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Baldwin breaks out new uniforms, blanks Na Alii

Baldwin High players celebrate a second-quarter touchdown catch by Nathan Foster (11) Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. The Bears beat King Kekaulike 22-0. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — After waiting nearly two years to wear them, the Baldwin High School football team debuted fancy new uniforms in Saturday night’s 22-0 win over King Kekaulike at War Memorial Stadium.

The Bears wore their light blue color on their jerseys and pants for the first time since at least the 1980s. The numbers were white and outlined in the maroon color that is usually the dominant part of the Bears’ uniform scheme.

Baldwin lived up to the lively new uniforms.

After a slow start, the offense put together an impressive running game that piled up 232 yards on ground — led by Jonathan Bacos’ 110 yards on 13 carries — and 91 more in the air. The Bears had 17 first downs in the game.

The Baldwin defense limited King Kekaulike to three first downs and 66 total yards in the shutout victory. Baldwin has a bye this week and it’s next game is Nov. 6 against Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium.

“I’m just glad the boys had an opportunity to play and that’s what it’s all about, first game,” Baldwin coach Pohai Lee said. “Fortunately we won, they played tough. Like you said, our defense was better than I expected. Offensively we have some things to work on, but I’m glad we have two weeks to prepare for this (next) one. We’re just going to enjoy this one tonight.”

The unique uniforms clearly had the team excited to play its first game since a 34-7 loss to Leilehua in the HHSAA Division I state tournament in November 2019.

The uniforms were supposed to debut in 2020, but the season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was more excited when I saw the kids’ reaction to the uniforms, they were going crazy — to know that they were the first wear the to wear them that had them really jazzed up,” Baldwin coach Pohai Lee said. “They’ve been in storage for two years.”

Baldwin announced that the No. 40 jersey worn by Mafatini Mafatini III, a 2021 graduate of the school who died in a car accident in Utah on Oct. 3, is now retired, joining the No. 33 jersey of alumni Abraham Reinhardt that had been previously retired after he died in March 2019 at the age of 23.

The services to Mafatini started at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and the Bears’ game began at 6. The team was represented by associate head coach John Jacubczak.

“The timing was tough, but Jags went over and represented the team,” Lee said. “We wish … we could have sent the whole team.”

The Bears punted on their first possession and missed a 29-yard field goal on their second drive. The third time they got the ball, the marched 57 yards in 11 plays, taking a 6-0 lead on a 2-yard run by Ezra Laga with six seconds left in the first quarter.

After a King Kekaulike punt hit one of its own linemen and traveled zero yards, the Bears needed one play to push the lead to 12-0, on a 17-yard pass from Logan Randall to Nathen Foster with 10:38 left in the first half.

The Bears needed just two plays to score their final touchdown when Kahekili Eleneke recovered a fumble in the end zone with 57 seconds left in the first half after a 15-yard run by Laga. The play that set up the score was a 41-yard pass from Randall to Eleneke.

The only score in the second half was a safety when Baldwin blocked a King Kekaulike punt and Na Alii recovered in their own end zone with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.

Na Alii showed signs of potential with its young 46-player roster, which has just 10 seniors. The seniors class is led by running back/linebacker Tysyn Estrella, a Lahainaluna transfer who was impressive all night long on both sides of the ball.

“For us not playing for two years, I think this is probably the biggest, strongest, hardest-hitting team that we’ve seen so far at King Kekaulike, so I’m pretty happy with that,” Na Alii coach Tyson Valle said. “Obviously we have got to wrap up our mistakes — a lot of missed tackles, a lot of missed blocks. I think if we can get that cleaned up we’ll be looking at a better ball team.”

‘King Kekaulike hosts Lahainaluna on Friday before traveling across the street to play Kamehameha Maui on Nov. 5 for the first of three key showdowns in the MIL Division II ranks.

“I think this was an excellent start for us, obviously the team we’re focused on is Kamehameha, so it’ll be nice to get two under our belts before we face them,” Valle said. “Obviously we wanted to win tonight, but the team fought hard. We were playing Baldwin and normally it’s totally the opposite direction, so I think they did pretty good tonight.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

King Kekaulike 0 0 0 0– 0

Baldwin 6 14 2 0–22

First Quarter

B–Ezra Laga 2 run (kick failed), 0:06.

Second Quarter

B–Nathen Foster 17 pass from Logan Randall (pass failed), 10:38.

B–Kahekili Eleneke 15 fumble return (Jonnathan Bacos pass from Randall), 0:57.

Third Quarter

B–Safety, Baldwin blocked punt in end zone, 10:00.

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