The last time Punahou opened a season with six consecutive wins, Ephraim Tuliloa started at quarterback.
It was 2015 and Punahou was in the midst of an eight-game win streak to kick off the season. Those wins were followed by consecutive losses to Saint Louis, ending the season.
Tuliloa, who had passed for 441 yards in a win over Saint Louis during the ’14 season, was later replaced by Nick Kapule. Tuliloa came back to throw for 442 yards against Kamehameha in the ’15 season. Wayne Taulapapa was a workhorse RB with talent as a rusher and a pass catcher.
This year, Punahou is off to a 6-0 start, including 4-0 in ILH Open. Friday’s showdown with No. 1 Saint Louis (6-0, 4-0) is the Buffanblu’s best shot to get the inside track for first place and a coveted first-round bye in the playoffs.
Punahou coach Kale Ane chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Thursday.
HPW: Has it been a steady, workmanlike kind of week, or is it different at practice because of Saint Louis.
Ane: You like to think it’s steady, but it’s added excitement playing a team like Saint Louis, nationally ranked and probably one of the best teams of all time.
HPW: Punahou’s defense has been outstanding, even after losing all that talent to Division I universities. How does that happen?
Ane: I think they bought into the process. They were able to see quality players before them, and also understand that all they have to do is their job and they’ll be fine. Kind of like Bill Belichick’s approach. They work well together and they’re fun to coach.
HPW: The back side has been so well-coached and prepared each week. Their positioning is incredible. Jarrin Sato at cornerback, the entire secondary has been tough.
Ane: You try to play your players at positions to be successful. Jarrin and all our guys have a lot of heart and desire. They’re very competitive. They pay attention to detail. They know they’re not the tallest and fastest guys, so they make up for it with alignment and assignment. They have to be a student of the game to make up for the lack of killer speed or killer height. They work hard and work together. They just don’t want to let each other down. Any coach wants to work with kids like that.
HPW: I chatted with Coach Cal Lee earlier and he is impressed with the play of your freshman QB, John-Keawe Sagapolutele, who took over after Hugh Brady got hurt.
Ane: It’s a work in progress. He had a really good base to start with and has worked really well with our coaches. Every week is a different kind of scheme. Kapolei, Kamehameha, Farrington, Waianae. They all have a little bit different strategies and all want to put pressure, make him move get out of the pocket and make him uncomfortable. They want him to make bad decisions.
HPW: When Saint Louis played Bishop Gorman, Coach Cal said he wanted to contain their QB and not let him get loose outside the pocket. Do you think that would be their approach with John-Keawe?
Ane: I think they’d like to get him moving. He’s learning on the run. He’s had some scrimmages and league play, every week he gets tested and there’s an opportunity to get better. He soaks it up and he wants to be a great player. He puts in the work. We’re grateful Hugh has been great at mentoring him.
HPW: Mahalo, Coach Kale.