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Bears claim MIL D-I crown with win over Sabers

Isaiah Richards of Baldwin High School celebrates a touchdown catch with Laakea Asuega-Stark in the first quarter of the Bears’ 27-21 win over Maui High on Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium. THE MAUI NEWS photos

WAILUKU — It was clearly not the way they drew it up, but it will do for the Baldwin High School football team.

The Bears frantically held on for a 27-21 victory over winless cross-town rival Maui High on the Sabers’ senior night Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

The victory sent the Bears back to the HHSAA Division I state tournament for the first time since 2016, breaking a two-year streak of Maui Interscholastic League Division I titles for the Sabers. Baldwin is 4-2 in the MIL, 1-1 in the second round. The Sabers fell to 0-7, 0-3.

“Tough game, went down to the wire,” Baldwin coach Pohai Lee said. “We’re not there yet by any stretch, so we’ve just got to keep at it.”

Lee said of the state tournament berth, “To tell you the truth right now, it makes us appreciate it even more after being out for two years. This group, like we said, was a committed group — they wanted to make that as a goal and kudos to them, they did it.”

Baldwin’s Maake Panuve brings down Maui High’s Brex Delray for a sack in front of Richard Batze in the first quarter Saturday.

This game was not decided until the final moments when the Bears stopped the Sabers on downs with 1 minute, 42 seconds to go at the Baldwin 34-yard line.

“We expected that,” Lee said of the battle the Sabers put up with just 30 players dressed for the game. “We didn’t expect them to lie down. It was their big game, we knew Figgy was going to get them ready.”

“Figgy” is Maui High head coach Rodney Figueroa, who tipped his hat to his team after the tough loss.

“They haven’t, they haven’t given up all season long,” Figueroa said. “It’s our senior night, so the seniors, they led tonight, got in there and battled. The younger kids stepped up, followed the seniors’ lead.”

Baldwin won the field-position battle to take a 27-13 lead late in the third quarter.

Maui High’s Jacob De La Nux runs with the ball.

The Bears took the opening possession of the second half and drove to the Sabers’ 9-yard line, where they lined up for an apparent 26-yard field-goal try by Isaiah Souza. Instead, they ran a fake on fourth-and-3 and gained just 1 yard after a direct snap to Souza.

The Baldwin defense forced a three-and-out series and the Bears took over on the Sabers’ 28-yard line after a 20-yard punt. The Bears could not take advantage and punted into the end zone with 5:39 to go in the third quarter.

Again, the Baldwin defense forced a three-and-out, got a 14-punt return by Josiah Souza and cashed in a backbreaking touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Laakea Asuega-Stark to Ben Tokanang. The scoring play capped a seven-play, 34-yard drive and came with 47 seconds to go in the third quarter.

The Sabers took advantage of a fumble recovery by Sione Lolohea in the Bears’ backfield with 6:27 to go in the game. Maui High then went 26 yards in four plays, creeping within six points on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brex Delray to Elijah Evangelista and a two-point conversion run by Delray with 5:00 left.

The Bears took a 21-13 lead into the locker rooms at halftime after a wild first that saw three turnovers by each team and three defensive touchdowns.

Bears receivers coach Brandon Asuega-Stark congratulates Kapena Kamai for a touchdown catch.

The Bears took a 7-0 lead when Isaiah Richards caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Asuega-Stark with 7:37 left in the first quarter. That capped a six-play, 44-yard drive that included two pass receptions by Kapena Kamai for 32 yards — Kamai finished with six catches for 150 yards.

The Sabers appeared to score on a 44-yard fumble return by Evangelista a few minutes later, but that play was called back by a block-in-the-back penalty.

The Bears pushed the lead to 14-0 on a 63-yard touchdown strike from Asuega-Stark to Kamai with 9:49 to go in the second quarter.

The Sabers then closed within a point on two defensive touchdowns, the first coming when Lolohea fell on an errant snap in the end zone with 5:12 remaining in the first half on a play that started at the Baldwin 20-yard line.

The Sabers’ Penisoni Panuve then returned an interception of an Asuega-Stark pass 30 yards for a touchdown with 1:28 to go, but the extra point went awry on a bad snap, leaving the Sabers trailing 14-13.

The Sabers then stopped Baldwin on downs, but on the fourth play of the ensuing Maui High possession Delray was sacked by Mafatini Mafatini — the ball was fumbled and then scooped up on a 52-yard touchdown return by Josiah Sniffen with two seconds left in the half.

Each team committed three turnovers in the first half — two interceptions and a lost fumble by both. Baldwin committed five turnovers in the game and had 10 penalties for 90 yards, while the Sabers had no more turnovers in the second half.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Maui High 0 13 0 8–21

Baldwin 7 14 6 0–27

First Quarter

B–Isaiah Richards 6 pass from Laakea Asuega-Stark (Isaiah Souza kick), 7:37.

