WAILUKU - An impressive roster will get a tough test when the Baldwin High School football team takes on Mission Viejo, Calif., on Aug. 29 at War Memorial Stadium.
The Bears, ranked seventh in the first statewide poll in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, will face the Diablos, who last year finished 6-2-1 and ranked eighth in the Orange County Register's top-10 poll of the county's powerful programs.
Before that, Baldwin will start its season with a contest against Kamehameha Hawaii on Aug. 22 at War Memorial Stadium.
The prep football season opens on Maui on Saturday when Maui High takes on Kalaheo at 7:30 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium. Kamehameha Maui will face Iolani at 8 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.
There is little doubt that the Baldwin-Mission Viejo matchup is the marquee contest of eight varsity nonleague games that will be played on Maui this month. Four off-island games will also precede the MIL season, which starts Sept. 12, including a trip to Florida for King Kekaulike to play Bay High School.
Baldwin's highly recruited defensive end, Mana Rosa, will not play until the Bears open their league schedule as he recovers from surgery on his left arm that left a 10-inch scar, two titanium plates and 14 screws.
Rosa broke his arm at the Just Win Camp in June, but he had a smile on his face at Baldwin's practice Tuesday after learning Saturday that he is the first MIL football player to receive a scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii since former Lahainaluna offensive lineman Lui Fuata finished at UH in 2002.
''The arm is getting better,'' said Rosa, who lost 15 pounds off his 6-foot-3, 250-pound frame after surgery a month ago to repair three breaks in his forearm. ''I have a checkup this Friday, so I will see how I'm doing then. I had surgery and they put some plates in there and some screws. I had a cast at first, but it wasn't healing right, so they had to put in plates to straighten my bones. It is getting better. I just got back to lifting again.''
Hawaii joins Utah and Nevada-Las Vegas on the list of schools to have offered scholarships to Rosa. Baldwin coach A.J. Roloos gave Rosa the letter from UH offering the scholarship on Saturday after he got a call from Warriors assistant coach Rich Miano last week.
''I'm keeping my options open right now,'' Rosa said. ''I hope to make a decision about midseason. UH is close to home, a lot of guys want to go to UH because it is in Hawaii and they support the Hawaiians and all that. My mom said, 'Oh yeah, UH is a good place to go. You can come home.' I can see them whenever I want and they can see my games, so that would be an advantage. I hope they start looking at the MIL more now and maybe help out some more guys. I think we are pretty good here on Maui.''
Rosa, who will also see time for the Bears at tight end, is the 15th-ranked player on the Rivals.com Northwest Hot 100 List, for prospects from Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah. He is joined on the Baldwin roster by Jordan Puu-Robinson, another defensive end-tight end who transferred from Kamehameha Maui and is the No. 37 player on the same list. The Bears also have six transfers from St. Anthony, including starting quarterback Buta Wilhelm-Ioane and starting running back Keith Flores.
Baldwin veteran Makana Hoopai, an offensive lineman, is No. 61 on the Northwest list.
The MIL has never had more than one player make the list in a single season before, and Roloos knows that the expectations for his team are high.
He also knows that the Mission Viejo game will give the Bears a clear picture of just where they stand. Last August, Baldwin lost 37-15 to San Clemente, from the same South Coast League that Mission Viejo plays in. San Clemente also finished last season with a 6-2-1 record.
''Mission Viejo is going to be a real big test,'' Roloos said. ''I think they are ranked 37th in the nation, so it is going be a good test for us. We can see where our team is at. They are like the San Clemente team, they are in the same division, but I think they are better than San Clemente was last year.''
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org