Slight delay here, my apologies. Had to finish writing my story on the first game (‘Iolani beat Damien 34-14).
Jason Kaneshiro is doing the game story for this game and Billy Hull is doing the TRENCH WARFARE post on Fred Ulu-Perry.
The scoring opened with a pristine 35-yard bullet from Tua Tagovailoa to Drew Kobayashi on a post route, single coverage, to give STL a 7-0 lead.
Tagovailoa scored on a 6-yard run, but STL missed the PAT. STL 13, PUN 0.
The Buffanblu finally scored on a 5-yard TD pass from Ephraim Tuliloa to Micah Ma‘a, who has his left wrist wrapped up pretty good. STL 13, PUN 7.
PUnahou took the lead on a ferocious 37-yard run by RB Wayne Taulapapa. This came a moment after a dazzling catch-and-run for a TD by Kanawai Noa was called back by penalty. PUN 14, STL 13.
Saint Louis regained the lead on a 35-yard TD pass from Tagovailoa to Riccardo Sallas II. Punahou hasn’t been able to get a pass rush on the sophomore QB, and he roamed left until he found Sallas wide open near the left sideline around the 15-yard line, and Sallas scored easily. STL 20, PUN 14, :15.
It’s starting to look like an AFL game. Or video game. Fun. Jackson Farringer scores on a 12-yard TD pass from Tuliloa. PUN 21, STL 20, 9:05.
Punahou continues to mix the run and pass, getting lots of good yardage via Taulapapa.
Both offenses went dry for a short while before Punahou put together a patient, effective series. Tuliloa peppered a lot of short, safe passes before. Taulapapa scored on a 2-yard run. PUN 28, STL 20, 1:37.
STL needing almost no time to march downfield again. I’d say it’s their 2-minute offense, but they’re always in hurry-up mode anyway. Tagovailoa connects with Kobayashi on another deep post strike, this one for 32 yards. He pulled it in even with a pass interference call on the defense.
Noah Alejado’s 35-yard field goal try at the end of the half has lots of distance, but is wide left.
Punahou drives with the opening series of the second half, gets near midfield when STL defensive back Toa Augafa picks off a Tuliloa pass over the middle. Big break for the Crusaders, but they go three and out and will punt.
The Crusaders’ coverage team hustles and downs the punt at the PUN 1-yard line.
Bizarre play on third and long for PUN on its 3-yard line. Shotgun snap eludes Tuliloa and sails into the back of the end zone. RB Heisman Hosoda hustles, picks the ball up and flings it forward for an incomplete pass. STL grabs the ball on the ground thinking they have a touchdown. Hosoda goes down injured.
Officials conclude that the pass was illegal grounding, which makes it a safety. Replay shows Hosoda taking a direct hit to the side of his lower left leg. OUCH. PUN 28, STL 22, 9:38.
PUN with the free kick, but jumps offsides. Now they kick from their own 15. Cash Searle returns a booming kickoff 29 yards to the STL 46. Tagovailoa goes to work, chiseling away, quick-passing to WRs who have lots of cushion. That safety is huge, thanks to the punt and coverage by the special teams.
One, two, now three completions into the drive and STL is at the PUn 25. Tagovailoa sees the coverage tightening up, nobody open, scrambles up the middle for a first down. Early in the season, he was not a scrambler very often. Now he runs without any fear.
TOUCHDOWN Saint Louis. Tagovailoa to Jimmy Nunuha — on the post route again — for a 16-yard scoring strike. That tied it at 28, but the PAT by Noah Alejado is wide left. The Crusaders could’ve had the lead. STL 28, PUN 28, 6:30.
Noa returns the ensuing kickoff 29 yards to the PUN 34-yard line. Tuliloa expertly sidesteps the pass rush and finds Ma‘a on a crossing route for a nice gain across midfield. Here we go.
Tuliloa in a groove somewhat, but his passes to the right side are a little off, missing Noa, and then forcing another receiver to hit the ground for a short gain. His fourth-and-4 pass is overthrown as DL Tanielu Evailmalo brings serious heat. STL ball. (Check out Billy Hull’s live-bog TRENCH WARFARE on Semisi Uluave versus Evailmalo.)
