By: Wes Nakama
Executing a well-crafted game plan to near perfection, Punahou blitzed past visiting Kamehameha, 52-7, Saturday afternoon at historic Alexander Field.
John-Keawe Sagapolutele completed 14 of 16 passes for 146 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and Ala’i Williams led the ground game with 83 yards on five carries as the No. 2-ranked Buff ‘n Blue improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the ILH Open Division. Unranked Kamehameha, which trailed 21-0 after one quarter and 45-0 at halftime, fell to 0-4-1.
“It was, just execute and take what the defense gives us,” said Sagapolutele, who directed Punahou to TD drives on its first five possessions within the game’s opening quarter and a half. “We have a lot of weapons on offense and we know what they are capable of, in getting open. So it was being able to take my first read, and it opened everything else later.”
Defensively, the Buff ‘n Blue pressured Warriors quarterback Keali’i Ah Yat all afternoon and limited Kamehameha to 149 yards of total offense, while also snagging two interceptions and recovering one fumble. Only an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ah Yat to freshman receiver Kaina Watson prevented a shutout midway through the third quarter.
“No. 1, we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot and create opportunities for their offense,” Punahou coach Nate Kia said. “We knew that we had certain advantages that we could exploit, and I think the main thing with Kamehameha was containing their quarterback, who is very athletic, very skilled and can extend plays. We did our best and saw him bust out a few times, but we did our very best to prepare for him through the week.”
Ah Yat, a nimble senior who verbally committed to the University of Montana, completed 8 of 16 passes for 67 yards but was sacked four times and hurried and/or flushed out of the pocket at least double that amount.
Offensively, the Buff ‘n Blue effectively shuffled between run and pass plays, stretching the field both vertically and horizontal.
They took the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 61 yards in just six plays, capped by Sagapolutele’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Noah Macapulay. After a blocked punt on the ensuing possession, Sagapolutele completed a short drive with a 6-yard TD toss to Christian Kahane. Then after forcing a three-and-out, Punahou scored in just four plays as Williams broke through and shed some tackles as he scampered 39 yards for another score to help extend the lead to 21-0 with over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After Alden Takuma’s interception (his first of two) provided the Buff ‘n Blue with yet another scoring opportunity, Punahou went 52 yards in 12 plays, extending the drive twice with fourth-down conversions. Another Sagapolutele-to-Macapulay TD pass, this one from six yards out, helped push the lead to 28-0 with 9:43 still remaining in the first half.
“We had self-inflected wounds that let it get away too quickly,” Warriors coach Abu Ma’afala said. “They’re a great football team, not taking anything away from that. But we just gotta clean up. I mean, we had a bunch of penalties and against a team like that, you can’t make those type of mistakes, you can’t give them many opportunities.”
Besides dominating on both sides of the ball, Punahou also shined on special teams, led by kicker Jordan Kapisi. By repeatedly booming kickoffs into the end zone or just short of the goal line, Kapisi helped pin Kamehameha deep to start every drive, and he drilled a 42-yard field goal with 1:42 left before halftime to make the score 45-0.
“Having a placekicker with range is definitely a huge bonus for us,” Kia said. “When you get into tighter games and every possession becomes very valuable, Jordan is definitely a critical weapon for us.”
The Buff ‘n Blue now enter a bye week, but things don’t get much easier for the Warriors, who will play host to No. 5-ranked Saint Louis (2-3) at 7 p.m. at Kunuiakea Stadium.
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