanblu defense that was picked off by Roy Fuchigami.
No. 7 ‘Iolani 42, Pac-Five 17
Raiders quarterback Jarrett Arakawa passed for 254 yards and four touchdowns as ‘Iolani clinched the ILH berth in the Division II state tournament.
The Raiders (8-2, 6-1) scored two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes of the first half to lead 21-3 at intermission. Wolfpack quarterback P.J. Minaya found London Amorin for a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter to cut the lead to 28-10.
But the Raiders put it away as Arakawa had scoring strikes of 51 yards to Kasey Takahashi and 33 to Trevyn Tulonghari.
Darin Kamealoha led Pac-Five (5-4, 2-4) with 100 receiving yards, and Amorin and Chalson Baition caught touchdown passes.
Minaya finished 34-for-56 for 322 yards and two interceptions.