Warriors Close Out Sabers Without Drama, 21-14
By Rodney S. Yap
For a time being, it looked like the recent streak of dramatic finishes between Kamehameha Maui and Maui High School would continue.
Trailing 21-0 at halftime, the Sabers mounted a second-half rally with a pair of touchdowns and even recovered an onside kick with 1 minute, 24 seconds to play before turning the ball over on downs— to a very stout Warrior defense led by lineman Rusty Hue Sing and linebacker Taylor Ka’aukai — with 40 seconds left.
The Warriors preserved a 21-14 victory in front of about 1,200 fans at Kanaiaupuni Stadium. The game was the Maui Interscholastic League second-round opener for both teams. Kamehameha improved its record to 2-3 overall and is tied with Lahainaluna for the Division II lead. The Warriors host the Lunas on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m.
The Sabers fell to 2-3.
“The second half was a real test of our mental toughness,” said Warrior captain and two-way performer Aydan Lopes. “Maui High came out with so much energy and so much desire in the second half . . . as a team we couldn’t match that. They came out with so much fire and we had to somehow overcome it.”
The Sabers were able to rally from a 21-point deficit when Andre Pierman recovered a fumble at the Kamehameha 10-yard line and Soane Vaohea scored on an 8-yard run with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
Maui High later drove the ball 70 yards on seven plays and drew within seven points of the Warriors, 21-14, when Moana Vainikolo scored with 1:27 to play.
“I’m not sure what it is about the second half,” said Lopes of the Warriors’ lackluster play. “If you look at our games we’ve played terrific in the first half. I don’t know what it is, fatigue or what, but we just have not played well in the second half of our games.”
Without a passing game, the Sabers became a one-dimensional team down the stretch and the Warriors’ attacking defense was able to key on Maui High’s runners Vainkolo and Justin McCrary. KS-Maui linebacker Kamaka Keawekane came up with a pair of key stops to close out the game.
“In the first half, I feel like we came out firing on all cylinders and we executed,” said Lopes, who returned a block field goal in the first half 70 yards for an apparent touchdown that was called back due to an inadvertent whistle. “I thought we employed our will on them and we were able to do whatever we wanted to. I thought we just played really strong in the first half, which has kind of been our story the whole season.”
Kamehameha played without the services of starting quarterback Connor Kalai Yap, the MIL’s leading rusher, who is still recovering from a concussion suffered two weeks ago against Baldwin. Sophomore Chase Newton started in Yap’s place.
The Warriors recovered four fumbles in the first half, three of which led to short drives for touchdowns — all on runs by Makoa Medeiros, from distances of 1, 11, and 6 yards.
The first score came less than two minutes into the game after McCrary fumbled the opening kick and Kamehameha’s Colton Cabanas recovered on the 23. The score was setup by a 14-yard reception from Newton to slotback Devonte Llanes.
The second fumble was recovered by Hue Sing in the Sabers’ backfield on the 25. Medeiros went wide and scored on an 11-yard run with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors’ final score of the first half came after Kapahanau Palakiko recovered a fumble on the Sabers’ 9. Again, Medeiros was the go-to guy, and the score came on a 6-yard run with 3:46 left in the second quarter.
Lopes, the team’s starting tight end and defensive end, said part of the Warriors’ offensive woes in the second half was due to an injury to the team’s other tight end Erin Lindsey.
“Because we have only two tight ends, when Erin got hurt we couldn’t run our double-tight end offense, and I think that hurt us a little.”
Medeiros finished the game with 90 rushing yards on 15 carries, 88 yards coming in the first half. Newton was 9-for-16 passing for 89 yards.
Kamehameha Maui out gained Maui High 177 yards to 61 in the first half.
McCrary finished with 131 yards rushing, 84 of them in the second half. Vaohea had 96 of his 102 rushing yards in the final two quarters, when the Sabers out gained the Warriors 193-116.
Saturday’s Scoring Summary
Maui High 0 0 7 7—14
KS-Maui 14 7 0 0—21
KSM—Makoa Medeiros 1 run (Colton Cabanas kick), 10:17.
KSM—Medeiros 11 run (Cabanas kick), 4:01.
KSM—Medeiros 6 run (Cabanas kick), 3:46.
MHS—Soane Vaohea 8 run (Jared Kapisi kick), 2:19.
MHS—Moana Vainikolo 7 run (Kapisi kick), 1:27.
Junior varsity-Maui High 13, Kamehameha Maui 6.