Saint Louis’ defense will likely be without two big pieces for Friday’s game against No. 3 Punahou.
Linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia, who has yet to play this season, is doubtful with a shoulder injury according to Saint Louis coach Cal Lee.
Lee told the Star-Advertiser’s Paul Honda he will “probably rest him.”
Also, senior defensive back Jalen Saole (collarbone) has been cleared by doctors to suit up and will be a game-day decision. Saole injured himself in the canceled game against Mililani that was called off due to a power outage after the first quarter.
“That guy wants to play,” Lee said. “He’s the kind of guy you want on the field, such a good cover guy.”
Here’s more from Honda previewing Friday night’s game at Aloha Stadium between No. 2 Saint Louis and No. 3 Punahou. A full preview of all of the games will run in Friday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
Defending ILH champion Saint Louis faces a formidable offensive attack.
Punahou (2-0, 1-0 ILH) has scored 126 points, including eight touchdowns in a 56-14 win over Kamehameha last week. Whether it is Nick Kapule (485 passing yards, eight TDs, no interceptions) or Stephen Barber (288 yards, four TDs, no picks) at the controls, Punahou has a well-oiled machine, a system that doesn’t rely on a single individual.
Ethan Takeyama usually lines up as a single receiver in their trips formation, and though he has 12 receptions for 228 yards and two TDs, he is certainly not their only aerial weapon. Eamon Brady (six, 121, two), Keala Martinson (seven, 117, two), Cole Arceneaux (three, 118, two) and Judd Cockett (five, 103, three) are more than able to finish what Kapule and Barber start.
Kapule has gotten the starting nod over Barber, who has a scholarship offer from UH, but the internal competition is a dream scenario for most coaches. Kapule has completed more than 61 percent of his attempts (22-for-36); Barber is at 58.3 percent (14-for-24).
Enoch Nawahine leads their backfield with 122 rushing yards and a TD, while Sitiveni Kaufusi (66 yards, TD) and Antonio Cortez Feria have their share of touches.
What makes the Buffanblu offense elite is the command of Kapule and Barber. Behind a workhorse offensive line, each QB has been in sync with receivers from sideline to sideline. Even without huge playmakers of recent years like Wayne Taulapapa and Kanawai Noa and big-name linemen like Semisi Uluave — the offense has been mostly unstoppable.
This year’s O-line is young and amazing. Underclassmen have stepped in and performed at a level that may have surpassed their coaches’ expectations.
“We’ve got a lot of young players stepping up and playing great,” said Punahou coach Kale Ane, himself a former offensive lineman with Michigan State and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Center Blake Feigenspan (6-2, 238) is just a sophomore. Two-sport athlete Duke Clemens (6-4, 252) moved from defense (on the JV) to left tackle on varsity, and he’s also a sophomore.
Senior Eric Klemmer (6-4, 270) has been versatile enough to fill spots.
“He played guard and tackle last week when Duke got hurt,” Ane said.
There’s Alama Uluave (6-4, 285), a junior and younger brother of Semisi, and Ahofitu Maka (6-2, 315), a junior guard.
Falcon Kaumatule (6-7, 230), a defensive lineman, also stepped in on offense when Clemens was sidelined. The sophomore wore Clemens’ jersey, No. 66, instead of his usual 99. The younger brother for former Punahou standouts Luke and Canton Kaumatule lined up at tackle and tight end.
Their position coach? Former Kahuku head coach Reggie Torres.
Saint Louis has the personnel defensively to put a wall in front of Punahou. Dylan Toilolo is among the most dynamic linebackers in the ILH, a perfect tackling machine in partnership with speedy Isaac Slade-Matautia. Bringing heat on every snap or going conservative to prevent a big pass play, it will be an ultimate chess match for Lee and his staff against Punahou offensive coordinator Teetai Ane.
Two problems for the Crusaders are the likelihood that Slade-Matautia and Jalen Saole won’t play.
Even if the Crusaders don’t stop the Buffanblu offense, they have the offensive behemoths who could counter a vastly underrated defensive unit.
Tua Tagovailoa has been gangbusters since his debut as a starting sophomore — the ILH does not permit freshmen to suit up in varsity football — and he overcame nagging injuries as a junior. Though offensive coordinator Ron Lee prefers that his QBs stay in the pocket, Tagovailoa is a dangerous and highly productive as a scrambler.
“I think they have a great offense. Tough runners. A great quarterback. Solid receivers and a solid O-line,” Ane said. “And (Tagovailoa) doesn’t just stay in the pocket. He runs and makes life miserable for everyone. That’s the mark of a great offense.”
Last year’s All-State QB has passed for 491 yards and five TDs with no picks after two games. He also leads the Crusaders in rushing with 111 yards plus two TDs on 12 carries. At 6-1 and 210 pounds, he’s a load for most tacklers.
Saint Louis has a number of effective running backs, from Jahred Silofau to Jimmy Gonsalves to Austin Tuisano and Dylan Silva. Tagovailoa also has a huge group of pass catchers that he calls “seasoned.”
Noah Alejado, Ronson Young, Mitchell Quinn, Chandler Washington-Villanueva, Leelan Oasay — all have at least four receptions so far. Jaymason Nunuha, the tall deep threat, has three grabs at 29.3 yards per catch.
Averaging 49 points puts Saint Louis a couple of touchdowns behind Punahou in per-game output, but it matters little come Friday night. Especially when longtime friends draw up the ultimate chess-board schemes.