Maui High’s Figueroa Recalls Glory from 2000

November 6, 2014, 11:47 PM HST · Updated November 6, 11:55 PM
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Sabers Roster 2000 By Rodney S. Yap

Although he is not on the sidelines during games, Maui High defensive coach Rodney Figueroa’s knowledge and experience may go a long way into helping the Sabers prepare for one of its biggest football games in school history.

As it turns out, Figueroa was a young second-year defensive line coach under then head coach Curtis Lee in 2000. The Sabers won their last Maui Interscholastic League championship that year and earned a berth to the inaugural Chevron State State Football Championships.

Figueroa continued to coach with Lee until he retired in 2004 as the winningest active coach in the state, with a 129-69-7 record that included nine MIL titles in 21 seasons.

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Coach FigIn 2005, Figueroa was hired to coach defensive linemen at Baldwin, where he stayed for the next 10 years and served as the Bears’ defensive coordinator from 2009 until his departure last year.

Maui High 2000In addition to having 15 years of varsity experience under his belt, Figueroa has coached in 10 state tournaments and have schemed against Farrington twice in the last three years — splitting both first-round playoff games at War Memorial Stadium.

“Now I help Kamaloni (Vainikolo) on the defensive line and I help our defensive coordinator Allen Vierra in the (coaches) booth during games and with setting up the scout teams during the week,” said Figueroa, a 1983 Baldwin graduate and ’82 MIL all-star defensive lineman.

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Figueroa remembers coaching the Sabers’ Saia Lotulelei in 2000, the anchor of the Sabers’ stingy defense.

“The 2000 team had that ‘Never Surrender’ attitude and they were a very close group,” he said. “That’s the same thing I see in this team, they are very close and this team has great leadership.

“This team also has a solid running game and tough defense, which the 2000 team had.”

Andrew Malafu rushed for 1,189 yards in 10 games in 2000 and the Sabers’ defense finished with five shutouts en route to a 10-0-1 mark. The season’s only blemish was a midseason tie (22-22) with Baldwin.

“I remember we hosted Waianae and they were big. We played them tough but we just couldn’t get any breaks.”

MauivsWaianaeThe Seasiders defeated the Sabers 21-0.

Among the other notable players from the 2000 team besides Lotulelei, were quarterback David Tufaga, linebacker Alika Bacos, strong safety Kenneth Carroll, and wide receiver Dustin Cabico. Sophomore offensive lineman Tilose Vainikolo was one of the biggest players on the Saber roster in 2000. He is the older brother of current Maui High standouts Alexander Vainikolo and Atunaisa Vainikolo.

This afternoon at 4:30 p.m., the Sabers face Farrington, the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s third-place team, ranked No. 6 in the state according to this week’s ScoringLive.com’s prep rankings. The Govs (8-2) are big and experienced, making their 10th tournament appearance compared to Maui High’s second.

Today’s game will be broadcast live on OC16 TV and ESPN 900AM Radio.

The Sabers flew to Oahu Thursday and worked out at Aloha Stadium in the afternoon.

“Because we’re traveling it’s a little different and the kids have never been to Aloha Stadium or have never played a preseason game there.

“So I suggested we have a practice there today so the kids can walk in and enjoy the wow-factor. The practice and walk through are for the kids to check it out and get more comfortable.”

Figueroa’s MIL stints at Maui High and Baldwin have allowed him to coach many talented MIL athletes, including Tavita Finau, Mana Rosa, Jordan Puu-Robinson, John Lotulelei, and Pasoni Pasini, to name a few.

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