Baldwin Beats Maui High with Big Bubble Play
By Rodney S. Yap
It took all the offensive elements in football to come together on one play — the bubble screen pass.
Baldwin High School quarterback Jeremiah Badillo had been connecting on the play to slotback Kawela Kaeo-Mata all night long.
But it wasn’t until the last pass-and-catch, the 11th between the Baldwin duo, midway through the fourth quarter, to break open an otherwise scoreless “Big Game” against a stubborn Maui High School team.
The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Kaeo-Mata utilized downfield blockers — wide receivers Patrick Turner and Chris Kazanecki — to split Maui High defenders en route to a 55-yard touchdown and the game’s only score in Baldwin’s 7-0 victory over the Sabers Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
A crowd of about 2,800 watched the Bears improve to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the second round of the Maui Interscholastic League Division I standings. The Sabers are now 0-1 and 2-3 overall.
“We were working the bubble screen a lot tonight and everybody came up with some key blocks. It was a team effort,” said Kaeo-Mata, who finished with a career-high 11 catches for 134 yards.
In the huddle, Kaeo-Mata said he told told Turner and Kazanecki to: “Double-team the linebacker and if the corner comes up to make the tackle Kaz would break off and block him and that would be it.”
But at the line of scrimmage, Turner said Kazanecki changed the blocking scheme.
“Chris and I usually cross block or we take our guy head on and on that play he told me he wanted to go head on. Either way, our job is to try and give Kawela the sidelines. So we took a step to our left and let them (Maui High defenders Lucas Ibanez and Justin Carvalho) come into us instead of us going to them so they can’t make a move. And that’s exactly what happened and how it worked.”
Turner said Ibanez was a load to block.
“He was making moves all night, he was working me, he wasn’t an easy guy to block. But I knew that if we gave Kawela enough time, he’s such a good athlete, that he could make it happen.”
Once Turner sealed Ibanez inside and Kazanecki turned Carvalho outside, Kaeo-Mata turned upfield with nothing between him and the end zone but open real estate.
“Right then I was thinking, hit the hole, keep running, don’t stop and don’t look back,” Kaeo-Mata said. “The receivers blocked awesome all night and the linemen held up their end, too, so Jeremiah could throw the ball — everybody working together.”
Baldwin offensive coordinator Dave Carino said part of that play is the quarterback’s read.
“When he (Badillo) makes that read and sees that we can take advantage of what they are giving us. What we tell the receivers is our style of offense is about blocking. Not only do you have to catch the ball but you have to be a very good blocker. We take pride in that . . . block, block, block, don’t stop.”
“He (Coach Carino) takes blocking very serious, we practice it a lot,” said Turner. “It’s important to block and help your teammates because it isn’t always about you. If you don’t block in this offense you are not going to get passes.”
Carino said receivers are not allowed to freelance.
“If you are not going to block, that’s not part of our offense, you can’t be out there doing your own thing, and if you are than you don’t deserve the ball. They understand the importance of blocking.”
And on a night like Saturday night, it was the difference in the game.
“Maui High was not going to let us make big plays on the inside or in the box. They wanted to really stop our running game and (Dusty) stop Flores and (Keenan) Lewis from making big plays. And they concentrated a lot on putting pressure on the quarterback when we threw the ball and if we do run inside, in between the tackles, they were going to be there to stop it.
“If we can’t take it up inside, I guess we have to go outside and so we went outside,” Carino explained. “When we do throw that screen to him (Kaeo-Mata), it’s not like we are looking for a play where he breaks it for 30 yards. If anything, we’re looking for five yards out of those screens. But if we continue to run it we are going to bust one eventually and it popped right at the right time and he had good blocking out there. Credit to Wela because he found his way. He had to weave in and out a bit, ’til he found the crease, and then he hit the sidelines and was gone.”
“I go into every game hoping to make a play to help the team,” Kaeo-Mata said. “Tonight was just great team camaraderie.”
Baldwin head coach Keneke Pacheco said he knew it would come down to one play.
“It was a great game. It came down to one play and we came up big when we needed to, we made the right plays at the right time and we won the game. We knew that if we kept trying it he would eventually pop one.”
“Maui High did a great job preparing for this game, my hat’s off to them.”
The Bears’ defense, which limited Maui High to 128 yards, was led by linebacker Nohea Keahi.
“They’ve improved a lot since we last played them,” Keahi said. “We knew it was going to be a tight game. I’m glad we made the big plays on offense and I’m proud of the way our defense played.”
In addition to Keahi’s play, defensive back La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis came up huge, making a touchdown-saving tackle on Maui High’s Tyson Takabayashi, who hauled in a 50-yard pass from quarterback Austin Hoe that put the ball on the Bears’ 14-yard line.
Maui High, however, failed to score as place-kicker Jared Kapisi missed the first of two field-goal attempts for 33 yards out. The other was on the Sabers’ next possession from 43-yards away.
It was Baldwin’s 26th straight win over the Sabers. The Bears now have a grip on their 11th trip to the state tournament in the last 12 years.
Saturday’s Game Summary
Maui High 0 0 0 0—0
Baldwin 0 0 0 7—7
BH—Kawela Kaeo-Mata 55 pass from Jeremiah Badillo (Benjamin Wuthrich kick), 5:18.
Junior varsity-Baldwin 30, Maui High 14.