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Waiting game

Bears, Lunas hold joint practice, use extended layoff to prep for state tourney

Baldwin High School’s Isaiah Souza follows Seth Lajiness during the Bears’ loss to Kamehameha Maui last month. The Bears, the Maui Interscholastic League Division I champions, play Leilehua in a state tournament first-round game next Friday at War Memorial Stadium. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Baldwin High School football team will have waited three weeks to play a game when the Bears host Leilehua next Friday. When Lahainaluna takes to the turf at Sue Cooley Stadium on Nov. 23, it will have been four weeks since the Lunas played a game.

So, the Maui Interscholastic League representatives in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships — Baldwin in Division I, Lahainaluna in D-II — have taken a few unusual steps to stay focused for their first postseason games.

On Wednesday, the Bears traveled to Lahainaluna’s campus for a dual practice session at Cooley Stadium.

“It was real good yesterday, went to Lahaina yesterday and had a good practice session with them, it was a nice exchange,” Baldwin coach Pohai Lee said Thursday. “… It helped us as far as being in the game, getting under the lights a little bit, just getting acclimated that way.”

Lee said the time off from competition has been “a welcome break.”

Lahainaluna’s Joshua Tihada, the MIL rushing leader with 945 yards, scored an MIL single-season record 17 touchdowns this year. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“It gave us a chance to heal up, have guys work on their grades, just a lot of things to do,” he said. “With a playoff game there’s a lot of things to do in terms of prep that we wouldn’t have during the regular season when it’s so fast paced.

“We really got a chance to get a good look at Leilehua — OC16 helps, obviously, with the DVR.”

Lee then took time to lament the Lunas’ situation with a first-round bye into the semifinals as the No. 1 seed in Division II.

“We don’t have it as bad — they have four weeks,” Lee said. “I asked Bobby (Watson, the Lunas’ co-head coach) if that’s the longest break he’s had and he said, ‘Yeah.’ “

The Bears added nine junior varsity players to the state tournament roster, so the extended time between games helps in their acclimation as well. The Bears wanted to return to Lahaina on Friday, but athletic trainer coverage was not available.

“We brought up three (defensive backs) because we lose a lot in that area this season with seniors,” Lee said. “We also brought up a few linemen — they’ve been working out well.”

Lee knows his Bears will be challenged in a big way by the Mules, who are guided on offense by former standout quarterback and current offensive coordinator Andrew Manley.

“He’s no stranger to X’s and O’s,” Lee said of Manley. “They do some really good things schematically. They’re up-tempo obviously, so we have to prepare ourselves for that.”

The Bears will get two-way lineman/running back Ezra Laga back from injury — he has been out with injury since August.

Baldwin will counter the Mules’ offense with the MIL’s second-ranked passing offense. Baldwin generated 67 percent of its 247.5 yards per game through the air.

Quarterback Laakea Asuega-Stark finished second in the MIL in passing yardage (1,330) and touchdown passes (14), but he also threw a league-worst 12 interceptions.

Senior receivers Kapena Kamai and Isaiah Richards finished 1-2 on the MIL reception list with 37 and 29, respectively. Kamai, also the 2018 receptions leader in the MIL, also led the league in receiving yardage with 573 and was third in TD receptions (five).

Richards “has been a welcome addition,” Lee said. “Laakea and Isaiah, they’re longtime friends and have played together, so they have that bond.”

While the Bears have done several things to mix up the monotony of practice — one day they went to the gym to play dodgeball — the Lunas have been slowly ramping things up as they prepare to host the winner of the Kamehameha Hawaii-Roosevelt game to be played on Nov. 16.

Things started with the joint practice with the Bears.

“You know, two (MIL) teams remaining, both on long, long breaks,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Dean Rickard said. “It’s nice to get out there, show support for each other and practice against each other and get some reps.”

The Lunas are based on the ground behind the MIL’s all-time touchdown scorer Joshua Tihada, who finished with 43 touchdowns in his career, including a single-season record 17 this season. Tihada also owns the state tournament TD record — with 15, he has three more than anyone else.

