Tevarua Tafiti, John-Keawe Sagapolutele return for powerhouse Punahou

Punahou quarterback John-Keawe Sagapolutele threw two fourth quarter touchdowns to lead the Buffanblu to a win over Kamehameha in 2019. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

For several years now, Punahou’s defensive unit has been in lockdown mode.

During Saint Louis’ 35-game win streak against teams in Hawaii, Punahou had the best shot to stun the Crusaders because of defense. That tone and tenor will not change a bit with defensive coordinator Nate Kia now the head coach.

Elite prospect Tevarua Tafiti, a defensive end/linebacker, committed to Stanford. The talented playmaker has 19 scholarship offers, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Virginia. Defensive end Kielan Siamani bolsters the front seven, as does linebacker Blayne Shiraki.

Will Straton and Travis Ross spark the secondary.

John-Keawe Sagapolutele had a remarkable freshman season in 2019 after Hugh Brady’s season-ending injury. He passed for 2,068 yards and 16 touchdowns with just seven picks in 12 games. He also completed more than 60 percent of his attempts as Punahou went 10-2, including 7-1 in the rough-and-tumble OIA/ILH Open Division schedule. The only losses were to eventual state champion Saint Louis, 25-19 and 21-14.

Akamu Moeava is one of the veterans on a stalwart offensive line.

“Our returning starters from the 2019 season — Tevarua Tafiti, John-Keawe Sagapolutele and Akamu Moeava — have definitely stepped up as leaders this year, and they set the tempo for our team,” coach Kia said.

Tui Muti bolsters the offensive line. Ean Waikiki, a receiver/running back, is another key piece of the offensive scheme.

“Excitement. Our players, coaches and support staff have worked hard over the past months, and we are excited to play an actual game,” Kia said. “Since the three of us — Punahou, Saint Louis and Kamehameha — have been practicing and preparing for so long, these initial games will be our first true look at each other.”

Former Buffanblu coach Kale Ane is now at a first-year coach at McKinley.


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