The degree of difficulty was high, but it was Kamehameha’s game for the taking as the clock ticked down on Friday night at Aloha Stadium. It just wasn’t to be in a 21-17 loss to No. 4 Punahou, the Warriors’ second defeat to the Buffanblu in three weeks.
The Warriors had taken a three-point third-quarter lead on a field goal, a clear sign the Buffanblu’s nine-game streak in the series was in jeopardy. But the Buffs took the lead back on a 10-yard pass from Maninoa Tufuno to hulking tight end Solatoa Moea’i with 3:11 remaining.
Then, things looked truly shot when Warriors quarterback Thomas Yam fumbled in the backfield on a collision with running back Kanoa Shannon. The ball scooted away, recovered by Punahou’s Marist Liufau at the Warriors’ 20.
When Punahou went for a fourth-down attempt from the Warriors’ 16 — eschewing a 33-yard field goal attempt and a possible seven-point lead — the Buffanblu needed 6 yards for the fresh set of downs. They got 5 on a keeper by wildcat quarterback Tufono, one of a few signal-callers Punahou tried in relief of the ailing Stephen Barber.
“Playing against a team like Kamehameha, you’re never totally confident,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said. “We had a big discussion on the sidelines. It wasn’t unanimous. I kind of (overruled) everybody. Some kids were hurt in particular (on) the field-goal team, so we felt like maybe the best thing was to run some more time off the clock. Our defense was playing really well, and (we could) give them the opportunity to win the game for us.”
Thus, there was a chance for Yam to lead his team on an 89-yard drive for a game-winning score with 1:08 to go. But Kamehameha had already burned its three timeouts, adding significantly to the challenge.
It started off well. Yam found Shannon for 17 yards, and Yam got up to the line and spiked it. Yam then took off for an 11-yard keeper and got out of bounds. So far so good.
But Yam couldn’t see anything downfield. A 3-yard pass to Braden Akima (in bounds) got it up to the 42. Yam spiked it again, 22 seconds left.
He went incomplete to Shannon near the right sideline with 14 seconds left.
Yam’s final try was on a screen pass to Shannon, but Punahou had that bottled up for a loss of 3. Ball game. Ten straight for Punahou over Kamehameha.
Kamehameha (3-3 overall) dropped to 0-3 in the ILH with a second date coming against top-ranked Saint Louis next week. But, thanks in part to the return of Yam off the bench from an elbow injury, the Warriors were competitive offensively this time. He missed the 21-0 loss to Punahou on Sept. 9.
“To even walk out on the field with a minute-15 left and for those kids to look in (each other’s) eyes and see that they’re ready to go, we’re close,” Warriors coach Abu Maafala said. “This is the SEC of Hawaii football, and so any little mistake, it accumulates toward the end of the game. But for us to be in it at the end, comparatively to what we’ve been, very encouraging sign. At the end of the day, no moral victories, but a lot to improve on, a lot of good things to capitalize on and try to keep our team motivated so we can go win.”
Punahou (5-1 overall) improved to 2-1 in the ILH with a bye week coming, followed by an Oct. 7 rematch with Saint Louis.