Not many would have guessed that No. 3 Punahou would only be up 7-0 against Moanalua at halftime in what was the season opener for both teams on Friday night at Radford.
It was the result of two shaky passing games, combined with new starting quarterbacks on each side that were still getting the first-game jitters out.
When Punahou started to lean more on its run game, Sitiveni Kaufusi took over and the Buffanblu widened the gap. The junior running back rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns in a 35-7 win at Radford.
“Just hit and go low, run the ball and do whatever I can to help the offense,” Kaufusi said of his approach. “(I feel) pretty bust up but you know, I’ll do whatever for my team. It’s all good.”
Kaufusi looked every bit of his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame on the field as he fought for extra yardage on each carry and dragged defenders along with him. Most of his touches came at crucial moments for the Buffanblu, a handful of them keeping drives alive on third down conversions.
“I think everybody that played running back did a really good job. First it starts with the (offensive) line, that sets everyone loose,” Punahou head coach Kale Ane said. “This is the first time he’s played all season so far so we’re very happy.”
The Kaufusi family has had its moments at Radford’s John E. Velasco Stadium. Last year Stiveni’s older brother, Andrew, scored three touchdowns as a senior at Kaiser against the Rams. He’s an incoming freshman at Azusa Pacific, where he is on a football scholarship. Stiveni has an offer of his own from Hawaii and hopes to rack up more of them by the time he’s a senior.
Between now and then, he’s setting out to make others take notice.
“I come out every game with a chip on my shoulder,” Kaufusi said. “I know I can do much more with the opportunity and I’ll make the most of it,” he said.
Barber finished 14-for-25 for 142 yards and finally connected on a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter as Punahou outscored Moanalua 21-7 over the final 12 minutes after holding just a 14-0 lead through three quarters.
The Buffanblu had 163 rushing yards as a team with three different backs finding the endzone on scoring runs.