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(Fri) November 28, 2008

HHSAA Division I FOOTBALL: Punahou Holds Off Farrington, Advances to DI Championship

By Kyle Galdeira

Punahou employed its arsenal of playmakers on both sides of the ball en route to a thrilling 35-28 victory over Farrington this evening in the semifinal round of the 10th Annual Hawaii High School Athletic Association/First Hawaiian Bank Division I Football State Championships at Aloha Stadium.

With the victory, Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Punahou advances to the Division I championship game on Dec. 5 against Leilehua of the Oahu Interscholastic Association.

Dalton Hilliard caught a game-high 13 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 37 yards and a score on nine carries, and picked up an interception in support of the Buffanblu. Teammate Mantai Te‘o chipped in 34 yards rushing on 10 carries, two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown, and racked up 6.5 tackles to go with a fumble recovery.

Fellow Punahou two-way player Robert Toma caught nine passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, and also returned an interception for 74 yards on what proved to be the game-clinching touchdown. 

Farrington (9-4) got on the board first with 3:02 to play in the opening quarter as Dayton Kealoha found Sila Tonga for a two-yard score on second down and goal. Robert Molina converted the extra point attempt, and gave the Governors a 7-0 advantage.

Punahou (11-1) answered with a seven-play, 70-yard drive in the second quarter capped by Hilliard’s one-yard touchdown run with 9:30 remaining in the first half.

With 7:29 to play in the second quarter, Farrington took a 10-7 lead on Apelu Sooalo’s 34-yard field goal to cap a six-play, 46-yard drive that spanned one minute, fifty seconds.

But the Buffanblu answered on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cayman Shutter to Te‘o that put Punahou up 14-10 with 2:22 to play in the first half after Robert Izuta’s extra point was true.

Sooalo put the Governors up 16-14 one minute and 36 seconds into the third quarter on a three-yard touchdown run up the middle. Molina’s point after attempt sailed wide left and Farrington maintained its two-point lead.

As Farrington drove into Punahou’s red zone, Hilliard intercepted Kealoha’s pass and returned it 57 yards with five minutes to play in the third period. After the squads traded possessions, the Buffanblu took a 21-16 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Shutter to Toma with one minute, 27 seconds to go in the third quarter.

But, Farrington regained the lead on Kealoha’s 63-yard pass to Drake Miller with 8:39 remaining in the game, and a failed two point conversion attempt left the Governors clinging to a 22-21 advantage.

The see-saw battle continued as Punahou went ahead, 29-22, with five minutes and 33 seconds remaining in the game thanks to a 40-yard strike from Shutter to Hilliard followed by a successful two-point conversion from the same duo.

As Farrington drove in attempt to tie the game, Toma picked off Kealoha’s pass and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown that put Punahou up 35-22 and sealed the victory for the Buffanblu.

Ani Isumu returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to narrow the deficit to 35-28 as the game clock expired.

Shutter finished with 412 yards and three touchdowns, and completed 34 of 55 attempts.

Sooalo paced Farrington with 23 rushes for 100 yards, and Kealoha finished with 235 yards and two touchdown strikes.