TThe campus is bustling, as always, at Punahou School.
Things can get hectic between classrooms, homework and practice. The Buffanblu football team finds good use for little breaks here and there. With practice still a few minutes from starting, they got on the field and had some nice, loud fun kicking a soccer ball into a goal.
By 4 p.m. sharp, they were running from sideline to sideline. It was just helmets and pads on this Wednesday afternoon, but work had to be done. Coach Kale Ane has seen this team endure more bye weeks and more practice sessions than he can remember.
“It’s a coach’s dream for everybody to be focused at practice,” Ane said. “I thought last year’s team was our most mature team. They’re happy where they’re at, but they’re not satisfied.”
Punahou has plenty to prepare for. The top-ranked Buffanblu (7-0) meet No. 3 Kahuku (9-2) on Saturday in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I Football State Championships.
The extra time, including a Saturday game instead of a typical Friday one, could help the walking and limping wounded. Reserve running back Heisman Hosoda, a valuable pass catcher out of the backfield, is recovering from ankle and knee injuries suffered during the ILH playoff game against Saint Louis.
“It’s possible. I think we probably lean towards not letting him play this game. He’s really worked hard. It’s still early. It’s Wednesday,” Ane said.
The waiting has been a big theme this season for Punahou, with its multitude of bye weeks. The anticipation of playing old friends, even cousins, on Saturday is creating a lot of natural motivation.
“It’s always good tension and friendly competition,” linebacker Saitui Moea‘i said. “it’s one of the most emotional weeks and the most important game of my career.”
Moea‘i, one of six Punahou players from the North Shore, is facing his former Pop Warner (Koolauloa) and Big Boyz (Laie Park) teammates.
Memories, though, never fade.
“Tuli was always the quarterback and safety. Salanoa was always running the ball,” Moea‘i recalled. “I’m related to more than half the team. Malcolm (Macatiag) is my cousin. They were my best friends growing up, playing with Sala (Wily), Tuli (Wily-Matagi), Manaia Atuaia, Roman Salanoa. They all live right down the street next to me.”
The hustle and bustle, and the long commute to and from Punahou, well, even best friends lose track of each other in the midst of a busy time of year.
“I’ve haven’t really gotten to talk to them. We all come from the same family. We’re family-oriented. Everything’s all cool with us. Once that helmet comes on, you know, it’s all about the name on your chest,” Moea‘i said. “We all know we love each other.”