Is it possible for a Punahou football team to be overlooked?
The four-time defending ILH Division I champions enter the 2015 season with an opportunity to join Saint Louis (1999-2003) as the only schools to reach five consecutive Division I state finals. The Buffanblu return a big time player at running back in senior Wayne Taulapapa, who has totaled 2,137 yards and 34 touchdowns in two seasons to go along with a 19-1 record and a state title.
Punahou has won 20 of its last 22 games and is 38-7 since the beginning of the 2011, when it started its title run. Yet with defending state champion Mililani and Saint Louis, under second-year coach Cal Lee, garnering most of the preseason attention, the Buffanblu are a little bit under the radar this season.
Head coach Kale Ane probably doesn’t mind that one bit. He’s still got a ton of talent to work with this year, including left-handed quarterback Ephraim Tuliloa, who threw for 2,2125 yards and 20 touchdowns last year and set the school’s single-game passing mark with a 441-yard effort in a 55-7 win over the Crusaders.
With Punahou getting the No. 3 spot in the Star-Advertiser Preseason Top 10 poll, it leaves Saint Louis and Mililani as the two teams ahead of the Buffanblu. The Trojans make sense, especially after beating the Buffanblu in the state final last year, but the Crusaders? Punahou’s two wins over Saint Louis in 2014 were by a combined score of 90-35.
Slighted or not, the Buffanblu will play the Crusaders twice in the regular season (Sept. 25, Oct. 17) and potentially again in the ILH postseason, now a four-team race with ‘Iolani jumping up from Division II.
Unlike last year, when the Buffanblu didn’t play a single game in the regular season decided by less than 27 points, the schedule will be much more grueling. To handle that, Punahou will have to rely on one of its potential strengths, the big boys up front, who Paul Honda wrote about in the countdown story that ran in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.