Sabers kick off with win
WAILUKU – Things did not look good for the Maui High School football team midway through the second quarter of the Maui Interscholastic League opener at War Memorial Stadium.
Then the Sabers’ Soane Vaohea made a pair of large plays in a 16-second span to help turn a five-point deficit into a nine-point lead on the way to a 48-11 victory over Kamehameha Maui in front of about 1,200 fans in a rare Thursday night contest.
Vaohea scored on a 12-yard run – capping a 10-play, 88-yard drive – to give Maui High a 6-5 lead with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, Vaohea intercepted a Chase Newton pass and returned it 19 yards to the Kamehameha 5-yard line.
Tyson Takabayashi scored on the next play to put the Sabers in front 14-5 at halftime.
“I wasn’t worried,” Vaohea said. “Coach always told us to pick ourselves up, don’t let the score get to you, just play like it is 0-0 still.”
Maui High added two touchdowns in the third quarter – on a 1-yard run by Onosai Emelio and a nifty 20-yard jaunt by Vaohea – to stretch the lead to 30-5.
In the fourth, Keoni Keanini caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Newton before Maui High scored the final three touchdowns.
Daniel Kelley ran 13 and 2 yards for scores and Vaohea finished the night with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown with 47 seconds to play.
“It felt good, but it was just a matter of being at the right time and right place for me to get those,” Vaohea said of his opportune plays. “In the beginning we started a little sluggish. We don’t practice like this, we know we could have done better in the first half. Coach told us at halftime, ‘Don’t bow your heads, just come back and battle.’ “
Maui High, which is seeking its first state tournament berth since 2000, has a key game against nine-time defending MIL Division I champion Baldwin next week. The Bears have beaten the Sabers 26 times in a row, dating to 2000, but Maui High hung tough in a 7-0 loss in the teams’ last meeting.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Vaohea said. “We have some unfinished business.”
The Warriors broke on top 3-0 on a 27-yard field goal by Zachery Romero, capping a drive that started after a fumble by Emelio was recovered by Kaimi Kamalani at the Kamehameha 46-yard line.
After forcing another fumble that Kori Matsumura recovered, the Warriors had a golden chance to boost the lead. They went from their own 32-yard line to inside the Sabers’ 1, but could not score. The first play of the drive was a 58-yard pass from Newton to Joshua Hiwatashi.
The Sabers’ defense stopped Ikaika Chong Kee on fourth-and-1, but a swarm of Warriors caught Emelio in the end zone on the first offensive play for Maui High. The resulting safety made it 5-0 with 7:47 left in the first half.
After two dead-ball personal foul penalties in a three-play span on the goal-line stand, Maui High linebacker Alexander Vainikolo was ejected with just under eight minutes to go in the half. He will miss the game against Baldwin by league rule.
Newton finished with 225 passing yards, connecting with Hiwatashi 13 times for 198 yards.
Kelley finished with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Emelio ran 16 times for 111 yards.
The only pass thrown by Maui High quarterback Austin Hoe in the first half resulted in an interference penalty that gave the Sabers a first down on the Warriors’ 20-yard line – Vaohea scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later.
Hoe finished 2-for-4 for 50 yards – both completions went to Tristan Nichols.
“Ugly start, we have got a lot of things we have got to clean up,” Maui High coach David Bui said. “Our boys practiced hard all week, it wasn’t like we took them lightly. (Kameha-meha) came out ready to go and we just have got a lot of things we have got to polish if we’re going to go where we want to go.”
Kamehameha was playing its first game of the season – its nonleague game against Iolani was wiped out by weather concerns two weeks ago.
“Tough game, good team on their side, definitely a good team that we played tonight,” said Warriors coach Cody Nakamura. “We wanted to see what we had in the first game of the season. We have got a lot to learn and a lot to work on.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
KSM-Zachery Romero 27 FG, 2:32.
KSM-Safety, Onosai Emelio tackled in end zone, 7:47.
MH-Soane Vaohea 12 run (kick failed), 2:13.
MH-Tyson Takabayashi 5 run (Emelio run), 1:52.
MH-Emelio 1 run (Takabayashi run), 4:18.
MH-Vaohea 20 run (Takabayashi run), 0:00.
KSM-Keoni Keanini 5 pass from Chase Newton (pass failed), 9:24.
MH-Daniel Kelley 13 run (pass failed), 7:15.
MH-Kelley 2 run (run failed), 1:03.
MH-Soane Vaohea 42 interception return (kick blocked), 0:47