For a new-look Baldwin High School football team, the first test will come quickly.
The Bears, winners of the last eight Maui Interscholastic League Division I titles, will play Oahu powerhouse Saint Louis on Aug. 10 at War Memorial Stadium. Last August at Aloha Stadium, the Crusaders beat the Bears 46-0.
"That's a big game for us," Baldwin assistant coach Keneke Pacheco said after the MIL football schedule was released on Monday. "Saint Louis is always a great program. You know they are going to be prepared, so it is our job to make sure that we're prepared to give them a good game. And to see what Baldwin High can do, too, hopefully at the state level."
The Bears will be playing without three-time MIL Offensive Player of the Year Keelan Ewaliko, now at summer school in Manoa as he prepares for his freshman season with the University of Hawaii.
"Last year was an entirely different team," Pacheco said. "This year we have a new team, we have younger players, we are rebuilding our receiving corps. We are looking at new players at the quarterback position and D-line position. For us it is a matter of putting together a good fundamental team."
The football season on Maui will open Aug. 9 when Maui High takes on St. Francis of Oahu in that program's first-ever football game.
Cody Nakamura will make his head coaching debut for Kamehameha Maui, which will host Damien on Aug. 10.
In the second week of preseason play, Kyle Sanches will make his debut as King Kekaulike's head coach when Na Alii travel to play Kamehameha Hawaii. On Maui, Lahainaluna will take on Kapaa and Maui High will face Konawaena in a doubleheader at War Memorial Stadium. All of those games are set for Aug. 17.
The MIL season opens with Maui High playing Baldwin on Aug. 23, while King Kekaulike travels to Kamehameha Maui on Aug. 24.
Lahainaluna plays a preseason game on Aug. 24 at War Memorial against Mt. Douglas from British Columbia, while Baldwin will play Mission Viejo High of California on Aug. 30.
The MIL schedule is a first-round, second-round format for the second straight season, there will be no break for the Maui County Fair.
King Kekaulike will play in Division II with Kamehameha Maui and Lahainaluna for the second year in a row.
A playoff for the MIL D-II title is set for Nov. 1, while D-I is Nov. 2 - both if necessary. The state playoffs are set for Nov. 8, 15 and 22.
Because of construction at its on-campus field, all of Lahainaluna's home games will be played at War Memorial Stadium. Kamehameha Maui and King Kekaulike will each host four games.
The highlight of the preseason slate is the Baldwin-Saint Louis game. Both teams will have had 10 practices before that tilt.
"We are hoping to give them a good game," Pacheco said. "It is a good game for us. It allows us to focus at a quicker pace. It takes lackadaisical out of practice and it makes competition an important part of practice."
The Baldwin-Saint Louis game could have implications for the state tournament seeding committee.
"If you want to compete at the state level, you have to play games like this," Pacheco said. "We have to compete at this level."
The second season of MIL eight-player football begins Sept. 13 when defending champion Seabury Hall travels to Hana. On Sept. 14, Molokai hosts St. Anthony. The eight-player league will play six of its 12 games at War Memorial Stadium, all on Thursday nights.
Molokai and Hana will each host three games. A championship playoff game for the eight-player league is Oct. 31, if necessary.
* Rob Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org