Sabers Capture Lightning in a Bottle With 42-0 Win
By Rodney S. Yap
Maui High School — 65 players strong — captured lightning in a bottle Saturday, outplaying Baldwin 42-0 in the Valley Isle’s first Alumni Football USA game.
The Sabers exploded for 29 second-quarter points as triggerman David Tufaga ran for two touchdowns and threw for two to help Maui High build a commanding 21-0 lead in a span of 6 minutes, 52 seconds. Running back Garrett Gonzales took a pitch to his right and cutback left for an electrifying 26-yard touchdown run that extended the Sabers’ lead to 29-0 at halftime.
“It was awesome, it felt great to be out there again,” said Tufaga, a 2001 graduate who threw the ball flawlessly and made plays with his feet when the Sabers needed a first down to extend a drive. “I’m blessed with the talent to throw the ball, and it felt good.”
A boisterous War Memorial Stadium crowd of about 2,000 friends and family members witness the historic event, that included a pre-game coin toss with Mayor Alan Arakawa and his wife.
“Now everybody knows it’s real,” said Bob Cazet, founder and owner of Alumni Football USA. “That’s been the problem, people didn’t think it was real. Now that they’ve seen it they know it’s real and the schools will get a chance to make some money. The guys like playing, so the next thing you know you’ve got 100 guys on each team ready to go.”
Baldwin had 53 players listed on its roster, but suited up about 30.
“Yeah this is no different than everywhere else,” Cazet said. “We’re in 28 states right now. We do over 200 games a year and we’ve done about 1,100 alumni football games thus far. Wait until next year, this place will be packed.”
Baldwin running back and 2009 graduate Keith Flores said the toughest part of preparing for the game was trying to recruit players.
But once the whistle blew, it was like riding a bike.
“We got our pads two hours before the game and we really didn’t run around with it until we started stretching. It was fun,” Flores said. “Can’t take anything away from Maui High, you could tell they practiced hard.”
Tufaga is used to finding open receivers under pressure. Next month he starts his 14th season playing in the CrossFit Maui Flag Football League organized by former Maui High and University of Hawaii running back Danny Crowell.
After a scoreless first quarter, Tufaga led the Sabers on a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive, overcoming a pair of penalties before sneaking into the end zone from 2 yards out. Place-holder Michael Asuncion’s attempt to run in the botched snap failed, giving Maui High a 6-0 lead 67 seconds into the second quarter.
On the change of possession, Maui High linebacker Kenneth Carroll made a tackle for a 4-yard loss on first down and then broke up a pass play on third down to force Baldwin to punt.
“It was amazing,” said Carroll. “It felt really good. It was exciting to fulfill something that has been missing for awhile. Honestly, it felt great. It was nice to be on the field with some of the younger guys and the older guys. it was awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
After re-gaining possession, the Sabers ran a couple of dive plays with fullback Ryan Ishizu before Tufaga connected with Asuncion on a 28-yard pass. That set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tufaga to Lorenzo White on the next play. Tufaga got the defensive secondary to freeze on a pump fake before hitting a wide-open White.
Trailing 13-0, Baldwin fumbled on first down of its next possession, giving Maui High a short field. Baldwin got a pair of sacks on Tufaga by James Uwekoolani, but the Sabers still managed to move the ball 24 yards on six plays, setting up Tufaga’s second rushing touchdown from 1-yard out. The score came with 4:01 left in the second quarter as Asuncion’s pass to Kamaloni Vainikolo made it 21-0.
Baldwin fumbled again on first down, this time Kaiana Carnvel coughed it up after taking a reverse handoff and running into Carroll. Gonzales rambled for 23 yards on second down before capping a four-play drive with his open-field touchdown run before halftime. Asuncion’s pass to Carroll capped the first-half scoring.
“It felt good, I seen the opening and just took off . . . I wish I could have done that in high school,” said the speedy Gonzales.
When asked if he felt like he lost a step, Gonzales said: “No. I felt like I gained a step, plus weight, plus strength, everything. It was a great opportunity and I wish we get a chance to do it again.”
Considering the amount of time and preparation, no one on the Saber sidelines was surprised by the outcome.
“I wasn’t surprise,” Carroll explained. “We’ve been practicing and we’ve been practicing hard. I tip my hat to Baldwin they brought it today, too, and they have a lot of talent on that team. I guess we were hungrier and we made some plays that went our way.”
“Practices were really intense and the boys practiced hard,” said Tufaga, who hit Niuafe Lama while rolling in the opposite direction across the field for a 6-yard touchdown to cap the scoring. “Things got serious this week and the boys came together and pulled through.”
“Age gets to you and reality sinks in, but it felt good,” said Cabico, who lowered the boom on would-be tacklers in the open field. “You got to do what you got to do, you can’t let the team down. . . . It was worth it, hopefully we got something going now. For the other schools, now we can let them know that Alumni football is for real.”
Maui High 0 29 6 7 — 42
Baldwin 0 0 0 0 — 0
MHS — David Tufaga 2 run (run failed), 6-0; 10:53
MHS — Lorenzo White 13 pass from Tufaga (Ryan Ishizu kick), 13-0; 7:34
MHS — Tufaga 1 run (Kamaloni Vainikolo from Michael Asuncion), 21-0; 4:01
MHS — Garrett Gonzales 26 run (Kenneth Carroll from Asuncion), 29-0; 1:00
MHS — Ishizu 3 run (pass failed), 35-0; 6:07
MHS — Niuafe Lama 6 pass from Tufaga (Ishizu kick), 42-0; 7:03