Sabers win first-round title

Wildcat offense, aggressive defense lead Maui High past Baldwin

Solomone Tongi carries the ball for Maui High School during the first quarter of a 32-21 victory over Baldwin on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Solomone Tongi carries the ball for Maui High School during the first quarter of a 32-21 victory over Baldwin on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — The Maui High School football team had a plan and executed it to near perfection on its homecoming night Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

The Sabers used a wildcat formation with several different running backs for the majority of the game and combined that with a defense that delivered five turnovers and a safety, all of which added up to a 32-21 victory over Baldwin — Maui High’s fourth over the Bears since 2001, and first in the teams’ last five meetings.

The win gave the Maui Interscho­las­tic League Division I first-round crown to the Sabers (2-2), while Baldwin (2-2) lost for the fourth time in six games overall this year.

“We just came out to ball today, we came out hungry,” said Maui High junior linebacker Atu Faleka­ono, who finished with three sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. “Coach did everything to give us the skills. We just wanted to bring it tonight.”

Sophomore running back Solo­mone Tongi ran from the quarterback spot on the first seven plays for the Sabers, and finished with 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

The Sabers’ Justin Pulido heads upfield during the second quarter. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Sabers’ Justin Pulido heads upfield during the second quarter. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We ran (the wildcat) a couple times during the season,” said first-year Maui High coach Rodney Figueroa, a former Baldwin assistant. “We ran it against Lahaina and we kept working it in practice, working it in practice. You know, the kids stepped up tonight. They believe in it and they can run it.”

Naia Nakamoto also ran for two touchdowns for Maui High. His first, on a 46-yard run on the first play of the second quarter, put the Sabers in front 13-8, and they led the rest of the way. That touchdown was set up when the Bears fumbled a handoff between quarterback Chayce Akaka and Aloalii Laga at the Sabers’ 39-yard line.

Akaka passed for a touchdown and scored on a run and a catch, but threw three interceptions in a game for the first time in his high school career.

“Give their coaches and players a lot of credit,” Baldwin coach Pohai Lee said. “They had a good game plan for us, and hats off to them. The No. 1 thing we talk about is we want to take care of the ball, limit our mistakes. Obviously when we have a game like that, I take responsibility for the loss. We got to do a better job, I got to do a better job in terms of getting guys ready and taking care of the football.”

The Bears scored on their first possession when Akaka scrambled into the end zone from 11 yards out, and Bishop Wickes, who had six carries on the drive for 44 yards, took the snap on the conversion attempt and ran straight up the middle for an 8-0 lead.

Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka is flushed from the pocket by Maui High’s Jonathan Aunese in the first quarter Saturday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka is flushed from the pocket by Maui High’s Jonathan Aunese in the first quarter Saturday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Tongi’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 8-6 with 2 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

In the third quarter, the Sabers’ only completion of the game, a 50-yard strike from Kainalu Tancayo to Mitchell Hirose, was followed by Naka­moto’s 13-yard touchdown after taking the wildcat snap that made the score 20-8.

Kevin Cacho intercepted Akaka three plays later to thwart another Baldwin opportunity, and Maui High would push the lead to 27-8 when Tongi broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run.

The Bears then reached Maui High territory again, but Tevita Takitaki intercepted Akaka on the final play of the third quarter. Falekaono intercepted an Akaka pass earlier in the period after the Bears had advanced to the Sabers’ 26.

Akaka, in his third varsity season, entered the game with 41 touchdown throws and seven interceptions in MIL play.

The Sabers’ Naia Nakamoto runs for a second-quarter touchdown. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Sabers’ Naia Nakamoto runs for a second-quarter touchdown. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We work hard during the week putting in the defensive schemes, me and the assistant coaches,” Figueroa said. “You have to keep Chayce moving and contain him within the pocket. That was the job of the defense to keep the pressure on him.”

Akaka’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Kaikea Silva made the score 27-15 before the Sabers’ defense put an exclamation point on its evening — Fale­ka­ono hit receiver Anstin Duarte deep in Baldwin territory and the ball bounced back into the end zone, where the Bears fell on it for a safety with 5:02 left.

