The history of two storied football programs, private schools in urban Honolulu, could fill the chapters of a pretty big book.
Then used as source material for a college class about island sports and culture. Why not have Kale Ane and Cal Lee co-teach the course, too?
Until then, let us enjoy the buildup to another clash of ILH titans. There may be a few rivals with more competitive juice in America. Or not. Saint Louis, the mega-dynasty of yesteryear, attempting a climb back to the mountain top with the winningest coach in state history at the helm.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, whether it’s USC or Punahou,” said Lee, who coached linebackers at the University of Hawaii before returning to Saint Louis. “You always practice and prepare for every game like it could be your last. You never know. They’ve got a great offense. What a challenge. For us guys, that’s what you look for, to play somebody that’s good. You’ve got to like the challenge.”
Punahou is the definition of elite school branding, a one-time national athletic program of the year, according to Sports Illustrated. A literal giant in practically every sport played at the state-championship level. And yet, in football, the rise to power came in the past decade after ages of inconsistent results. Ane has blended the new with the old, the spread formation with healthy doses of ground-and-pound collisions in the trenches.
The two programs — Saint Louis is No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 and Punahou is No. 3 — meet tonight under the lights of Aloha Stadium. No TV. Aside from the glitz of playing in a facility that once housed the Pro Bowl and continues to be the home field of the University of Hawaii, and aside from the thousands of fans who will make their way to the site, a Punahou-Saint Louis trench war could be played at a neighborhood field in the dark and still be an epic experience.
After all, deep down inside, all the Crusaders and Buffanblu want is a chance to prove something — on the field.
It’s Week 6 of the prep football season, and these two teams have played but one league game apiece. All attempts by the powers-that-be to combine the private-school ILH with the public-school OIA for football scheduling were stymied — or stalled — over the summer. That simply led to quick passage by the HHSAA of a new format in the state championships that opens the door for two, instead of one, ILH teams in the newly formed Open Division. Title IX issues remain, and though the league has a bit of breathing room now — some fans may miss the cut-throat battles to secure the lone state-tourney berth — the edge is still there.
“It’s a pleasure. They’re well coached,” Lee said of his counterparts. “That’s why you play the game. You love the friendship. During the game you battle each other as competitors, but we’re better friends.”
Ane is relishing the opportunity as well. Ane vs. Lee is enough to whet the appetite of most, if not all, local football fans.
“The margin of error for both of us is small,” Ane said. “It’s great fun to be part of. Coaching against Coach Cal is always fun and a great learning experience for me as well.”
>> No. 1 Kahuku (4-0, 4-0 OIA Blue) at Radford (0-4, 0-3) — A defensive unit that has permitted less than five points per game (Kahuku) goes up against a Radford offense that struggles to complete passes.
>> No. 4 Waianae (4-1, 3-1 OIA Blue) at Aiea (1-3, 1-2) — Rico Rosario is leading the division in total rushing yards (473) and yards per carry (10.1), but three other Seariders (Kade Ambrocio, Javen Towne, Jorell Pontes-Borje) are also among the top 10 rushers.
>> No. 8 Mililani (3-1, 3-1 OIA Red) at Nanakuli (0-4, 0-3) — Kailiohu Kila’s home run ability has been a pleasant addition to the Trojans offense. Two of his three TDs have been of 60 yards or more, and his 11.4-yards-per-carry average is best in the division.
>> Kaiser (2-3, 1-3 OIA Blue) at Moanalua (2-2, 1-2) — Na Menehune QB Alaka‘i Yuen has settled in nicely, leading the airborne attack with 991 yards and 16 TDs with six picks in 119 attempts. At 8.3 yards per attempt, the senior has really come along. In fact, when he is on the field — he missed a half against Kailua — Moanalua averages what amounts to 37.1 points per game.
His main target is Ryan Ramones (30 catches, 553 yards, 10 TDs), though Brandon Bender (20, 259, three) has been just about as effective in divisional play.