Tihada was also the MIL rushing champion this season with 945 yards, 501 more than Baldwin’s Isaiah Souza, who was second on the list.

Lahainaluna led the MIL by a wide margin on offense, averaging 389.7 yards per game — 1,996 total yards came via the rush, 1,121 via the pass. Junior quarterback Esekielu Storer was third in MIL passing yards (1,090) and TD passes (nine).

Lahainaluna allowed 139 yards per game on defense, 99.5 less than second-place Baldwin.

Without a game for two more weeks, the Lunas are still taking things slowly.

“One thing we’re making sure we stay on top of is conditioning,” Rickard said. “This gives us some time to take it slowly — what we’re doing is a lot of walking through, a lot of mental repetitions, a lot of mental focusing, a lot of concentrating on recognizing schemes, recognizing tendancies, studying film.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK/HHSAA FOOTBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS

DIVISION II

First round • Saturday, Nov. 16

Roosevelt at No. 4 Kamehameha Hawaii, 7 p.m.

Semifinals • Saturday, Nov. 23

No. 3 Kaimuki vs. No. 2 Kapaa at Vidinha Stadium, 2 p.m.

Roosevelt-Kamehameha Hawaii winner at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.

Championship • Friday, Nov. 29

Semifinal winners at Aloha Stadium, 1 p.m.

DIVISION I

First round • Friday, Nov. 15

No. 4 Baldwin vs. Leilehua at War Memorial Stadium, 5:30 p.m.

Semifinals • Saturday, Nov. 23

Baldwin-Leilehua winner vs. No. 1 Hilo at Wong Stadium, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Iolani at No. 2 Moanalua, 7 p.m.

Championship • Friday, Nov. 29

Semifinal winners at Aloha Stadium, 4 p.m.

OPEN DIVISION

Semifinals • Friday, Nov. 22

No. 2 Kahuku vs. Campbell at Aloha Stadium, 4 p.m.

No. 1 Saint Louis vs. Mililani at Aloha Stadium, 7 pm.

Championship • Friday, Nov. 29

Semifinal winners at Aloha Stadium, 7 p.m.

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MIL FOOTBALL

FINAL STANDINGS

DIVISION I

W L Pct PF PA

x-Baldwin 5 3 .625 188 142

Maui High 0 8 .000 81 256

DIVISION II

W L Pct PF PA

x-Lahainaluna 8 0 1.000 309 55

KS Maui 5 3 .625 197 159

King Kekaulike 2 6 .250 112 275

x-clinched division title

Friday, Aug. 23

Baldwin 27, Kamehameha Maui 23

Saturday, Aug. 24

Lahainaluna 46, King Kekaulike 12

Friday, Aug. 30

Kamehameha Maui 31, Maui High 8

Saturday, Aug. 31

Lahainaluna 34, Baldwin 9

Friday, Sept. 6

King Kekaulike 14, Maui High 12

Saturday, Sept. 7

Lahainaluna 34, Kamehameha Maui 0

Friday, Sept. 13

Baldwin 33, Maui High 0

Saturday, Sept. 14

Kamehameha Maui 34, King Kekaulike 18

Friday, Sept. 20

Baldwin 24, King Kekaulike 21

Saturday, Sept. 21

Lahainaluna 48, Maui High 0

Friday, Sept. 27

Lahainaluna 26, Baldwin 14

Saturday, Sept. 28

Kamehameha Maui 24, Maui High 13

Friday, Oct. 4

Lahainaluna 31, Kamehameha Maui 17

Saturday, Oct. 5

King Kekaulike 30, Maui High 27

Friday, Oct. 11

Kamehameha Maui 51, King Kekaulike 14

Saturday, Oct. 12

Baldwin 27, Maui High 21

Friday, Oct. 18

Kamehameha Maui 17, Baldwin 14

Saturday, Oct. 19

Lahainaluna 41, King Kekaulike 3

Friday, Oct. 25

Baldwin 40, King Kekaulike 0

Saturday, Oct. 26

Lahainaluna 49, Maui High 0

End of regular season

FINAL TEAM STATISTICS

Offense

Rush Pass Total Avg.

