There’s an abnormal bend in the frequency this week.
A disruption in the force.
Or maybe it’s normal at this point. When No. 1 Saint Louis and No. 2 Punahou take the field on Saturday for the ILH Open football championship, the loser will be done for the season. The winner will advance to the state tourney.
Such is the cold, cruel and, in the eyes of many, fairest way in the land. League ratios and representation. It is something unavoidable for the ILH, a league of immense expectations in academics and athletics. The ratio formula is a byproduct of private-school excellence, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s magnetic powers of attraction over the decades. Nearly a half-century after the city public schools of Oahu left the ILH to form the OIA as we know it today, the chasm remains.
A positive: the OIA-ILH alliance pilot program, which materialized this fall. It only pertains to football, and it gave ILH teams a much broader canvas to enjoy the delight of gridiron joy from one corner of the island to another. But it all comes down to one state berth for Punahou and Saint Louis on Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
Punahou (7-2, 5-2 ILH Open) lost to Saint Louis 35-28 on Sept. 15. Coach Kale Ane chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: Is the elimination mode of Saturday’s game something your coaches and players discuss, or is it unnecessary to bring up.
Ane: Everybody knows what’s at stake. There’s no need to hype it. It’s about tightening up alignment, formations, responsibility.
HPW: When you look back to the first game with Saint Louis, what do you see compared to now?
Ane: For me, they’ve adjusted some things that are interesting. The quarterback (Jayden de Laura) is still a dual threat. They’re running the ball a little bit more. They’re trying to be more balanced, but defensively, they’re so physical and athletic, you forget that they have really good schemes. The consistency is they do their schemes well and put themselves in position to make plays. That’s a skill that sometimes coaches forget. Not just to put your best kid out there but put him in position to make plays.
HPW: I’ve seen you do this with your players, more so with safety Marist Liufau. He’s become more and more of a Troy Polamalu clone, and he obviously enjoys the chance to be active at the line of scrimmage.
Ane: We try to do that. You want to give your players the opportunity to think react anticipate and not just you can only do this. It doesn’t matter if the play’s going right, you have to go left if that’s your job. Discipline, within the structure, and figure it out as part of the equation. You have to have some kind of equation to work with. The risk to reward always need to be in your favor. (Liufau) is a special athlete who can do all the things you want on the field and he’s smart as well, and we’re happy with him.
HPW: The challenge for your offensive line doesn’t get any bigger than this one. But I also think getting field position is key in a chess match between seasoned, experienced coaches. It probably won’t be as high-scoring the second time around.
Ane: I think you have to be aware that they’re a very good defensive front whether they bring linebackers or not. We’ll have our hands full. We have to set running game, get the ball out quickly, and not have turnovers. Those are huge, equally valuable.
HPW: I looked over the numbers by Tim Horn, your punter/placekicker. When you guys beat Kamehameha last week, he had a punting yardage advantage of more than 10 yards each time, and his kickoffs pinned Kamehameha at its 25 as the average starting point per drive.
Ane: Our kicking game was a huge force in the game. Tim did a great job getting the ball off.
HPW: How good would you say Saint Louis’ front seven is?
Ane: I’d say Saint Louis’ front seven is one of the best in the country.
HPW: Punahou’s front seven is formidable, too. That’s why I think it’ll be a low-scoring game.
Ane: It’s hard to tell. They’re very explosive. We get hot at certain times as well. The defenses on both sides are pretty dominant. We both have our hands full.
HPW: I’m expecting a few new wrinkles, maybe Tim Horn faking a punt, rolling right, firing off a first-down pass.
Ane: Tim Horn used to be a quarterback as a freshman.
HPW: Saint Louis’ kicking game is solid, too. Horn is a definite weapon.
Ane: It’s great competition and high stakes makes it even a bit more valuable to be a part.
HPW: The last time a team was unbeaten and was forced to shut down before the playoffs was Kahuku in 2010. What’s your perspective on St. Francis, which was undefeated in ILH Division II?
Ane: It’s far from simple and there’s so many moving parts. It’s so hard to keep track of everything, the different sports. I think we all feel badly for the player in question. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens. Any administrator would rather be penalized rather than the athlete. It’s a tough situation to be in. I think every administrator would feel the same way, to be the one to be disciplined rather than the kid. But there are guidelines to follow. You need to do your due diligence to prevent that from happening.
HPW: It’s not as easy as just making a phone call or two.
Ane: We have our protocol, but it’s still a high concern because rules are adjusted and changed. There was a five-day rule to practice, now it’s seven. Sometimes the family might not be as accurate as they say. There might be paperwork that’s left on a desk and is not done. A lot of double checking, calling the school in question, asking the family questions, those are all part of the process. With the number of kids each school has, it’s extremely difficult. We all know that so we try our best to make it work. I would hope that we all feel badly for the boy in question and we feel badly for the school. They didn’t do it on purpose. It fell through the cracks. It’s just unfortunate.
HPW: Every athletic program has its own protocol for checking on student-athlete eligibility, including transfers. Would it help for the leagues to send out some sort of consistent, structured step-by-step process to each school?
Ane: Each school has its own process of handling things like this. It’s just a matter of dotting I’s and crossing T’s.