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MIL releases updated football slate

Season to start Oct. 22; due to time crunch, teams to play 6 games instead of 8

King Kekaulike High School quarterback Kainalu Pahia is pursued by Lahainaluna’s Matai Mataafa (42) and Hector Murillo during a Maui Interscholastic League game on Aug. 24, 2019. The 2021 MIL season is set to start on Oct. 22 with the Lunas hosting Maui High at Sue Cooley Stadium; the next day, Na Alii face Baldwin at War Memorial Stadium. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER file photo

The Maui Interscholastic League will play a regular season that includes six games per team starting on Oct. 22 when Maui High School travels to play Lahainaluna at Sue Cooley Stadium.

It will be the shortest MIL football season since the league expanded from four teams to six in 1995 when King Kekaulike and Kaahumanu Hou joined the ranks.

The first round of MIL play will be a full round-robin slate where all five teams face each other over four games apiece.

The second round will be only in-division play with two games apiece for Division I teams Baldwin, Maui High and Lahainaluna. Division II teams King Kekaulike and Kamehameha Maui will face each other twice in the second round.

MIL football coordinator Jon Viela, the athletic director at Kamehameha Maui, confirmed that all games count and the league does have a playoff date set aside for Dec. 17 for Division I teams should there be two different winners in the first round and second round.

Maui High’s Renzo Je Mendoza tries to break free from Baldwin’s Anstin Duarte (34) and other defenders on Oct. 12, 2019.

There is an open date on Dec. 18, but the D-II winner will be determined by the three-game head-to-head slate should there be two different round winners.

“The MIL is very unique as our league is composed of both public schools and private institutions with each governed by their own distinctive protocols and guidelines,” the league said in a press release emailed to The Maui News on Thursday. “It is through cooperation and understanding that we continue to work together to provide opportunities for Maui County’s student-athletes.”

The press release said that stadium capacity for fans is still to be determined and is bound to change. Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Wednesday he plans to reevaluate the county’s “Safer Outside” initiative on Sept. 30. The initiative, which prohibits fans from attending games along with restrictions on restaurants and bars, started last week in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers in the county.

“As the situation remains very fluid, the MIL continues to work on a spectator plan that takes into account compliance with HHSAA, state, county, school and private venue policies to allow access of family, students, and the general public to all events with the safety of those groups at the forefront,” the press release said.

The release noted that “the second round was adjusted around the change to the length of the season.”

Practices start Monday after a six-week pause following the state Department of Education’s Aug. 4 decree that all players, coaches and volunteers must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Veteran Baldwin head coach Pohai Lee is just happy to have a season, which will be the shortest of his career. The Bears start their schedule on Oct. 23 against King Kekaulike — all of Baldwin’s games are on Saturdays and five of the six start at 3 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

“I think that’s the only way to go, really, given the time frame,” Lee said of the six-game slate. “I will play it any way they want to organize it and I’m just happy that they got a schedule out.”

Seven of eight Saturday games on the full schedule are 3 p.m. starts at War Memorial, which at more than 15,000 seats is the largest fans-allowed stadium in the state.

Lee said his coaches and players are ready to go to work.

“I know we are as a coaching staff and I know seeing the players around campus, they are itching to go,” Lee said. “It’s just a matter now of seeing what kind of numbers show up, officially show up. That’s the big question mark that we have.”

Lee said he just wants to have a season for the first time since 2019.

“It’s not the amount, I think the important part now is just getting on the field and playing,” Lee said. “And that’s our focus right now.”

First-year Maui High head coach Robert Dougherty was hired in November 2019. He said four weeks to prepare for the opener is a quick turnaround, especially since the players have to work their way back into shape.

“You know, it’s a short amount of time,” Dougherty said. “It’s all an even playing field, we will all have the same issues. I think it would be smart to platoon for a little bit more than we do to keep guys fresh and stuff like that. And we might have a lot of younger kids playing in the league this year.

“You know, we want to win games, but we also want to get these kids experience and play as many people as we can, try to develop the younger kids as much as we can. So, it’s a delicate balance, at least for us — we’re going to take that approach.”

The schedule has junior varsity games scheduled prior to every varsity game, but it appears that JV play may be in jeopardy simply because of the unknown roster sizes.

“I don’t think so, from what I’ve heard from the numbers of other schools,” Dougherty said of JV play. “Our numbers are decent — I’d say we could pull it off, but it’d be pretty tough.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

2021 MIL Football Schedule

ROUND 1

Friday, Oct. 22

Maui High at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 23

Baldwin vs. King Kekaulike at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 29

Lahainaluna at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 30

Maui High vs. Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 5

King Kekaulike at Kamehameha Maui, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 6

Baldwin vs. Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 12

Kamehameha Maui at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 13

Maui High vs. Baldwin at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 19

Maui High at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 20

Baldwin vs. Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

ROUND 2

Saturday, Nov. 27

Maui High vs. Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 3

Kamehameha Maui at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 4

Baldwin at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 10

King Kekaulike at Kamehameha Maui, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11

Baldwin vs. Maui High at War Memorial Stadium, 3 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 17

Division I playoff, if necessary, at TBD, 7 p.m.

Note: JV games scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (7 p.m. varsity starts) and noon (3 p.m.)

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