This was one of the strangest 35-0 games in recent memory.
No. 2 Punahou (7-2, 6-2) advanced to the ILH Open Division championship game with a lopsided win over No. 8 Kamehameha (4-6, 3-5), but it was defense instead of the usual offensive exploits that carried Punahou.
“The kids performed really well. They played with discipline. Kamehameha’s very athletic with a big offensive line, good receivers, athletic quarterback, so we’re proud of the kids and the way they played,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said.
Punahou forced four turnovers by Kamehameha in the first quarter.
“It was a test for us. It doesn’t feel like 35-0. We were lucky to get those breaks,” Ane said. “That changed the whole complexion of the game.”
For a second week in a row, the Buffanblu got a defensive score. Trent Shiraki, whose forced fumble helped Alaka‘i Gilman on one of his two returns for touchdowns against Waianae last week, came up with the gem of the night. The senior linebacker slid into a lane and picked off a pass by Christmas Togiai for a 48-yard return to the end zone. That opened the lead to 21-0 with 2:40 left in the first quarter.
It was a bizarre first 10 minutes for the Warriors. Kamehameha lost the ball on its its first play from scrimmage, setting the Buffanblu up at the Warriors’ 25-yard line. Five plays later, touchdown — Hugh Brady to Koa Eldredge on a pretty tip-toe catch for a 7-yard TD.
“We’ve been working on it at practice, so it’s second nature to us,” Eldredge said. “Every week, our offensive coordinators put in plays, something new. It feels good to be able to come out here and execute new plays. Kamehameha’s defense is a hard defense to break apart.”
Then a muffed punt return led to Punahou’s second TD, starting at the Kamehameha 11. Brady to Eldredge, 12-yard slant.
Then Shiraki’s pick-six.
Then another Kamehameha turnover, a fumble recovered by Kaulana Makaula, but the Buffanblu didn’t score. By the end of the first quarter, Kamehameha was in shell-shock mode, but it was still early enough to mount a comeback, if only Punahou’s defense would cooperate.
The Buffanblu offense, meanwhile, was in low-risk, high-percentage decision mode.
“It was more like take what they give and it worked, and our defense got two turnovers in the red zone for us, which made it easy to punch it in,” said Brady, who was 9-for-12 for 63 yards and two TDs before halftime.
With Kamehameha’s tight coverage, Brady actually scrambled for 42 yards on four carries in the first half, but was also sacked once for minus-5 yards.
It was a game of short fields and hidden yardage, like on the muffed punt and pick-six. Kamehameha had 11 possessions, not including the muff, and six times began at its 20 because of touchback kickoffs by Punahou’s Tim Horn. Kamehameha’s average starting point: its 25-yard line. Punahou’s average drive began at its 40-yard line.
Horn, a Washington commit, also played a key role with his punting duties. He averaged 35.3 yards on six punts. His counterpart for Kamehameha averaged 24.6 on seven punts.
Kamehameha’s stellar defensive unit didn’t get the score it wanted, but after limiting Punahou to 279 total yards and amassing EIGHT sacks, what more could they have done?
Brady took all but one of those sacks, including five in the third quarter before he left the game for good. It was almost one hit too many. The Warriors’ sack drive was quite a spectacle. A first-half takedown by Kalani Kamakawiwo‘ole. Two by Kupono Blake and two by Lancen Dung. One by Kamana‘o Gilliland and one more by Ezra Evaimalo.
It was the last time Kamehameha’s 2018 squad played together. Their head coach won’t forget them.
“The score doesn’t show it, but all these guys who were sophomores on my first team, they put in the hard work and moved the program in the right direction,” Kamehameha coach Abu Ma‘afala said. “The discipline, the coachability. They bought in from a young age.”
Ma‘afala and his staff hope they prepared the seniors for the next level of competition.
“They understand every lift in the weight room. They understand the schematics, the plays, the preparation it takes,” said Ma‘afala, who was a special teams coach at West Liberty University before returning to the islands. “We know what it’s like going from high school to college. When I was there, I was a coach, I was like a parent. Eventually, our players will appreciate the things they learned.”