Second Quarter

B–Kapena Kamai 63 pass from Asuega-Stark (Souza kick), 9:49.

MH–Sione Lolohea 20 fumble return (Brex Delray kick), 5:12.

MH–Penisoni Panuve 30 interception return (run failed), 1:28.

B–Josiah Sniffen 52 fumble return (Souza kick), 0:02.

Third Quarter

B–Ben Tokanang 10 pass from Asuega-Stark (kick blocked), 0:47.

Fourth Quarter

MH–Elijah Evangelista 6 pass from Delray (Delray run), 5:00.

MH B

First downs 14 16

Rushes-yards 34-68 29-81

Passing yards 136 220

Total offense 204 301

Return yards 48 136

Comp-Att-Int 14-30-2 16-30-3

Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-2

Penalties-yards 4-35 10-90

Punts-avg 5-37.2 3-24.3

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Maui High, Renzo Je Mendoza 14-45, Delray 11-21, Toa Afemui 4-4, Sione Aholelei 4-4, team 1-(minus 6); Baldwin, Souza 20-55, Asuega-Stark 6-40, Ben Wagner 1-2, team 1-(minus 3), Danelle Daniels 1-(minus 13).

PASSING–Maui High, Delray 12-24-2–105, Afemui 2-6-0–31; Baldwin, Asuega-Stark 16-30-3–220.

RECEIVING–Maui High, Lolohea 7-47, Kennison Tuugaifo 2-22, Kaeo Miguel 1-39, Moses Koniseti 1-11, Evangelista 1-6, Richard Batze 1-6, Mendoza 1-5; Baldwin, Kamai 6-150, Daniels 4-31, Richard 4-21, Tokanang 1-10, Nathen Foster 1-8.

MISSED FIELD GOALS–Maui High, Delray 23 (WR).

Junior varsity–Baldwin 22, Maui High 18.

*****

Friday’s Result

Kamehameha Maui 51, King Kekaulike 14

King Kekaulike 0 7 0 7–14

KS Maui 28 13 3 7–51

First Quarter

KSM–Ezekiel Weber 23 pass from Tiliti Adams (Hao Awai kick), 10:10.

KSM–C.J. Hamasaki 11 pass from Adams (Awai kick), 5:38.

KSM–Weber 37 from Adams (Awai kick), 3:23.

KSM–Makani Smith-Kemfort 27 pass from Adams (Awai kick), 2:40.

Second Quarter

KSM–Smith-Kemfort 19 pass from Adams (kick blocked), 9:01.

KK–Kainalu Pahia 27 pass from Franco Melgar Martich (Thor Ventura kick), 4:27.

KSM–Smith-Kemfort 9 pass from Adams (Awai kick), 1:44.

Third Quarter

KSM–FG Awai 35, 10:17.

Fourth Quarter

KSM–Hamasaki 17 pass from Adams (Awai kick), 11:29.

KK–Melgar Martich 4 run (Ventura kick), 0:06.

KK KSM

First downs 9 19

Rushes-yards 29-90 14-66

Passing yards 90 358

Total offense 180 424

Return yards 112 93

Comp-Att-Int 5-16-0 19-25-0

Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0

Penalties-yards 3-20 9-87

Punts-avg 5-34.0 1-34.0

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–King Kekaulike, Kali Kuhaulua 11-48, Melgar Martich 9-41, Brandon Stenger 7-11, team 2-(minus 10); Kamehameha Maui, Adams 5-41, Kapena Gushiken 2-22, Teancum Aiwohi 5-16, Karsyn Pupunu 1-(minus 6), team 1-(minus 7).

PASSING–King Kekaulike, Melgar Martich 5-16-0–90; Kamehameha Maui, Adams 19-25-0–358.

RECEIVING–King Kekaulike, Gavin Santiago 1-29, Kainalu Pahia 1-27, Waylein Rosales 1-22, Kuhaulua 1-8, Travis Quitevis 1-4; Kamehameha Maui, Smith-Kemfort 7-124, Weber 5-107, Pupunu 5-83, Hamasaki 3-44.

MISSED FIELD GOALS–none.

Junior varsity–King Kekaulike 31, Kamehameha Maui 16.

*****

MIL Standings

SECOND ROUND

(Overall MIL records in parentheses)

DIVISION I

W L Pct PF PA

z-Baldwin (4-2) 1 1 .500 41 47

Maui High (0-7) 0 3 .000 61 81

DIVISION II

W L Pct PF PA

x-Lahainaluna (6-0) 2 0 1.000 57 31

KS Maui (4-3) 2 1 .667 92 58

King Kekaulike (2-4) 1 1 .500 44 78

x-won first round; z-clinched division title

Friday’s Result

Kamehameha Maui 51, King Kekaulike 14

Saturday’s Result

Baldwin 27, Maui High 21

Friday, Oct. 18

Baldwin vs. Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 19

King Kekaulike at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.