Twenty years in as head coach, Kale Ane has experienced highs and lows at his alma mater.
Punahou football has been a powerhouse for years now, even as Saint Louis has returned to the pinnacle with consecutive state championships. The Buffanblu aren’t very far behind. With a blue-chip linebacker, Maninoa Tufono, and a solid corp of returnees, they’re in position to make plenty of noise in the all-new — or the reborn version of the old all-city league ILH.
The opening weekend of the Open Division is here. No. 4 Punahou visits No. 2 Kahuku on Saturday.
Ane chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: Before we discuss this year’s team, Maninoa’s amazing video is blowing up. (Tufono announced his oral commitment to USC on Monday.)
Kale Ane: I just saw it. It’s very nice. I thought it was well done. I wanted to get some popcorn and a soda. It was like being at a movie. I wasn’t even aware that he was making that commitment or decision.
HPW: That was a really nicely done video. But there are other things that aren’t as productive. This is an age when there can be so many outside activities or distractions for high schoolers.
Ane: It helps us to focus on what we need to do. We kind of narrowed down on our distractions and, you focus on what we need to do to get better. Distractions aren’t a bad thing. It just takes away from focus, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Takes away from time and preparation.
HPW: You’re from an era when public and private schools belong to a single league. What’s your thought on the Open Division?
Ane: It’s partly the alliance between the two leagues and playing some really quality teams that will do something different each week. It really came down to us knowing what Kamehameha and Saint Louis do each week. Now, it’s a general idea, but different each week. Playing at different sites, under the lights and going at it, all those things will be great.
HPW: One of our readers mentioned that Punahou has six road games, that’s six out of nine Open Division games.
Ane: Six road games — I don’t think it’s a bad thing. We’d love to play here, but we don’t have lights. We understand the situation. There’s an opportunity to go to legendary sites like Waianae, Kahuku and Mililani and have great competition.
HPW: What’s the situation at quarterback now?
Ane: We’ve got great competition between Hugh Brady, who got a chance to play during last season, he’s doing really well. Kobe Muasau is super athletic and picking things up quickly.
HPW: Who do these two remind you of?
Ane: Brady reminds me a little bit of Nick Kapule, probably a little more athletic. He’s solid, he makes good decisions, gets the ball off quickly and doesn’t get rattled. Nick got the ball out quicker. Kobe, we haven’t had anyone like him. A little bit like Steve Barber, not afraid to tuck it and run. Strong arm.
HPW: The heart of this offense has been, in large part, your offensive line. Your people! (Ane was a standout O-lineman at Punahou, then Michigan State before playing in the NFL.) Tell me about your returnees.
Ane: We’ve got (left tackle) Duke Clemens (commit to UCLA) back. We lost some key guys, it’s a key position for us. Duke and (center/tackle) Blake Feigenspan, he’s been getting offers (commit to Army). Real cerebral. Toa Moeai, our right tackle, he’s got a couple of offers already (Nebraska, Oregon, Virginia. He’s a big strong athletic kid. He’s only a Jr., played some tight end for us last year, real athletic.
HPW: Is Toa’s career as a pass catcher over?
Ane: We’ll see. The rest is by committee, tough, hard-nosed kids, and they’re smart.
HPW: There are NFL O-linemen who claim that their position has the most stable husbands and fathers.
Ane: Offensive linemen are reliable. They can watch babies.
HPW: Kahuku has a tremendous 1-2 combo at running back. So does Punahou.
Ane: We’ve got some really good running backs. Vince Terrell, he’s cat quick. Then our big boy, Siveni Kaufusi. He can go inside and outside. They both have good hands. We’re happy with them.
HPW: The economy of the offense has been fun to watch over the years. Your receivers work like a machine. Who are the returnees?
Ane: We’ve got Koa Eldredge, Tamatoa Falatea, Kanoa Kalahiki, Noa Takeyama, Treyden Buder-Nakasone. They’re just solid, make plays, get knocked down, get back in the huddle.