Two-way performer Andrew Kaufusi could emerge as a major weapon offensively. He is averaging more than 30 yards per catch since returning from injury.
>> Pac-Five (2-0, 0-0 ILH D-II) vs. Damien (3-1, 1-0), Aloha Stadium — The experiment has been a success so far, moving record-setting QB Kainoa Ferreira to WR (and return specialist), while Ryan Johnson takes over in the pocket. Johnson has been a winner, while Ferreira, who has great hands and good speed and knows every route by heart, bolsters a young receiving corps.
While the Wolfpack have been idle from game action since Aug. 9, Damien has been one of the busiest ILH teams, winning games over D-I Maui (33-0), D-I Kealakehe (41-7) and last week’s clutch nail-biter against St. Francis (21-16).
QB Marcus Faufata-Pedrina has already accumulated 961 total yards, throwing for 10 TDs with just three picks.
>> Hawaii Prep (0-2, 0-1 BIIF) at Konawaena (1-1, 0-1) — Last week’s hurricane-related cancellation of a road game at Keaau spared the Wildcats a second long round trip in as many weeks around the Big Island. Historically, Ka Makani and the Wildcats have tangled up in some great battles with league titles at stake.
Since KS-Hawaii opened its doors, the talent pool across the island has siphoned off to a significant extent in all districts, affecting HPA as well. Konawaena, though, has become more of a destination school for football than its larger rival, Kealakehe, 15 miles north.
It will take more a lot for the visiting Ka Makani to pull off an upset, but history and the rivalry may factor in somehow.
>> Honokaa (2-0, 1-0 BIIF) at Kamehameha-Hawaii (3-0, 1-0) — Are the Dragons for real? It’s been a generation since Kaulana Noa and Davin “Taich” Alip powered the Dragons to one of their best seasons. A decade or so prior to that, Shane Bell steered a hardy group of 17 players to a BIIF crown. Last week’s game against Waiakea was called off.
KS-Hawaii’s game with Hilo was also canceled, which means both teams should be well rested now.
>> Waimea (1-2, 0-1 KIF) vs. Kauai (0-3, 0-1), Vidinha Stadium — It’s not often that a team wins its opener by 51 points, then loses the next two games. That’s the case for the Menehunes, who were blitzed by defending league champion Kapaa last week 35-0.
The Red Raiders didn’t fare any better against Kapaa, losing 50-0 on Aug. 26.
>> No. 6 Farrington (3-1, 3-1 OIA Red) at Castle (2-2, 1-2) — The Governors struggled offensively for much of the night in a hard-earned 19-7 win over Leilehua. Defenses are less willing to let RB Challen Faamatau get open lanes, but a plethora of dropped snaps stalled the Govs last week.
One question, with a capital “Q,” is about Bishop Rapoza. The senior had shared snaps at the position with Justin Uahinui, but did not play in last week’s game.
>> No. 10 ‘Iolani (3-1, 0-1 ILH) at No. 7 Kamehameha (1-2, 0-1) — The one team, particularly from Division II, that seemed to give Kamehameha the most trouble over the past decade was ‘Iolani. Now that the Raiders are in their second season in D-I, maybe the concept of upset wins over traditional powerhouses will fade into history.
The Raiders have one advantage early in the season: They’re familiar with their system. From Tai-John Mizutani (209 passing yards per game, six TDs, two picks) to K.J. Pascua (304 rushing yards, seven TDs) to Justin Genovia (26 catches, 384 yards, three TDs), ‘Iolani has a nucleus that has studied a successful system for years.
Kamehameha? It will take time for first-year coach Abu Ma’afala’s system to solidify. Last season’s record-breaking passers, Thomas Yam and Justice Young, haven’t found their groove just yet. Returnee Kanoa Shannon was effective as a wildcat ball carrier in last week’s loss to Punahou.
The return of RB Jaykob Cabunoc was promising, but limited.
