Sabers fall to Vikings

Hilo beats Maui High 26-7 to claim spot in championship game

Maui High School’s Naia Nakamoto heads upfield on the way to a touchdown in the second quarter of the Sabers’ 26-7 loss to Hilo on Saturday in a First Hawaiian Bank Division I State Championship semifinal game at Wong Stadium. -- Hawaii Tribune-Herald / TIM WRIGHT photo

Maui High School’s Naia Nakamoto heads upfield on the way to a touchdown in the second quarter of the Sabers’ 26-7 loss to Hilo on Saturday in a First Hawaiian Bank Division I State Championship semifinal game at Wong Stadium. -- Hawaii Tribune-Herald / TIM WRIGHT photo

HILO — The conditions were tough for the Maui High School football team Saturday at Wong Stadium, but Hilo made things much harder.

Playing on a baseball field in a steady rain, the Sabers’ third trip to the First Hawaiian Bank Division I State Championship ended with a 26-7 loss to the Vikings in the semifinal round.

“We learned a lot from this trip,” Maui High coach Rodney Figueroa said. “I learned a lot. The kids learned a lot. We can build off this — it was a good season, we’re (Maui Interscholastic League D-I) champs. … Our defense played well. We just didn’t do enough on offense.”

Naia Nakamoto ran for 126 yards and a touchdown for the Sabers (5-6), and completed a 33-yard pass.

Maui High had 166 yards of offense, punted eight times and committed three turnovers. Hilo, which outscored the Sabers 19-0 in the second half, finished with 265 yards of offense, overcoming Kaleo Apao throwing two interceptions.

The Sabers’ Tevita Takitaki returns an interception. -- Hawaii Tribune-Herald / TIM WRIGHT photo

The Sabers’ Tevita Takitaki returns an interception. -- Hawaii Tribune-Herald / TIM WRIGHT photo

The baseball stadium had no numbers on the field to match the lines marking every five yards, and there were no play clocks.

“The conditions were tough,” Figueroa said after his team spent its time on a muddy sideline that normally serves as the baseball infield. “The field has higher spots near second base, lower spots on the grass, and there were some holes out there. Hilo played very well, though. Give them credit.”

The Vikings (9-1) will face Damien in the D-I state championship game on Nov. 18 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

Hilo’s win was the first for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation in the 19-year history of the D-I state tournament, and the Vikings are the first Neighbor Island team to advance to the state final at that level.

“We have been close before,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “We knew we had to finish against a tough Maui High team. Thankfully tonight, we did. We knew it was 7-7 at halftime and we’ve been there before.”

Hilo running back Kahale Huddleston is brought down by Maui High defenders Saturday night. -- Hawaii Tribune-Herald / TIM WRIGHT photo

Hilo running back Kahale Huddleston is brought down by Maui High defenders Saturday night. -- Hawaii Tribune-Herald / TIM WRIGHT photo

The top-seeded Vikings lost 26-25 at home last season to Leilehua as the No. 1 seed.

“We wanted to win for ourselves, for the Big Island,” said Hilo’s Kahale Huddleston, who ran 14 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. “Now, we want to win a state title.”

Hilo went in front 14-7 on Kaleo Ramos’ 8-yard run with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter. Apao scrambled for 36 yards on the previous play — he finished with 128 rushing yards on 18 carries and passed for 57 yards.

Keanu Keolanui kicked an 18-yard field goal with 8:53 remaining, and two plays later, Micah Bello intercepted a Kainalu Tancayo pass for the second time in the game, giving Hilo the ball on Maui High’s 14-yard line. Huddleston’s scoring run from 5 yards out extended the lead to 24-7.

Maui High’s Solomone Tongi lost a fumble on the next possession. Keanu Keolanui missed a 42-yard field goal on the drive that followed, but the Sabers gave up a safety soon after when a punt snap rolled through the end zone.

Hilo opened the scoring when Guyson Ogata caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Apao with 3:12 left in the first half. On the next play from scrimmage, Naka­mo­to broke free around the right side for a 67-yard score.

Maui High punted on its first five possessions.

“We made mental mistakes and I told the kids we couldn’t do that in a setting like this,” Figueroa said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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Maui High 0 7 0 0– 7

Hilo 0 7 7 12–26

Second Quarter

Hilo–Guyson Ogata 14 pass from Kaleo Apao (Kahaku Tolentino-Perry kick), 3:12.

MH–Naia Nakamoto 67 run (Kalia Kapisi kick), 2:51.

Third Quarter

Hilo–Kaeo Ramos 8 run (Tolentino-Perry kick), 3:57.

Fourth Quarter

Hilo–Keanu Keolanui 18 FG, 8:53.

Hilo–Kahale Huddleston 5 run (Tolentino-Perry kick), 7:45.

Hilo–safety, punt snap out of the end zone, 3:49.

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FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Friday’s Results

D-II semifinal: Lahainaluna 35, Iolani 27

D-II semifinal: Konawaena 53, Waipahu 50

Saturday’s Results

D-I semifinal: Damien 13, Kauai 10

D-I semifinal: Hilo 26, Maui High 7

Friday, Nov. 10

At Aloha Stadium

Open semifinal: Waianae vs. Mililani or Kahuku, 4 p.m.

Open semifinal: Saint Louis vs. Mililani or Kahuku, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18

At Aloha Stadium

D-II final: Lahainaluna vs. Waipahu, 2 p.m.

D-I final: Damien vs. Hilo, 5 p.m.

Open final: Waianae-Mililani/Kahuku winner vs. Saint Louis-Mililani/Kahuku winner, 8 p.m.

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