ALIAMANU — Fourth-ranked Punahou overcame a poor first half, but scored four of its five touchdowns on the ground to run past Moanalua, 35-7, in a non-league game at Radford's John E. Velasco Stadium on Friday night.
The game was originally supposed to be played at Moanalua but was moved to Radford due to construction on the track. Both coaches found the matchup beneficial in order to get better.
"We have to match it, it's one of those things, I'm glad to play Punahou because when you want to be the best, you have to play the best," said Moanalua coach Savaii Eselu.
"We were rusty, but part of it too was Moanalua's effort and they played well. I was proud of our team, but I was proud of him as well," said Punahou coach Kale Ane.
Forcing turnovers resulted in points for the Buffanblu. Maninoa Tufono forced a fumble and Kennedy Freeman recovered the ball on the Na Menehune 18. Four plays later, Antonio Cortez Feria ran it in for a 2-yard score for a 7-0 lead that carried all the way to halftime.
The Buffanblu (1-0 overall) were hampered with penalties all night, committing 15 for 158 yards. Of their 15 penalties, eight were passing interference calls. Despite the penalties against the secondary, the Buffanblu came away with three picks — Kaulana Makaula, Marist Liufau and Ethan Lujan with one each.
"We have to learn to the way the game is called. It's something we have to work on and any coach will say the same thing. But when it was time to finish strong, we did. I expect them to adjust," said Ane.
Moanalua (0-1 overall) had its opportunities in the red zone but could not punch it in.
Na Menehune compiled a 10-play drive that started at their own 30 and was extended by two pass interference calls. However, Nicholas Au was picked off by Makaula near the 18-yard line. Au finished with 144 yards on 22-of-42 passing.
"That was the main thing. It doesn't take a blind guy to see what happened. We couldn't punch it in and that's where the money is made. We have to harness that aggression and that kind of intensity that Punahou brought everytime," said Eselu.
Na Menehune used an eight minute and 25 second drive to get all the way down to the Buffanblu 6. Instead of a 23-yard field goal on a fourth-and-goal, Moanalua opted to go for it but turned it over on downs. Moanalua's final red zone opportunity resulted in a blocked field goal from 23 yards out.
"That was the thing to keep their ‘O' off the field," said Eselu, on the long drive.
Punahou asserted itself in the second half with the ground game and went to Sitiveni Kaufusi, who finished with 10 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns — both scored in the second half to wear out the smaller Na Menehune. The Buffanblu amassed 168 net rushing yards for the game.
"The running game complements the offensive line. The running backs ran hard and holes were there and it shortened the game and it was nice to see it. You love to see that and it we're excited about our line," said Ane.
"We knew what Barber had to offer on the table and their beast formation. When you face a team like us with our stature and size. You have to bend but not break," said Eselu.
Stephen Barber, who was making his first start after backing up Nick Kapule last year, finished the game with 140 yards on 14-of-25 passing and touchdown. His 11-yard score to Cody Pacarro put the Buffanblu up comfortably, 28-0 with 9:09 left in the fourth quarter.
Moanalua's only score of the game came off of a fumble recovery that was returned by Nainoa Decorte at the 7:10 mark.
A handful of reserves saw playing time for the Buffanblu as Nui Adolpho and Hugh Brady split time at quarterback. Logan Laveti rushed for the final touchdown of the night with 1:19 left to go.
Moanalua opens Oahu Interscholastic Association play against Kailua in a crossover game at Radford on Aug. 11. Punahou will test themselves against California teams Torrey Pines (San Diego, California) on Aug. 25 and Serra (San Mateo, California) on Sept. 2.
"We're looking forward to playing teams from off island and see where we stand. It's exciting to finally get the season started," said Ane.
"We have to correct our attitude and a lot of these student athletes are resorting to certain things in terms of attitude. If we clean that up, we should be okay," said Eselu.
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