Lunas alone on top
WAILUKU – The Lahainaluna High School football team has had its troubles against Baldwin in the meetings between the top two teams in the Maui Interscholastic League for the last decade or so.
The Lunas, however, turned the tables on the Bears with a 28-7 win Friday night in front of about 8,000 fans at War Memorial Stadium.
Lahainaluna (3-0) ran for 473 yards, with Jared Rocha-Islas racking up 156 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Makoa Filikitonga adding 150 yards and a score on 21 attempts.
“Well, we got lucky,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said after his team took sole possession of the unofficial overall lead in the MIL standings. “We know this is a rebuilding year for Baldwin. Our kids came out, they played hard, we played hard. We just happened to come out on top tonight. We got very fortunate.”
The Lunas have won two of their last three games against the Bears (2-1), who entered Friday 67-3-1 in the MIL since the middle of the 2004 season, when the Lunas last won the league crown outright.
Of the Bears’ four losses in their last 72 league games, three are to the Lunas.
“They played well, they played well, they deserved it,” Baldwin coach Keneke Pacheco said. “Lahainaluna’s a good team and that’s the way it goes, man. They were really tough, we made a lot of mistakes, but they are tough.”
After the Bears climbed within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Lunas needed just four plays and 68 seconds to go 63 yards and make the score 21-7 with 10:36 left on a 43-yard run by Filikitonga. The drive was helped by a personal-foul penalty on Baldwin that gave Lahainaluna a first down on the Baldwin 49-yard line.
The Lunas closed the door with a 65-yard touchdown run by Jeffery Ancog on his only carry of the game with 1:18 to go. Ancog intercepted Josiah Maglente-Tonu’s final pass three plays later.
The Bears scored on a drive that started late in the third quarter and included a bizarre play that gave them a first down at the Lunas’ 15.
Baldwin’s Chris Kazanecki caught a pass from Jeremiah Badillo, but fumbled after a big hit by Tyran Ku’u Palea. The ball was recovered by Lahainaluna’s Conner Rosen-St. John, who tried to lateral. The ball hit the turf, however, and was recovered by Bears center Noah Apolo. Earlier on the drive, Apolo connected on a 14-yard pass to Kazanecki out of punt formation for a first down.
The Bears scored four plays after the double fumble on a 1-yard run by Dusty Flores to make it 14-7 with 11:44 to play. They reached the Lunas’ 1 with a 24-yard pass from Badillo to Kazanecki.
For the night, Baldwin finished with 240 yards of offense. Flores, the leading rusher in the league, was limited to 61 yards on 16 carries.
“Our defense did a hell of a job, (especially) containing No. 3 (Badillo),” Tihada said. “Dusty Flores is a hell of a running back and, you know, our defense did a decent job trying to contain him. I’m sure he had decent yards tonight, but he didn’t run wild.”
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening series, the Lunas took their first possession of the game 86 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 2-yard run by Christian Whitehead. All of the yardage was gained on the ground as Lahainaluna’s single pass on the drive was incomplete – the Lunas threw only four passes in the game.
Rocha-Islas ran four times on the drive for 52 yards, including jaunts of 24 and 19 yards.
Lahainaluna got the ball right back when Flores fumbled on the kickoff return, but lost the ball on downs.
The Lunas added their second touchdown on a 74-yard, nine-play drive that again produced all its yards on the ground. Rocha-Islas started the drive with a 22-yard ramble and capped it with a 1-yard dive with 11:36 remaining in the first half.
In the first quarter, the Lunas gained 172 yards while allowing 20 and ran 25 plays to the Bears’ six. For the first half, Lahainaluna had a 242-62 advantage in yardage.
The Lunas finished with 480 yards of offense and 20 first downs.
“Makoa did a good job running the ball tonight,” Tihada said. “Jared Rocha, too, when he was in there, but the bottom line is without the offensive line we would not move an inch. So, every time you see the running back popping out it is because there was an opening for them to run through.”
The teams traded fourth-down stops midway through the second quarter before Connor Mowat recovered a fumble at the Baldwin 39-yard line on an attempted handoff between Maglente-Tonu and Keenan Luis.
Three plays later, the Bears’ James Kidder-DeCambra recovered a fumble between Filikitonga and Whitehead to give Baldwin the ball at its own 43-yard line.
The Bears got another turnover after punting when Alika Ezera recovered a fumble by Ansen Cabanilla after a 19-yard return. Baldwin started at the Lunas’ 35-yard line with 2:17 left in the first half, but could not generate a first down.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Baldwin ………… 0 ….. 0 ….. 0 ……… 7-7
Lahainaluna ….. 7 ….. 7 ….. 0 ….. 14-28
LL-Christian Whitehead 2 run (Jared Rocha-Islas kick), 6:11.
LL-Rocha-Islas 1 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 11:36.
B-Dusty Flores 1 run (Benjamin Wuthrich kick), 11:44.
LL-Makoa Filikitonga 43 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 10:36.
LL-Jeffery Ancog 65 run (Rocha-Islas kick) 1:18.
* * *
Junior varsity-Lahainaluna 9, Baldwin 7.