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Lunas, Sabers prepare for pivotal showdown

Maui High School’s Coby Wakayama carries the ball in the first quarter of the Sabers’ 36-0 win over King Kekaulike last Friday. The Sabers (3-1) take on Lahainaluna (4-0) on Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

KAHULUI — The Maui High School football team was 0-8 the last time they played a full Maui Interscholastic League season, in 2019. The year before that the Sabers represented the MIL in the Division I state tournament.

On Saturday night, a revitalized Maui High (3-1) will host Lahainaluna (4-0) at War Memorial Stadium in a game with huge state tournament implications.

Lahainaluna beat the Sabers 24-0 on Oct. 22 in the MIL opener at Sue Cooley Stadium — Maui High has won three straight games since then, the last two being shutouts totaling a 76-0 scoring advantage.

“It’s nice to be on a little bit of a roll,” Maui High coach Robert Dougherty said Tuesday. “So, we’re feeling good about coming into the Lahainaluna game, getting them over here is going to be an advantage. Our kids are picking up the stuff we are putting in and it’s going to be an exciting game.”

Because the Division I state tournament starts earlier than the MIL had anticipated when drawing up its schedule, there is no time for an MIL D-I playoff game, if it were to be necessary. The MIL was to hold a D-I playoff game on Dec. 17, if needed, but the Hawaii High School Athletic Association announced on Nov. 3 that the D-I state semifinals will be held on the same date.

Ian-Jay Cabanilla of Lahainaluna slips away from Maui High’s Tyzen Baduan during the Lunas’ 24-0 win over the Sabers on Oct. 22. Cabanilla lead the MIL in rushing with 464 yards on 43 carries this season.

The MIL regular season does not end until Dec. 11 when Baldwin plays Maui High at War Memorial Stadium.

The tiebreaking scenarios are, in order of priority: head to head results; overall record; fewest points allowed against Division I opponents overall; fewest points allowed overall to Division I and Division II opponents; and then, if everything is still tied, a coin flip.

To put any of those into effect, Maui High must win on Saturday night, which would leave both teams with 4-1 records, and 1-1 head to head, each with a game against Baldwin (1-3) left to play.

The Lunas currently have a 12-point advantage in the Division I points allowed tiebreaker, having surrendered 12 points, while Maui High has given up 24. The Lunas have an 18-point advantage in overall points surrendered.

“We don’t mentioned that to the kids, but as a coaching staff we know,” Dougherty said of the scenarios. “We’re just asking them to come out and play as hard as they can and the chips are going to fall where they may.”

Lahainaluna is currently on an MIL football-record 29-game winning streak, dating to the final game of 2016. The Sabers’ last win over the Lunas was Aug. 19, 2016, when they won in Lahaina, 14-2 — Lahainaluna has an eight-game winning streak against Maui High ever since.

“They’re the team to beat,” Dougherty said. “That’s a great accomplishment for them, they’ve done a great job. We’re working really hard to have a positive attitude Saturday night.”

Through a full round of play, the Lunas and Sabers are 1-2, respectively, in MIL team defense, separated by just 10 yards per game, 185.3 to 195.3. Lahainaluna has given up just 316 yards rushing in four games, Maui High has surrendered just 30 yards more. Passing, the Sabers have given up 435 yards total, 10 more than the Lunas.

Offensively, the Lunas average a league-leading 416.3 yards per game, 79 percent of which comes on the ground. Maui High is third in team offense, averaging 255 yards per game.

Still, the Sabers are excited for the chance they have in front of them on Saturday night.

“Everyone’s dialed in, everyone’s focused up, we have a job to do this weekend,” Sabers senior running back/linebacker Coby Wakayama said at practice Tuesday. “Everyone’s extremely excited. Last season we went 0-8 and this is just a new thing for everyone since COVID.”

Wakayama added, “For sure it’ll be a better game than last time with our crowd this time, everyone’s cheering, the vibe will be different. It’ll be more uptempo”

Bobby Tone-Tanaka, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior two-way lineman for Maui High, is also anticipating a good game on Saturday night.

“We just have to work hard, hold our blocks and support each other,” said Tone-Tanaka, the starting right tackle. “We’re having so much fun with these coaches, they are teaching us some good things like holding our blocks and good footwork and teaching us how to fight through the line. So, it’s extremely fun.”

The Lunas are experts at knowing what is necessary to win any football game, be it MIL or statewide. Since going 5-3 in MIL play in 2016 on the way to their first of four straight HHSAA Division II state titles, they are 28-0 against league foes and 39-2 overall.

The Lunas are coming off a bye as they prepare for Saturday night.

