Kalani Takase | ScoringLive
August 27, 2019, 8:57pm
Athlete of the week: Tevarua Tafiti, Punahou football
Tevarua Tafiti's defensive performance in No. 3 Punahou's 44-13 win over No. 7 Kapolei was a little bit of a sneak peek at just how talented the sophomore rover is and the potential that he owns.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Tafiti made a game-high eight tackles, including seven solo stops, four tackles for losses, two sacks, one hurry and a pass break-up.
"I thought he played just like the stats say, he played really well," Punahou coach Kale Ane said. "I didn't know how many tackles he had, but he seemed to be popping up a lot and making some key stops for us, so he's a very big part of our defense."
As a freshman defensive lineman last year, Tafiti was the only non-junior or senior selected as a first team All-Interscholastic League of Honolulu all-star. He has started all 14 varsity games he has appeared in, including the first four contests of 2019 — albeit at a new position.
"Last year he was a defensive end, pass-rusher type, but he also did well against the run so he understands the defensive end portion of it, as far as reading the quarterback and the offensive line," Ane said. "That's a big plus when you move him into the linebacker or (defensive back) spots because he can read the linemen as well and he knows where the ball is going."
Tafiti, who also wrestles for the Buffanblu, steps into the role that was filled by All-Hawaii first team defensive utility pick and now-Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau. Ane said the sophomore's versatility fits the position well.
"He'll be multi-faceted, he'll be moving around to different places, he will be on tight end, he will be on slots, he'll be rushing off the edge, he'll be in the middle at times, so it's a position where you have to be able to do a bunch of things and speed is a critical factor, physicality is a big factor and being able to adjust and think on your feet are huge values and just being able to feel comfortable in space is huge," Ane explained.
It was over the course of the offseason through team workouts that Ane said Tafiti impressed him enough to try out the position change.
"Losing someone like Marist is tough to replace and it's hard for anyone to take his place, but just seeing (Tafiti) in the offseason, running, moving his feet, changing direction were skills that I think led to the new position," Ane said. "He had the ability to do new things and mentally adjust to new things because he was a freshman, starting, (earned) all-league and a lot of recognition and then to really consider moving to a new position where it may or may not work and give up the possibility of consistency to benefit the team is big and hopefully it'll benefit him in the long run as well."
Ane said that while Tafiti's best skill is rushing the passer, he is continuing to show improvement in pass coverage.
"The scary part is he's still learning how to play and how to get comfortable as a coverage guy and just starting to understand those concepts, but his strength right now is getting after the quarterback and getting off blocks and pursuing," Ane said.
Tafiti's physical attributes are complemented by his football IQ, which was on display after a change of possession on an Alakai Gilman interception return in the second quarter of Saturday's win over the Hurricanes.
After Gilman picked off the Noa Bailey pass, he took it back for a 49-yard pick-6 to give his team a 17-0 lead with 6:56 left in the first half. Ane described how Tafiti showing restraint from drawing a blindside block penalty on the Gilman return.
"Most kids would have just gone ahead and blocked in the back, but he put his hands up and understood that one, he didn't need to make the block and two, the odds were he was going to get a penalty if he hit him, so he just stood there and put his hands up and turned around," Ane said. "That was huge because we've had penalties in the past that cost us touchdowns, so that was a heads-up situation."
Punahou improved to 4-0 overall with the win and hold a half-game lead on Saint Louis in the ILH Open Division standings with a 3-0 league mark.
The Buffanblu will travel to southern California this week for a non-league game against Long Beach Poly Friday. That game will be played at Moorpark High School in Ventura County, California — about 53 miles northwest of Los Angeles International Airport.
Kickoff is scheduled for approximately 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time.
It will be the first game of the season for the Jackrabbits, who went 8-3 last season and reached the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
ScoringLive reporter Michael Lasquero contributed to this report.