Lahainaluna 1,996 1,121 3,117 389.6

KS Maui 747 1,716 2,463 307.9

Baldwin 650 1,330 1,980 247.5

King Kekaulike 771 817 1,588 198.5

Maui High 564 879 1,443 180.4

Defense

Rush Pass Total Avg.

Lahainaluna 546 566 1,112 139.0

Baldwin 752 1,156 1,908 238.5

KS Maui 968 1,006 1,974 246.8

King Kekaulike 924 1,672 2,596 324.5

Maui High 1,538 1,463 3,001 375.1

FINAL INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing

Att. Yds. Avg. TD

Joshua Tihada, LL 145 945 6.5 17

Isaiah Souza, Bal 106 434 4.1 2

Teva Pimental, KSM 70 372 5.3 0

Kali Kuhaulua, KK 88 343 3.9 3

Trey Hunter, KK 43 269 6.3 3

Tiliti Adams, KSM 66 234 3.5 4

Derek Perez, LL 28 214 7.6 4

Renzo Je Mendoza, MH 49 213 4.3 1

N. Kulukulualani-Sales, LL 19 208 10.9 3

F. Melgar Martich, KK 66 181 2.7 1

Laakea Asuega-Stark, Bal 54 160 3.0 4

Teancum Aiwohi, KSM 35 149 4.3 1

Brex Delray, MH 72 115 1.6 3

Kaihulali Casco, LL 5 107 21.4 1

Esekielu Storer, LL 31 98 3.2 2

Passing

Com. Att. Yds. TD Int.

Tiliti Adams, KSM 86 156 1,438 17 5

L. Asuega-Stark, Bal 114 212 1,330 14 12

Esekielu Storer, LL 66 112 1,090 9 5

Brex Delray, MH 69 146 690 3 8

F. Melgar Martich, KK 60 152 687 5 8

Alec Tolentino, KSM 20 50 251 3 3

Receiving

No. Yds. Avg. TD

Kapena Kamai, Bal 37 573 15.5 5

Isaiah Richards, Bal 29 305 10.5 3

Kai Bookland, LL 24 436 18.2 6

C.J. Hamasaki, KSM 24 355 14.8 4

M. Smith-Kemfort, KSM 23 496 21.6 8

Karsyn Pupunu, KSM 22 380 17.3 2

Sione Lolohea, MH 21 284 13.5 1

Danelle Daniels, Bal 21 211 10.0 3

Ezekiel Weber, KSM 19 263 13.8 4

Kaeo Miguel, MH 19 259 13.6 2

Nathen Foster, Bal 14 167 11.9 1

Trey Hunter, KK 13 255 19.6 4

Brian Sandoval, LL 13 157 12.1 0

Kennison Tuugaifo, MH 13 88 6.8 0

Kainalu Pahia, KK 11 142 12.9 1

Scoring

TD FG 2P XP Pts.

Joshua Tihada, LL 17 0 1 0 104

M. Smith-Kemfort, KSM 8 0 0 0 48

Trey Hunter, KK 7 0 0 0 42

Tre Rickard, LL 6 0 1 0 38

Kaihulali Casco, LL 2 0 0 26 38

Kai Bookland, LL 6 0 0 0 36

Isaiah Souza, Bal 2 2 0 15 33

Kapena Kamai, Bal 5 0 0 0 30

Tiliti Adams, KSM 5 0 0 0 30

Hao Awai, KSM 0 4 0 17 29

Brex Delray, MH 3 0 1 5 25

Laakea Asuega-Stark, Bal 4 0 0 0 24

C.J. Hamasaki, KSM 4 0 0 0 24

Ezekiel Weber, KSM 4 0 0 0 24

Derek Perez, LL 4 0 0 0 24