Laie Park is embedded in the souls of Alaka‘i Gilman and Solatoa Moeai.
Whether it was football games or playing POGs with childhood friends there, the two Punahou seniors are born and bred Laie Park. But as a huge cog in Punahou’s defense and offense, any matchup against Kahuku and his old pals is special.
Punahou prevailed in a battle to the finish on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium. Gilman’s interception in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter was a huge play for No. 2 Punahou in a 21-13 victory. When Kahuku sophomore Tiger Adolpho scrambled and looked to the left side of the end zone, Gilman wasn’t certain if he could make the play.
“I just reacted to the ball, but I knew I had my guy on the outside in my corner who could pick me up if I was late,” Gilman said. “I was actually late to the play. Good thing the ball was there.”
Facing a fierce pass rush, Adolpho had to get the ball out and didn’t get a chance to set his feet on the throw. With young quarterbacks guiding two powerful offenses, there were plenty of savvy, veteran plays by both defenses.
Gilman, a commit to Washington State, is just glad he won’t have to hear much from his fellow Laie residents.
“It feels good because last year we didn’t get the win, first game of the season. It kind of stung a little bit. It kind of hurt. I was still hearing it from my boys,” he said. “I talked to some of them before the game and they were excited to play. They were telling me how they were going to put me in the dirt and whatever, but that’s all love and competition. That’s how we do it.”
Moeai, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman, also took the unique rivalry in stride.
“It’s just like another practice at Laie Park,” said Moeai, who has 13 scholarship offers and also plays basketball for the Buffanblu. “I get to see my boys.”
Punahou coach Kale Ane understood the importance of this game to Gilman.
“It means a lot to him. Those are his friends and the reality is you always want to beat your friends more than anybody else,” Ane said. “There’s still a lot of love for the community — a lot of respect.”
No. 2 Punahou (8-1, 6-1 ILH Open) will host Mililani next week in a regular-season finale. The Buffanblu trail No. 1 Saint Louis (8-0, 7-0) in the standings. Saint Louis will visit Waianae next week and can clinch a first-round playoff bye outright with a win.
The Red Raiders (5-3, 3-1 OIA Open) end the regular season against Farrington. A win would clinch the No. 2 seed in the OIA Open playoffs. A loss and the Red Raiders would finish in a three-way tie for second with the Govs and Campbell.