Kyler Aguiar, Hilo — Caught five passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Keaau
Jasiah Alcover, Mililani — Rushed for two touchdowns in a win over Farrington
Elijah Apao, Hilo — Scored on a 95-yard punt return and a 38-yard interception return in a win over Keaau
Naomas Asuega-Fualaau, Kaimuki — Rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and caught two passes for 67 yards in a loss to Iolani
Brody Logan Bantolina, Iolani — Rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in a win over Kaimuki
Blitzen Benz, Waialua — Rushed 11 times for 150 yards and a touchdown in a win over Vincent Massey
Jaysen Bragado, Hawaii Prep — Scored on a 20-yard interception return
Jayden de Laura, Saint Louis — Completed 22 of his 38 pass attempts for 267 yards with four touchdowns and one interception and rushed seven times for 46 yards and another score in a win over Campbell
Kyler Dicion, Waialua — Completed 17 of his 30 pass attempts for 261 yards and four touchdowns with one interception and rushed for another score in a win over Vincent Massey
Harrison Donato, Kamehameha — Scored on a 33-yard interception return in a win over Fagaitua
Alfred Failauga, Waipahu — Threw a touchdown pass, caught a touchdown pass and rushed 19 times for 86 yards in a loss to Damien
Alii Gaspar, Pearl City — Rushed 20 times for 154 yards and a touchdown in a win over Kalaheo
Nakoa Gaspar-Takahashi, Castle — Recovered two fumbles in a win over Aiea
Kanoa Gibson, Mililani — Caught six passes for 98 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Farrington
Alakai Gilman, Punahou — Had 5 1/2 tackles, one pass break-up and scored on a 49-yard interception return in a win over Kapolei
Kapena Gushiken, Kamehameha-Maui — Scored on a 75-yard punt return in a loss to Baldwin
Herbert Hallers, Pearl City — Scored on a 55-yard interception return in a win over Kalaheo
Tahj Hauhio, Nanakuli — Rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in a loss to PAC-5
Brock Hedani, Iolani — Rushed for a touchdown and caught a TD pass in a win over Kaimuki
Jonah Henry, Punahou — Scored on a 32-yard interception return in a win over Kapolei
Bryson Ho, PAC-5 — Rushed for two touchdowns in a win over Nanakuli
Kai Hoekstra, Waialua — Caught four passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Vincent Massey
Jake Holtz, Damien — Threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-33 passing without an interception in a win over Waipahu
Bryson Johnson, Kalaheo — Scored on a 65-yard interception return in a loss to Pearl City
Isaac Kaleikau, Roosevelt — Scored on a 30-yard interception return in a win over Kalani
Jayden Kamakele, Kailua — Scored on a 23-yard interception return in a win over Radford
Kaonohi Kaniho, Kahuku — Scored on a 35-yard interception return in a win over Waianae
Shepherd Kekahuna, Roosevelt — Scored on a 90-yard kickoff return in a win over Kalni
Mykah Kukahiwa, Roosevelt — Rushed for two touchdowns in a win over Kalani
Justin Lina, Hawaii Prep — Rushed for three touchdowns and scored on a 40-yard interception return in a win over Pahoa
Ethan Lynch, Kaiser — Rushed for three touchdowns in a win over McKinley
Jayden Maiava, Kaimuki — Threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-30 passing without an interception in a loss to Iolani
Sonny Masaniai, Saint Louis — Had a sack and forced a fumble in a win over Campbell
Zealand Matagi, Kahuku — Rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in a win over Waianae
Jevon Miller, Aiea — Rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in a loss to Castle
Kyan Miyasato, Hilo — Threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 7-of-8 passing without an interception in a win over Keaau
Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, Campbell — Caught nine passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Saint Louis
Jarvis Natividad, Damien — Caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown in a win over Waipahu
Damon Nelson, Radford — Scored on an 84-yard kickoff return in a loss to Kailua
Koali Nishigaya, Saint Louis — Caught eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Campbell
Guyson Ogata, Hilo — Scored on a 66-yard punt return in a win over Keaau
Sky Ogata, Roosevelt — Completed 18 of his 20 pass attempts for 222 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in a win over Kalani
Duke Palma, Pahoa — Caught three passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Hawaii Prep
Tre Rickard, Lahainaluna — Rushed for a touchdown and caught a TD pass in a win over Kekaulike
Makani Smith-Kemfort, Kamehameha-Maui — Caught two touchdown passes in a loss to Baldwin
Josiah Sniffen, Baldwin — Scored on a 30-yard fumble return in a win over Kamehameha-Maui
Matthew Sykes, Saint Louis — Caught two touchdown passes in a win over Campbell
Kelekolio Taylor II, Kapolei — Had 4 1/2 tackles and two interceptions in a loss to Punahou
Vincent Terrell, Punahou — Rushed for two touchdowns in a win over Kapolei
Joshua Tihada, Lahainaluna — Rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries in a win over Kekaulike
Chazz Tom, Castle — Rushed for two touchdowns in a win over Aiea
Fosi Ulima, Damien — Had seven tackles, including three sacks, in a win over Waipahu
Taylor Scott Wong, Kamehameha — Scored on a 47-yard interception return in a win over Fagaitua
Hastings Yee Hoy, Kailua — Rushed for two touchdowns in a win over Radford