“Our kids realize the gravity and the importance of this game,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Dean Rickard said. “If we were to walk away with a victory, it would certainly put us in the driver’s seat for a run at a state tournament, so as far as this being the big game, the kids are fully aware of that. It’s been put into their brains, so to speak, and that’s all we’re thinking about.

“The bye definitely came at a good time for us. We got a lot of injured guys back … They realize how important that game is going forward.”

The Lunas have the league’s top two rushers in the league in Ian-Jay Cabanilla (43 carries, 464 yards, three TDs) and Kaulana Tihada (71 carries, 392 yards, eight TDs).

Running back Blare Sylva-Viela and defensive end Keawekane Keahi are key players, both starters, who are expected to be back from injury this week.

“Two keys players back, so we’re happy about the bye and giving them time to heal,” Rickard said. “And some other players that are banged up, as you would expect at this point of the season. So, we kind of healed up and took the time to get back to fundamentals and the basics. Work on blocking, tackling and trying to make sure we minimize any kind of mistakes.”

Rickard said his coaches tried to explain the tiebreaking scenarios at practice on Tuesday before giving up and just telling his team they need to win.

“I think they’re ready and I’m sure Maui High is going to be ready, too,” Rickard said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

MIL Standings

DIVISION I

W L Pct PF PA

x-Lahainaluna 4 0 1.000 143 32

Maui High 3 1 .750 110 50

Baldwin 1 3 .250 53 114

DIVISION II

W L Pct PF PA

x-KS Maui 2 2 .500 131 111

King Kekaulike 0 4 .000 34 164

x-clinched first-round championship

Saturday’s Game

Maui High vs. Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium, 6 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 3

Kamehameha Maui at King Kekaulike, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 4

Baldwin at Lahainaluna, 6 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 10

King Kekaulike at Kamehameha Maui, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11

Baldwin vs. Maui High at War Memorial Stadium, 6 p.m.

End of regular season

*****

MIL Football Statistics

Through Nov. 20

TEAM OFFENSE

Rush Pass Total Avg

Lahainaluna 1316 349 1665 416.3

KS Maui 436 963 1399 349.8

Maui High 427 593 1020 255.0

Baldwin 584 294 878 219.5

King Kekaulike 262 317 579 144.8

TEAM DEFENSE

Rush Pass Total Avg

Lahainaluna 316 425 741 185.3

Maui High 346 435 781 195.3

Baldwin 808 406 1214 303.5

KS Maui 793 485 1278 319.5

King Kekaulike 762 765 1527 381.8

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing

Com Att Yds TD Int

M. Kama.-Bray., KSM 67 98 963 10 4

Joe Cariaga, MH 28 54 378 5 2

Noa Gordon, Lah 17 26 349 4 0

Logan Randall, Bal 16 62 215 1 7

Evan Tarasenko, MH 13 32 199 2 0

Jacob Po’ouahi, KK 10 36 157 0 5

Rushing

Att Yds Avg TD

Ian-Jay Cabanilla, Lah 43 464 10.8 3

Kaulana Tihada, Lah 71 392 5.5 8

H. Stone-Han, KSM 60 309 5.2 4

Ezra Laga, Bal 47 227 4.8 3

Jonathan Bacos, Bal 33 217 6.6 0

Coby Wakayama, MH 38 168 4.4 1

Noa Gordon, Lah 23 133 5.8 4

Jacob Po’ouahi, KK 34 126 3.7 0

T.J. Borges, Lah 25 108 4.3 0

Piercen Cajigal-Evans, MH 20 107 5.4 0

Receiving

No Yds Avg TD

Kahoa Abreu, KSM 22 366 16.6 3

Po’okela Aiu, KSM 16 180 11.3 3

Robert Young, MH 12 117 9.8 1

Zach Dando, MH 11 173 15.7 3

Dylan Schnitzer, KSM 10 204 20.4 2

Keegan Gantala, KSM 9 97 10.8 1

Brayden Albrecht, MH 8 137 17.1 1

Ethan Takara, MH 7 111 15.9 2

Kainoa Carpenter, KSM 7 100 14.3 1

Noah Arase, Lah 6 147 24.5 2

Scoring

TD FG 2P XP Pts

Kaulana Tihada, Lah 8 0 0 0 48

Zach Dando, MH 5 0 0 0 30

Ian-Jay Cabanilla, Lah 4 0 0 0 24

Noa Gordon, Lah 4 0 0 0 24

H. Stone-Han, KSM 4 0 0 0 24

Anatello Flores, Lah 0 2 0 17 23

Trenton Kiesel, KSM 0 3 0 12 21

Ezra Laga, Bal 3 0 0 0 18

Po’okela Aiu, KSM 3 0 0 0 18

Kahoa Abreu, KSM 3 0 0 0 18

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