The stage is set for one of the premier high school football matchups of the year between the St. Louis Crusaders and the Punahou Buffanblu Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
St. Louis (3-0, 1-0 ILH) are well rested, having not played since September 1st in a dominate 44-0 victory over Kamehameha. The win over the Warriors marked the second time the Crusaders shut out an opponent this season, conceding just one touchdown in their season opener against Waianae.
The Crusaders have looked nearly unstoppable in the early stages of this season, outscoring their three opponents 154-7 in 12 quarters of football.
"We're kind of excited about playing a game," said St. Louis head coach Cal Lee. "We've been off a couple weeks so we're excited about the challenge coming up tomorrow."
For the Buffanblu (4-0, 1-0 ILH), they’ve been off to an impressive start in their own right with an undefeated record through four games, averaging a little over 34 points per game. Punahou’s most recent performance also came against the Warriors last weekend in a 21-0 shutout victory.
Offensive players to watch
While holding Kamehameha to zero points was impressive, Punahou struggled to move the ball efficiently for the majority game, highlighted by turnovers from star quarterback Stephen Barber Jr.
Not a pretty football game at Aloha Stadium, as many turnovers as points. Punahou leads Kamehameha 7 - 0 at halftime.— Punahou Athletics (@GoPuns) September 10, 2017
While Kamehameha was not able to capitalize on Punahou’s turnovers, the same can’t (and won’t) be said about St. Louis should the Buffanblu continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate.
Punahou racked up 315 offensive yards against Kamehameha, including 191 yards on the ground with the majority of those yards coming from Barber., who tallied 113 yards on 12 carries with a score. But passing the ball, Barber threw four interceptions on 11-of-21 passing for 124 yards with zero touchdown passes.
"It's a threat. When you have a guy who can run and throw the ball like he does, it doubles the pressure," Lee said of Barber. "We've got our hands full trying to contain him and get our coverage in the backfield. He plays with a lot of confidence. He's a good player."
For St. Louis, they’ll be relying on the arm -- and legs -- of their dual-threat quarterback, Chevan Cordeiro. Against Kamehameha, Cordeiro completed 22-of-31 passing for 248 yards and touchdown. On the ground, he rushed for 59 yards and two scores.
Defensive players to watch
Faatui Tuitele is an opposing presence on the defensive line for the Crusaders not just because of his dominance between the trenches, but also because of his size.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, not many offensive linemen in the state are able to get the better of Tuitele once the ball snaps. The four-star prospect, according to 247Sports, will look to collapse Barber’s pocket and force him to move outside where the likes of fellow defensive linemen Michael Malepeai and Gino Quinones will be able to make plays.
"He’s going to have a challenge. They got good linemen, they ain't no slouches. There 4-0 for a reason," Lee said. "It’s not just going to be Tui. He’s got a challenge cause they have offensive linemen who have been doing a good job."
For Punahou, cornerback Tanner Ono had a standout performance against the Warriors last weekend, snagging two of the Buffanblu’s three interceptions on the day, including a pick-six which put Punahou ahead 7-0.
Ono and the rest of the Buffanblu’s secondary will have their hands full with a talented St. Louis receivers unit.
Saturday night’s game isn’t just about the players, however.
The matchup between Punahou head coach Kale Ane and St. Louis head coach Cal Lee will also be a talking point for those in attendance, as two of the state’s all-time coaches will face off for the 15th time.
Through 14 games, Lee has a 10-4 record against Ane, although Ane has defeated Lee three seasons in a row coming into Saturday night's showdown.
"We got another shot at it," Lee said. "It's gonna be a helluva game. You never how that football is going to bounce."
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