THIRD IN A SERIES ON SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICES ON OAHU
It was an off-the-cuff remark, but it had some fairly deep meaning.
“Reggie keeps us in balance,” Punahou football coach Kale Ane said during a spring football practice session last Friday.
He was referring to Buffanblu offensive line coach Reggie Torres, the former head coach at Kahuku known for his high-powered running games.
Ane seemed to be intimating that Punahou would fall into the “too pass happy” category if Torres was not on the staff.
Probably not true, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Torres right there on the sideline as a reminder.
Looking back on last season, the memory of the Buffanblu’s balanced attack is a lasting one. Ephraim Tuliloa to Kanawai Noa? Yes. But just as bright in the highlight reels of the mind is Wayne Taulapapa’s bruising running.
Taulapapa was part of one of the most unforgettable moments in state championship game history near the end of last season’s 53-45 loss to Mililani.
The good news is that Taulapapa will not let his fumble on that historic play cloud his vision for the future.
The great news? Taulapapa is back and ready for his senior season.
“He handled it well,” Ane said during the spring session Friday. “He never made excuses. When things don’t go your way, that’s when you see the true nature of a person.”
Without Taulapapa, who stormed into the gut of the Mililani defense for 260 yards and three touchdowns in the game, the deficit with a minute to go could have been a lot greater than 8 points.
He’s ready for the new grind as a senior.
“We’re coming back stronger this year,” Taulapapa said. “Last year, we came up a little short in that one game. We were a little one-dimensional (the defense gave up 53 points) and I think this year the coaches are focusing on balancing that out and improving on defense.”
When asked about a focus on a tighter defense, Ane said confidently, “We will be better than people think.”
Ane also mentioned that they are working on “tweaking” ways to defend the no-huddle, fast-paced, high-flying spread offenses sprouting up all over the state and engineered precisely by Mililani and ILH rival Saint Louis.
And, Ane added, “I think we’re going to surprise people both offensively and defensively.”
During the Friday session, the Punahou field was filled with top-notch athletes, both veterans and newcomers, and footballs flying through the air to sleek receivers.
Does this mean Punahou’s offense will be even more dangerous? Scary thought.
Quarterback will not be a problem. Tuliloa, a senior, is back and so is his completely capable backup — Nicholas Kapule, a junior. Stephen Barber, a sophomore up from the junior varsity, also has talent.
“I’m fortunate to have those two,” Tuliloa said. “They push me and bring out the best and don’t allow me to slack off.
“(As a team), we’re getting better every day. Even if it’s only one percent better every day, that’s OK, as long as we’re always getting better. I’m feeling more confident about the leadership part of playing quarterback. We’re enthusiastic and excited and want to keep it rolling.”
The Buffanblu, who beat Mililani in the state title game two years ago, are going for a fifth straight appearance in the state title game.
Ane thought last year’s team passed a “great test.”
“You wondered how the team would respond in such a tough situation,” he said. “Most of the game, we were down by two touchdowns. We hadn’t been pressured like that all year. The (ILH playoff) game against Saint Louis was a great game, but we were in the lead the whole way. This time, we were coming from behind and it was a great test of our players’ character.”
Although the whole schedule for 2015 is not out, Punahou has nonleague games penciled in against Leilehua, Hilo (on the Big Island) and at Del Oro, Calif.
Linebacker La‘akea Look, cornerback Aaron Woo, cornerback/safety Justin Matias and nose guard Patamo Soa are among the team’s many other key returnees.
Soa, a 305-pound load, is looking forward to his senior season.
“I’m going to get in the best shape of my life,” he said. “We’re building the foundation for 2015 football. Last year was not how we wanted things to turn out, but you can’t control that. We’ve got good talent on both sides of the ball and we have a great chance to get back to the championship game.”
Previously in the series on spring football practices:
>> Kahuku, May 18 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/first-day-of-practice-like-christmas-for-tata/
>> ‘Iolani, May 19 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/iolani-football-team-cranked-up-for-d-i/