>> Leilehua (1-4, 1-3 OIA Red) at Kailua (2-1, 2-1) — Four Top 10 foes, four defeats for the mighty Mules of Leilehua. Last week’s 19-7 loss to Farrington was another bitter pill to swallow, but it was also good news. It was the Mules’ best defensive performance aside from a win over a fledgling Nanakuli squad.
Though two Mules QBs have combined to throw 15 picks, they’ve been good at spreading the ball around. Four receivers have at least 16 receptions, and that doesn’t include two-way standout Charles Moku Watson, who would easily be among the top receivers in the state if he were one-dimensional.
Kailua is eking out a way, trying to survive in the midst of QB Keoni Serikawa Jr.’s injury. Mark Lagazo’s move from RB to signal-caller makes him the team’s leader in passing, rushing and receiving yardage.
As long as Lagazo, who had been a backup QB, and his linemen can keep the chains moving, the Surfriders defense — and college prospect Christian Mejia — gets a chance to carry the heaviest weight.
>> Waipahu (3-0, 2-0 OIA D-II) vs. Pearl City (3-1, 3-0), Aiea High School field —This game, originally slated for Friday night, could turn out to be a throwback thriller. Na Alii are coming off a 35-26 loss to Centennial (Ore.), the program’s first mainland trip since 1974.
The Chargers had a bye last week and had a chance to refine their highly efficient passing attack. Kekainalu Simon has thrown seven TD passes with no picks in league play.
Marauders QB Braden Amorozo has been sometimes spectacular, averaging more than 290 passing yards per game in division play. He has completed 62 percent of his attempts, and Isaac Yamashita has turned into a big-play machine (nine catches, 255 yards, two TDs).
>> Kalaheo (1-3, 1-2 OIA D-II) at Waialua (1-1, 1-1) — Mustangs pass catcher Tristan Thulin-Marsh has pulled in 11 of QB Mark Lerhner’s 29 completions in league action. Thulin-Marsh is averaging 20.4 yards per reception.
>> Roosevelt (1-4, 1-3 OIA D-II) at Kalani (1-2, 1-2) — The Rough Riders’ low-risk offense has been up and down, but it has also turned Charvis Paia into the conference’s leading rusher (275 yards, two TDs). Kalani’s Seth Tina-Sobarano has passed for a division-high 644 yards with three TDs and just two interceptions.
>> Baldwin (2-2, 2-0 MIL) at Lahainaluna — There was a time when practically all night games were played at War Memorial Stadium, the next-door neighbor of Baldwin High School. Times have changed, and the Lunas are in bounce-back mode
Baldwin has responded to nonconference losses to Kamehameha and Edison (Calif.) by edging Kamehameha-Maui and, last week, Maui (36-21). The road win over KS-Maui was close, 19-14.
>> Hilo (1-1, 1-0 BIIF) at Kealakehe (0-2, 0-1) — Last week’s cancellation of a matchup with D-II title contender Kamehameha-Hawaii due to Hurricane Lester may have been a blessing in disguise. An extra week of rest leading into a cross-island trip after battles with Saint Louis and Konawaena didn’t hurt.
Kealakehe followed its 41-7 loss to Damien with a 12-7 home-field loss to Honokaa. Last week’s matchup with Hawaii Prep was also postponed.
>> Keaau (1-0, 1-0 BIIF) at Waiakea (0-4, 0-1) — Not so long ago, Waiakea was a four-time defending league champion. More recently, Keaau was the one team that threatened once-mighty Kealakehe’s iron-fisted grip of BIIF titles.
The Cougars have struggled in recent seasons, but a win over the Warriors would keep their record unbeaten. Last week’s matchup with Konawaena was canceled due to inclement weather.
>> Kamehameha-Maui (1-2, 1-1 MIL) at Maui (2-3, 2-1) — The Sabers need a bounce-back game after losing to Baldwin last week, 36-21. KS-Maui, which lost to Baldwin 19-14 on Aug. 27, had a bye last week.