Honu Feldt-Antonio kicked a 30-yard field goal for Maui High before Akaka caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Isaiah Kusunoki with 35 seconds to go.

Falekaono recovered a fumble caused by Storm Crozier’s hit on Kusunoki in the second quarter.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

The Bears’ Isaiah Kusunoki carries the ball in the first quarter. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Bears’ Isaiah Kusunoki carries the ball in the first quarter. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

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Baldwin 8 0 0 13–21

Maui High 6 7 14 5–32

First Quarter

B–Chayce Akaka 11 run (Bishop Wickes run), 6:49.

MH–Solomone Tongi 2 run (run failed), 2:27.

Second Quarter

MH–Naia Nakamoto 46 run (Kalia Kapisi kick), 11:50.

Third Quarter

MH–Nakamoto 13 run (Kapisi kick), 7:02.

MH–Tongi 50 run (Kapisi kick), 0:41.

Fourth Quarter

B–Kaikea Silva 26 pass from Akaka (Akaka kick), 8:11.

MH–Safety, Baldwin recovers own fumble in end zone, 5:02.

MH–FG Honu Feldt-Antonio 30, 1:13.

B–Akaka 24 pass from Isaiah Kusunoki (pass failed), 0:35.

Junior varsity–Baldwin 29, Maui High 0.

Saturday’s Result

At Kanaiaupuni Stadium

LAHAINALUNA 39, KAMEHAMEHA MAUI 19

Lahainaluna 13 12 0 14–39

KS Maui 7 0 6 6–19

First Quarter

LL–Joshua Tihada 1 run (Pablo Rico kick), 7:26.

LL–William Kai Bookland 17 from Etuati Storer (kick failed), 1:45.

KSM–Tyerell Baldonado-Kaleiopu 80 pass from Kainoa Sanchez (Michael Singh kick), 1:29.

Second Quarter

LL–Elijah Ragudo 35 run (run failed), 11:51.

LL–Storer 11 run (pass failed), 6:55.

Third Quarter

KSM–Nathan Facuri 69 pass from Sanchez (kick blocked), 5:08.

Fourth Quarter

LL–Tihada 10 run (Rico kick), 11:55.

LL–Aliksa Pihda 13 pass from Nainoa Irish (Rico kick), 5:10.

KSM–Facuri 4 pass from Sanchez (pass failed), 0:41.

Junior varsity–Lahainaluna 28, Kamehameha Maui 6.

LL KSM

First downs 25 13

Rushes-yards 48-398 28-111

Passing yards 30 244

Total offense 428 355

Return yards 39 43

Comp-Att-Int 2-2-0 14-15-0

Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0

Penalties-yards 5-40 6-31

Punts-avg 1-35.0 4-33.8

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Lahainaluna, Ragudo 15-180, Tihada 17-109, Irish 4-50, Pihda 6-33, Storer 6-26; Kamehameha Maui, Sanchez 17-77, Damon Martin 8-27, Dane Abarra 3-7.

PASSING–Lahainaluna, Storer 1-1-0-17, Irish 1-1-0-13; Kamehameha Maui, Sanchez 14-15-0-244.

RECEIVING–Lahainaluna, Bookland 1-17, Pihda 1-13; Kamehameha Maui, Baldonado-Kaleiopu 6-118, Facuri 5-94, Karsyn Pupunu 3-32.

MISSED FIELD GOALS–Lahainaluna, Rico 35 (SH).

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MIL STANDINGS

DIVISION I

W L Pct PF PA

x-Maui High 2 2 .500 113 74

Baldwin 2 2 .500 144 81

DIVISION II

W L Pct PF PA

x-Lahainaluna 4 0 1.000 144 52

KS Maui 2 2 .500 103 110

King Kekaulike 0 4 .000 19 206

x-clinched first-round championship

Friday’s Result

Lahainaluna 39, Kamehameha Maui 19

Saturday’s Result

Maui High 32, Baldwin 21

End of first round

Friday, Sept. 22

Baldwin vs. King Kekaulike at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 23

Maui High at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.

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