HPW: The kicking game has been dominant for a long time.
Ane: Yes, Tim Horn has a scholarship to UW. He’s got a whole year to prove it. We’ve had Jett (Toner) and Kaimi (Fairbairn), just a solid group of kickers.
HPW: Who are your top guys on the defensive line?
Ane: We have — Hiram deFries-Saronitman III, he’s been excellent at nose guard for us. Kennedy Freeman has been solid as a defensive end.
HPW: Maninoa (6-3, 225) is strong and athletic at linebacker. Are teams going to run away from him?
Ane: Maninoa is going to have a lot to do between the tackles. We’re going to turn him loose at times. He likes to get in the action, take on blocks, get to the quarterback and running back. He’s an ideal linebacker with that mentality. He continues to work hard, he’s great student, great leader. He’s always had the ability, but always tried to do too much. Now he’s trusting his teammates to do their jobs. He’s learned to play within the process and he’s able to still make big plays. He’s more like Ray Lewis, I’d say, grinding it out and getting off blocks and another block and making a play.
HPW: So if he’s clogging the box, that leaves your other linebackers in position to make plays.
Ane: Trent Shiraki, Legend Matautia — I think it’s like when DeForest (Buckner) played defensive end and they ran plays the other way. They’ll get a lot of action when the defense runs or throws the other way.
HPW: Are your corners going to stay basic or gamble a little?
Ane: They’ll take calculated risks. Don’t jump on things you don’t need to. Depends on the formation. Someone like Kahuku, you don’t get as much help. Kainalu Pu‘u-Robinson and Jarrin Sato are two hard-nosed corners with speed. We might put Kaulana Makaula at corner at times. He’s very knowledgable, good hands, great athlete. We have Alaka‘i Gilman and Jonah Henry at safety. Gilman is one of our player-coaches back there. Marist Liufau is a rover, blend of safety and linebacker. Kind of like a Troy Polamalu, he has some freedom, very physical and long.
HPW: Same offense, same OC?
Ane: At OC, we’re going with Leonard Lau, Robbie Toma and Keola Cheung. Coach Lau has been with us the last three, four years. We have a similar system, it’s been seamless so far. I’m doing defense and getting lot of help from Agenhart (Ellis) and the rest of the staff.
HPW: It’s been some years since Punahou visited Kahuku. What are you anticipating?
Ane: When it was Kanawai Noa’s sophomore year, we played there. It was physical. I really remember the field was really nice, it wasn’t torn up and the crowd was awesome. Sidelines were tight, there was just no room. It was a close game, (Aofaga) Wily ran crazy against us.
HPW: What do you expect with officiating in this new format?
Ane: It’s narrowed down, the same group that has reffed both leagues (ILH and OIA). It’s going to be hard to officiate because the athletes are so fast and things happen so quickly, bang-bang plays. Some calls could lead to a two-game suspension. They’re so big and so fast now, it’s really hard to make those calls.
HPW: Would you be in favor of instant replay at Aloha Stadium?
Ane: Instant replay, sure. As long as it doesn’t take an hour.
HPW: And just to confirm, these games count for the ILH teams?
Ane: Yeah, all games now count in official standings.
HPW: What do you remember about playing in a combined schedule, and what your team can expect this season?
Ane: It was 1970, when I was playing (senior year). We have to get used to it with the crowds and bands and school stadiums, all of us as coaches, I can maybe speak for Cal (Lee) and everyone, we want this huge step of programs that can play each other, play each other. When I played, you created friendships, and we hadn’t had that at all. Hopefully, this is an opportunity to compete and connect.
HPW: Was it ’69 or ’70 when the ILH last had the public- and private-school teams together?
Ane: In ’69 was the last true ILH. I remember they were tough games, crowds were crazy, atmosphere was electric, 20,000 at the Old Stadium. Kalani was tough. McKinley, Roosevelt had a couple of D-I (college) players, Kaimuki had great athletes. We all grew up together. Then it felt like the Great Wall of Berlin went up. That’s what it felt like.