Crusaders marching. Big pass rush on Tagovailoa, who loops away, running backwards to the right sideline to escape (somehow) before finding Blazeyn MacPherson on the sideline, and he runs all the way across the field to the left sideline. It’s a 32-yard gain to the PUN 27.
A lot of five-wide sets by STL, which is tempting PUN to bring the blitz from any angle. Tight coverage by PUN, Cole Obana with a big sack on third down. Fourth-and-20, long incomplete pass (Kobayashi). Big stop for PUN. Neither team even thinking of handing the ball off now. Gloves are off, full-on run-and-shoot slugfest.
And as I write that, Tuliloa hands off to Taulapapa for 8 yards.
Tuliloa passes to Judd Cockett for a first down, called back for holding. Tuliloa nearly gets a first down on a keeper; he’s running the ball a LOT tonight. Taulapapa fights hard to pick up a first down on a run around the right side, but PUN flagged for a personal foul. Another self-inflicted wound.
Ball at the STL 38, first and 10. Buffanblu regaining control by running the ball, then Tuliloa misses Ma‘a on a post route, wide open. That would’ve been 6. But Taulapapa runs 19 yards on the right side for a first down.
Tuliloa’s running didn’t help on the next play, wrapped up for a 5-yard loss. Next play, STL safety Siaki Alualu nearly intercepts. Third and 15. Pass over the deep middle to Ma‘a falls incomplete.
STL’s Tane Taifua hurdles the offensive line to block John Toner’s 42-yard FG attempt, which is returned down the sideline past midfield by Makoa Chapa. But a few players later, RB Jon Manalo fumbles and the Buffanblu recover at their own 22-yard line. Huge break for PUN.
PUN’s series stalls at its 48 with 6:44 left. Cal Lee and Kane Ane going head to head in this chess match. Both defenses have taken control to a large extent. PUN was about to punt on fourth-and-2, but the back judge throws his yellow flag. Too many Crusaders on the field. Crucial boo-boo by STL. First down, PUN.
PUN goes for the kill on the next play after STL’s defense returns to the field. Tuliloa goes deep down the left sideline to (who else?) Kanawai Noa. Perfectly timed, 52-yard TD catches STL completely off guard. PUN 35, STL 28, 6:28.
STL starts at its 20. Tagovailoa to Keanu Souza for 13 yards. Post past to slotback Colton Nascimento incomplete, but the flag for pass interference is thrown. Replay shows that neither the DB or Nascimento really knew where the ball was and Nascimento really sold the contact. Ball was uncatchable, but it doesn’t have to be catchable to get the penalty at the high school level.
Tagovailoa connects with Sallas, second and 2 at the PUN 45. Incomplete pass deep to Leelan Oasay. This is looking more and more like whoever has the ball last will win.
STL still going mostly five-wide sets, and Tagovailoa runs up the middle for a first down. Saw that coming.
Officials talked to Kale Ane on the previous play, and now they tell the PUN band to quiet down (loud percussion). Wow. It’s real quiet now.
Holding call pushes STL back to its 47. Huge call. Now it’s first-and-23. Tagovailoa eludes the pass rush and throws off-balance deep, missing Cash Searle near the 20-yard line. Then Saitui Moea‘i sacks Tagovailoa back at the 42. Now it’s third-and-27 with 3:50 to play. Delay of game penalty. Now it’s third-and-32.
STL still has three time outs, so it’s conceivable that they would punt if they don’t convert here. Jedidiah Lulu with a shoestring sack of Tagovailoa back at the STL 18-yard line. It’s fourth-and-51, then STL has to burn a time out before incurring another delay of game. 2:49 left, not sure why there was any question or hesitation whether they’d punt.
PUN ball at its 30-yard line after the punt, 2:33 left. Taulapapa runs for a short gain, then Tuliloa launches a bomb to Noa for a first down at the STL 30. Next play, STL has Taulapapa bottled up, but he bobs and weaves his way for a 9-yard gain. Taulapapa again up the middle, first down with 1 minute left and STL with just one time out.
That should do it. Great battle. Hate to see the end of the season for Saint Louis. Looking forward to watching them next year already. Punahou is the champ and played like a champ tonight.
Tuliloa takes a knee at the STL 16. The Buffanblu remain unbeaten.