Maybe it’s just a gut feeling. Maybe it’s true. Until we have the actual numbers on paper, maybe it’s just the imagination of a crusty old sportswriter.
But this is what it seems to be: No offense in the state is willing to send receivers to all four corners of the terrain to haul in long, beautifully launched, spiraled footballs. That was the case on Friday night at Aloha Stadium, when Punahou quarterback Nick Kapule sent his football to places only his teammates were ready to race to. Kapule’s four TD passes and 298 passing yards came in little more than one half of action. His timing with Keala Martinson, Ethan Takeyama and Eamon Brady was often perfect, and a tiring Kamehameha defense couldn’t stop everything.
Punahou’s 42-15 win keeps hope alive for a regular-season first-place finish. It’ll take a Punahou win over Saint Louis next Thursday to make that hope a reality. For now, though, the Buffanblu are humming on both sides of the ball. Running backs Sitiveni Kaufusi and Antonio Cortez Feria carried the ball a whopping three times combined. So much for balanced offense. When it’s precise like this, even a stellar unit like Kamehameha’s defense will succumb.
“(Nick Kapule) has a lot of trust in us,” said Brady, who ran the sidelines and out routes to collect three TD passes. “We’ve been playing together since intermediate, so his trust in us is really high. He knows our speeds and he knows our strengths.”
Those reads by Kapule makes life much more difficult for standard defenses in standard schemes. The route tree times four will always find openings. But Kapule is on the money just about every time a corner opens up. It’s a safety’s nightmare. Sometimes, it’s Judd Cockett, who has been on fire in recent games — which is probably why he didn’t have a lot of open looks tonight (one reception). Instead, his partners in trust ate and ate.
On one touchdown, he found Brady down the right sideline, just out of the reach of a cornerback and a safety. Brady hauled the pigskin in, sidestepped one defender, then sidestepped the other to cover the final 10 yards on a 42-yard TD.
For the receiving corps and every unit, film work is a class in itself. If there are points to be made, seeing the tape makes it clear. Vivid and clear.
“Nick will point it out in film the next day. He’ll keep coming back to us,” Brady said.
And that he did. Martinson, Takeyama and Brady combined for 14 catches and 306 yards. Oh, and five TDs. Coach Kale Ane always prefers a less predictable offense, one with balance between the run and pass. But the numbers can be convincing. Punahou’s scoring output after five games: 70, 56, 44, 49 and 42. Kamehameha’s fast and physical front seven, the one Saint Louis Tua Tagovailoa calls the best in the ILH or OIA, often brought the blitz. Kapule managed to stay a step ahead often enough.
Just to show a wrinkle or two, when reserve QB Stephen Barber entered the game early in the third quarter, he didn’t hesitate to run the option and keep the ball for some nifty runs. He picked up 36 yards on five carries. Just one more thing for Saint Louis to keep an eye on should Punahou put Barber on the field when the teams meet in less than six days. Barber, at 6-3 and 215 pounds, is bigger than his receivers, and most of his running backs.
Leave it to Kapule, however, to spread the ball everywhere and leave defenders guessing. In the post-Kanawai Noa era, Punahou’s receiving corps are the sum that is greater than its parts.