PUKALANI - Maui High School seniors were in kindergarten the last time the Sabers stood in first place this late in a football season.
At least temporarily, the Sabers claimed sole possession of the top spot in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I standings with a 14-6 win over King Kekaulike on Friday night.
This Maui High team followed the ground-oriented plan of the 2000 squad that won the MIL title under Curtis Lee, running on 41 of 44 plays from scrimmage in front of about 2,000 fans at King Kekaulike Stadium.
Justin McCrary of Maui High School looks for running room during the second quarter of the Sabers’ 14-6 win over King Kekaulike on Friday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Maui High (2-1) is a half-game in front of seven-time defending MIL champion Baldwin, which plays Kamehameha Maui tonight at War Memorial Stadium. The Bears own the first-round tiebreaker over the Sabers on the strength of a 25-5 win two weeks ago.
Maui High dressed 37 players on Friday night after disciplinary actions and player attrition depleted the roster of 58 the Sabers had to open MIL play.
"We are not looking at the records, we are just taking it one game at a time with our young group right here," said second-year Maui High coach David Bui. "We are excited with the boys we have and all we are doing is working to get better every day."
Bui had only one comment on players not at the game: "All I can say is, this is the group we got from here until the end of the season and we're proud of them."
Justin McCrary moved into second place on the league rushing list after running for 163 yards on 25 carries and scoring two second-half touchdowns for Maui High.
McCrary, who had 102 yards on 15 carries in the second half, put the Sabers on the board with a 30-yard, across-the-field burst to the right side of the end zone with 5 minutes, 34 seconds left in the third quarter, and Jared Kapisi's extra point made the score 7-6.
McCrary added a 42-yard scoring run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"We did what we had to do and we got our job done, all of our assignments," McCrary said. "This is our team and we are just going to keep getting better, we want it."
Maui High sophomore quarterback David Kahaleauki completed all three of his passes for 18 yards.
"The line stepped it up and this boy (McCrary) here should be giving praises to his line," Bui said. "He did an awesome job, too."
McCrary did indeed pay tribute to the blockers in front of him - "I have got to give it all to them," he said.
King Kekaulike led after a sluggish first two quarters. Quarterback Ryley Widell scored Na Alii's first offensive points of the MIL season on a 5-yard touchdown run with 10:37 remaining in the second quarter.
"We finally got in the end zone, but we still have to work," said first-year King Kekaulike coach Clarence Rivers. "You have to play four quarters. We played a half."
After one quarter, Maui High had a single yard of offense, and King Kekaulike had 10. The Sabers finished with 153, six more than Na Alii.
An interception and 21-yard return by Brandon Haupu set up King Kekaulike's touchdown - Widell found Keegan Gregg on a 16-yard pass to the 6-yard line and Widell scored two plays later.
On the ensuing possession, Maui High had a 37-yard touchdown run by McCrary wiped out by a holding penalty.
King Kekaulike committed 12 penalties for 85 yards and Maui High had eight penalties for 60 yards.
Widell finished 9-for-19 passing, for 146 yards.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Maui High ............. 0 ..... 0 ..... 7 ..... 7-14
King Kekaulike ..... 0 ..... 6 ..... 0 ....... 0-6
KK-Ryley Widell 5 run (kick failed), 10:37.
MH-Justin McCrary 30 run (Jared Kapisi kick), 5:34.
MH-McCrary 42 run (Kapisi kick), 11:49.
Junior varsity-King Kekaulike 28, Maui High 27.
x-clinched first-round championship
* * *
Maui High 14, King Kekaulike 6
* * *
Baldwin vs. Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.
* * *
Friday, Sept. 21
Baldwin at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.
* * *
Saturday, Sept. 22
Maui High vs. Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.