The nation’s longest rivalry in terms of games played is also one of the closest.
Miraculously, after 183 games completed between Punahou and Kamehameha dating back to 1903, the Buffanblu have a chance to even the all-time series at 89-89-6 with a victory on Thursday night in the ILH opener for both teams at Aloha Stadium.
The NFHS recently recognized the Punahou-Kamehameha rivalry as the longest in the nation in terms of games played. The 183 meetings between the two schools are 31 more than the 152 games played between Westerly and Stonington in Connecticut.
Punahou has won the last six meetings, matching its third-longest winning streak in the series. It took nine straight from the Warriors between 1970 and 1974.
Kamehameha once won 12 in a row in the series from 1997 to 2002.
After opening the season scoring a school-record 70 points against Leilehua, the Buffanblu have had to wait 27 days between games. Punahou has shown in recent years it is capable of handling long layoffs during the season. During their run of four consecutive ILH titles between 2011 and 2014, the Buffanblu went three straights years waiting three full weeks between their final ILH game and first state tournament game. They won all three games after the long break by an average of 25 points.
The Warriors have gotten in two games so far this season, losing a lead in the final minutes of a 26-20 loss to Waianae in their opener on Aug. 5, and beating Baldwin 38-14 on Maui a week later.
Kamehameha’s recent struggles against Punahou can be directly linked to its running game. When it won 12 in a row against the Buffanblu, Kamehameha had a 100-yard rusher in all 12 games, including Kahe Santos‘ 225-yard performance in a 21-9 victory in 2002. Punahou broke the winning streak by holding Kamehameha’s leading rusher, TJ Kuahine, to 65 yards in a 14-6 win in 2003.
Since taking control of the series winning six straight, Punahou hasn’t allowed a single Kamehameha running back to top 100 yards. In a 47-7 win in 2014, Punahou held Kamehameha’s leading rusher, Jordan Bayudan, to 26 yards. That was the fewest number of yards by Kamehameha’s leading rusher against Punahou since 1991.
The Warriors switched to a primarily passing offense in the final year of Doug Cosbie‘s tenure as head coach last season, posing the three highest single-game passing totals in school history. New head coach Abu Ma’afala has struck primarily with the running game so far, attempting 77 rushes to just 38 passing attempts.
It’s brought mixed results so far, but it sticks with the formula of how Kamehameha teams of the past have beaten Punahou.
We’ll see Thursday night if the formula still works in 2016.