Sabers’ No-Huddle Offense Sparks Comeback Win
By Rodney S. Yap
Often, football coaches define luck, or lucky, as preparation meeting opportunity.
Maui High School set the stage for its dramatic come-from-behind victory over Kamehameha Schools Maui Friday night by switching to its no-huddle offense with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game.
The hurry-up tempo caught the Warriors off guard and allowed the Sabers to move the ball 81 yards for the go-ahead touchdown — a 1-yard plunge by running back Moana Vainikolo — in the Maui Interscholastic League’s 2012 season-opening game at War Memorial Stadium.
A crowd of about 3,800 watched the Sabers make play after play with the game on the line, turning a 7-3 deficit to a 10-7 victory.
Perhaps the biggest play of all on the Sabers’ 13-play drive came with 56 seconds remaining, on 4th-and-11 at the Warriors’ 25-yard line.
First-time Saber quarterback Kalvin Aboy eluded a strong rush long enough to throw an 18-yard pass to senior wide receiver Melson Lucas, who somehow managed to hang on to the ball despite being sandwiched between a pair of Warrior defenders.
The catch seemed unlikely initially because Lucas was behind Kamehameha’s defensive backs. So when the ball disappeared, the crowd let out a collective gasp, which was followed by a second of piercing silence. Then, moments later, the screams from the Maui High sidelines confirmed the completed pass, to the shock and horror of the Warrior fateful.
“We were trying to hit the seam, but Kamehameha brought a lot of pressure and it was the first game for our quarterback, so you could see he wasn’t very comfortable yet,” said Maui High head coach David Bui, who called a timeout to discuss the play with his offense. “The timing was a little off and it wasn’t exactly where we wanted to hit Melson, but he came up with the big play.”
“I don’t know what more we could have done on that play,” said Kamehameha Maui captain and defensive end Aydan Lopes. “Our guys were right there, we hit him, and he still made the catch.”
At that point, the Warriors were on their heels and the Sabers were determined to find the end zone.
Maui High running back Justin McCrary had a 1-yard run on first down and Aboy went wide on the next play, eventually going out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Vainikolo muscled it into the end zone on the next play and Jared Kapisi’s kick capped the scoring at 10-3.
“We called two plays in the huddle, we made sure that if we didn’t get in we had another play and that we could call it right away,” Bui noted.
Lopes said the Sabers’ hurry-up offense did not allow the Warriors to substitute properly.
“Once they hit that first big play (first down pass to Raymon Ledesma) to start the drive we couldn’t get into our rotation and we didn’t have the people we wanted in there until we called a timeout,” Lopes said.
“We run our no-huddle every day in practice, so even with 30 seconds left we felt like it was enough time for us,” Bui said. “There was no panic. We wanted to save the no-huddle for later on down the line, we didn’t really want to use it this game.”
Lucas, who wore No. 8 and is listed as No. 15 on the Sabers’ roster, answered Maui High’s prayers when it counted.
“We just told him great play, great catch, way to step it up,” Bui said.
Ironically, Bui said the Sabers emphasized the importance of finishing games coming into the league opener.
“That’s been our message the whole week. There were things from our Konawaena loss that we were not happy with in terms of finishing the game, so that was kind of the emphasis this week in practice — finishing strong.
“We knew Kamehameha was fast and had a lot of speed, but we thought we could take advantage of the middle, an area where we felt they were a little soft. We wanted to kind of pound away at them and wear them out. In the end, we were trying to hold the lead but fell behind, so we had to use our no-huddle.”
“Both teams had their opportunities, Maui High just made the most of theirs,” said Kamehameha Maui defensive coordinator Anthony Perry.
The Sabers opened the scoring with a 25-yard field goal by Kapisi with 2:52 to play in the first quarter, 3-0.
Kamehameha grabbed a 7-3 lead by taking the second-half kickoff 69 yards on 12 plays. Sophomore running back Colton Cabanas capped the 7-minute drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Warrior quarterback Connor Yap hit sophomore wide receiver Chase Newton for a pair of first-down completions that kept the drive alive, the second of which set the table for Cabanas’ TD at the 1-yard line.