Trench Warfare 5: Mika Tafua vs. Jared Caputy

Kamehameha's Mika Tafua wrapped up Punahou quarterback Larry Tuileta last week. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Kamehameha’s Mika Tafua wrapped up Punahou quarterback Larry Tuileta last week. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

This one is going to be either really fun or really boring, as Kamehameha’s Mika Tafua usually lines up all over the defense and they may rarely engage. His favorite spot is as a standup speed rusher from the left edge, though, so Punahou’s Jared Caputy might get more than a few shots at him. Tafua stands 6-3 and a slender 220 pounds while Caputy is 6-2 but weighs 250.

IF these two superstars do hook up, we are in for a battle. All scoring is 10-point must system and completely subjective.

Round 1
Tafua lines up against Davis Miyashiro-Saipa’ia on the first play and gets a step on him but runs into the fullback. Our combatants are lined up against each other on the next play, but the design has Caputy taking out the defensive tackle and Tafua shows off his speed to drop Punahou’s running back in the backfield on the other side of the formation. Tafua beats Caputy inside on the next play, but Miyashiro-Saipa’ia and running back Kotoni Sekona swallow him up.
Tafua, 10-9

Round 2
Perhaps Punahou has underestimated Tafua. The Buffanblu start their next drive running away from him but leave him unblocked again and he chases the ballcarrier down and drops him behind the line again. That would be the only time they came anywhere near each other, as Tafua switches to middle linebacker in every play for the rest of the drive and blitzes on all but two of them. Tafua does blow up guard Kainoa McCauley a couple of times, but never threatens the quarterback. If Tafua stays at middle linebacker, this is not going to work.
Tied, 10-10

Round 3
This is more like it. Caputy and Tafua begin the next drive lined up opposite each other and they look like they are holding a pretty interesting conversation before the snap. Caputy gets into Tafua immediately and the defender lines up on the other side after that. When Tafua returns, he gets past Caputy but runs out of time on a quick pass so I guess you have to call that a draw. Caputy knows how much time he has. One thing about Tafua, he seems overwhelmed with responsibility. He spends a lot of his time before the snap looking around at his teammates to ensure they are in the right spot and is caught by surprise by the snap on the fourth play of the drive. He recovers to chase the receiver 25 yards down the field to make the play, but Caputy seemed to be on him before Tafua knew it. Tafua made a play against another blocker to take Punahou quarterback Larry Tuileta down on an option, but gets a late jump on another snap on the next play. Tafua sheds Caputy easily on the last play of the drive, a goal-line stand, but Punahou’s running back is way too big to be denied.
Caputy, 10-9

Round 4
Caputy and Tafua only go at it once on this short drive, a small skirmish and another run to the other side that Caputy draws another assignment on. It really should be a 10-10 round, but Caputy initiated the action on the draw and wins the round.
Caputy, 10-9

Round 5
Tafua begins this series lined up on the other side but draws a false start penalty. After beating that man on a bullrush, he returns to Caputy’s side and nearly bats down a pass despite Caputy holding him up. Tafua won’t be deterred, though, beating Caputy inside and blowing up the pocket and then beats Caputy on a speed rush but the tackle recovers just in time to save his quarterback. Tafua goes to the other side again, and returns to Caputy’s territory only one more time where he is handled by the big Buffanblu and the principals spend a good amount of time after the play facemask-to-facemask jawing at each other. That last play saved Caputy, he was on the verge of losing a 10-8 round.
Tafua, 10-9

Round 6
This is more like it. Tafua plants himself opposite Caputy and mostly stays there, pressuring the quarterback after bulling over Caputy. But the Buffanblu wins the next exchange when Tafua gets off the snap late. Punahou’s tight end helps Caputy on the next play but Caputy doesn’t need help after that, handling him on a quick pass. Tafua drops into coverage once from his spot at middle linebacker, but Caputy takes another exchange. Tafua is really busy before the snap and it is hurting him in this phase of the game. He redeems himself by beating Caputy on a bullrush and getting to Tuileta on the sideline, Caputy wins this one.
Caputy, 10-9

Round 7
Tafua lines up four times against Miyashiro-Saipa’ia and only once against Caputy, trying a speed rush that takes every bit of skill for Caputy to contain. While Caputy is busy with Tafua, though, Kamehameha’s Calen Scot Holt speeds off Caputy’s hip and lays a hit on Tuileta. After Miyashiro-Saipa’ia handles Tafua twice, the defender goes to the bench and stretches out his leg so the trainer can rub some kind of cream on his ankle. Tafua looks antsy while being worked on, but his helmet it off. Close round, but I will give it to Tafua for opening a lane for his teammate. I don’t know how much he had to do with it, but it worked.
Tafua, 10-9

Round 8
Tafua is back on the field for the next drive, shedding Caputy’s run block but not getting to the ballcarrier. He is unblocked on the next play and whatever was wrong with his ankle is temporary, as he closes hard to get a tackle. Tafua won this one by the slightest of margins.
Tafua, 10-9

Round 9
Tafua is all over the place on this drive, starting at left end, and moving to right with a few snaps at middle linebacker thrown in. His first clash with Caputy is a tie, but Caputy might be wearing the defender down as Tafua looks resigned when Caputy gets his hands on him. He forces a false start on the next play that was very close to being offsides on the defense, and three plays later Tafua beats Caputy for another tackle in the backfield. Punahou guard Semisi Uluave gets his hands on Tafua for the third time in the game and just engulfs him, throwing him to the ground but drawing a personal foul penalty.
Tafua, 10-9

Round 10
Kamehameha is way down on the scoreboard, but Tafua has not given up. Caputy starts the series with two successive headbutts to Tafua’s facemask, winning the first exchange but losing the second. Tafua is too quick for Caputy in the third (and last) encounter, beating the tackle with superior quickness and collecting another tackle for loss.
Tafua, 10-9

And we go to the judge:

Punahou’s offensive line as a whole won the battle, but Tafua does enough to barely beat Caputy in a matchup that is a lot closer than the score indicated and probably exposes a lot of flaws in the 10-point must system. But we do what we do and Tafua wins 97-94. Both players played really well and battled to the end, but Tafua wins that one extra exchange that makes the difference. With a different scorer this could have easily gone the other way.


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