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Sabers shut down Nanakuli 16-0

Defense leads the way for Maui High with five takeaways, under 100 yards of total offense allowed

Maui High School players, including Nathaniel Russell (20), battle to recover a Nanakuli fumble in the first quarter of the Sabers’ 16-0 preseason win over the Golden Hawks on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

WAILUKU — It probably wasn’t the prettiest opener that the Maui High School football team has ever played, but the Sabers will take their workmanlike 16-0 win over Nanakuli on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.

Maui High used eight ballcarriers who rung up 145 yards on the ground, two quarterbacks who were perfect in the first half before struggling some in second half, but most importantly was the stifling defense that the boys in blue showed all night long in the shutout victory.

“They’re learning their assignments, we’re getting a little better,” first-year Maui High head coach Aylett Wallwork said. “I mean, we’ve just got to keep on improving — we’ve got Lahaina next week (to open Maui Interscholastic League play) and they’ll be ready.

“We’ve got to get ready to actually make sure we know all our assignments.”

Nanakuli picked up just six first downs — two of those via penalty — and 99 yards of total offense in the game.

Maui High running back Piercen Evans carries the ball in the first quarter Friday against Nanakuli.

Led by Ofa Falekaono’s two interceptions that were boosted by long returns, the Sabers had five takeaways on defense.

Maui High was called for nine penalties that totaled 70 yards.

“Like I said, we just have got to clean up some assignments,” Wallwork said. “They did well, but there’s always a ‘but.’ “

The Sabers took a 16-0 lead into the locker rooms after dominating the first half despite sluggish starts for both teams.

The Sabers took a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard touchdown run by Piercen Evans with 5 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter. The lightning-quick four-play, 47-yard drive was set up by a fumble recovery by Maui High’s Nathaniel Russell.

Maui High defenders close in as Villiami Vakalahi wraps up Nanakuli’s Hansen Salausa-Kaawa behind the line of scrimmage Friday.

After a 6-yard run by Evans and a sack, Evan Tarasenko hit Braden Albrecht with a 39-yard pass over the middle to the Nanakuli 11-yard line. Evans scored on the next play.

On the next drive for the Golden Hawks, Falekaono intercepted Hansen Salausa-Kaawa’s pass and returned it 54 yards to the Nanakuli 31-yard line.

The Sabers were forced to punt on that possession, but they forced a three-and-out by Nanakuli on the ensuing drive.

A 24-yard punt gave the Sabers the ball on the Golden Hawks’ 43, and Joe Cariaga guided a nine-play, 27-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal by Sevy Scofienza with 3:34 left in the first half.

The Sabers forced another fumble with pressure behind the line of scrimmage, and Kamahano Au recovered and returned the ball 10 yards to the Nanakuli 17.

The Sabers’ Charlie Peterson turns after catching a pass in front of Nanakuli’s Cyprus Rombawa-Kai-Rivera on a second-quarter scoring play Friday.

Two plays later, after a 10-yard penalty, Cariaga hit Charlie Peterson with a 27-yard pass for a touchdown with 1:44 left in the first half.

Maui High’s defense allowed just 57 yards, recovered two fumbles and had an interception in the first half.

The Sabers rolled up 139 yards in the first half — Evans had all of his 63 rushing yards on 12 carries, and Tarasenko and Cariaga were a combined 3-for-3 passing for 70 yards.

After Nanakuli intercepted a pitch from Tarasenko to Evans and returned it 30 yards to the Maui High 27-yard line, Falekaono came up big again with his second interception and return, this time for 47 yards.

A 15-yard penalty on the Golden Hawks on that Falekaono return moved the ball to the Nanakuli 28.

The drive ended in a missed 44-yard field-goal try by Scofienza, who had three touchbacks on kickoffs and showed off a strong leg all night.

The Golden Hawks finally got deep into Sabers territory after a 71-yard interception return by Cyprus Rombawa-Kai-Rivera to the Maui High 9-yard line.

The Sabers defense was strong again, however, stopping the threat on four straight runs up the middle, giving the ball back to their offense on their own 4-yard line with 7:21 to play.

Maui High then picked up five first downs to run out the clock from there.

“This is preseason, we’ve got to gear up for Lahaina next week and gotta be ready,” Wallwork said.

Maui High participated in a pair of scrimmages with other teams earlier this month, but Wallwork knows that the first prep football game of the season for any MIL team will pay off in the long run.

“The scrimmages were good, but these are a real test to be in a real game,” Wallwork said. “Nanakuli is big, they’re strong, they gave us everything. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

The sentiment was similar from Nanakuli head coach Kili Watson.

“Definitely an awesome team, well-coached team, I mean high intensity, oh man, really physical team,” Watson said of the Sabers. “Love what they do offensively, and defensively they swarm to the ball.”

Watson said this trip will benefit his team.

“It’ll pay off a lot, I mean for half of our team it was the first time they’ve gotten off the island of Oahu,” Watson said. “We’re taking off on the plane and their cheering like a roller-coaster ride. It’s just a good experience, it’s an opportunity for our kids to go outside of what we’re used to and we played against a good, quality team.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Nanakuli 0 0 0 0– 0

Maui High 7 9 0 0–16

First Quarter

MH–Piercen Evans 11 run (Sevy Scofienza kick), 5:20.

Second Quarter

MH–FG Scofienza 33, 3:34.

MH–Charlie Peterson 27 pass from Joe Cariaga (kick blocked), 1:44.

*****

MIL Football Preseason games

Friday’s Result

Maui High 16, Nanakuli 0

Today’s Games

Baldwin at Kauai, 4:30 p.m.

Kamehameha Hawaii at Kamehameha Maui, 6 p.m.

Lahainaluna vs. Hilo at Wong Stadium, 6 p.m.

Waimea at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.

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