Sabers Earn First-round Div. I Title With Win Over BaldwinSeptember 12, 2015, 11:43 AM HST · Updated September 13, 12:58 PM 0 Comments
By Rodney S. Yap
In the end, it was about defense, and Maui High School’s defense proved to be a field goal better than Baldwin’s when it counted.
The Sabers’ stout defense shutout Baldwin’s explosive passing game Friday night, before an estimated crowd of 4,300 at War Memorial Stadium, securing the Maui Interscholastic League Division I first-round championship with a nail-biting 3-0 victory.
The difference in the game was a 31-yard field goal by Maui High’s senior place-kicker Chevee Freitas, giving the defending MIL champion Sabers one up in the special teams category, too.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” said Maui High first-year head coach Keith Shirota. “It’s the best feeling.”
Maui High has now beaten Baldwin in the last three meetings, after enduring 26 consecutive defeats to the cross-town rival Bears over a span of 13 years, from 2001 to 2013. Prior to Baldwin’s dominant stretch, the two big public schools from the Valley Isle annually played in the much celebrated “Big Game” twice a year.
“I actually expected a little more points on the board, but our defense played awesome,” Shirota said. “Our offense moved the ball, we just couldn’t punch it in (to the end zone). I thought we controlled the clock by moving the ball and our defense played a hell of a game. I also thought special teams played big tonight, they determined a lot of the field position.”
The win means Maui High is now 3-0 and the only unbeaten team in the MIL going into Saturday’s mid-season contest at Kamehameha Maui. The Bears fell to 2-1 and will be at King Kekaulike on Friday.
Meanwhile, winless Lahainaluna hosts King Kekaulike on its homecoming tonight at 7 o’clock. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio AM900.
“I expected a close game with these guys,” said Baldwin’s fourth-year linebacker and captain Kawena Alo-Kaonohi. “They came up with the “W” this time but our team worked hard and played with heart. Our offense did move the ball and they will continue to get better with practice.
“Although I expected us to win, I knew the game was going to be a close one, because they are a tough team, too. Both defenses came to play tonight and had great games. We still have to cut down on the penalties and once we do that I think we will be OK.”
The Bears played without a big part of their offensive attack because of a leg injury to leading rusher Chazzaniel Sau, who had to be helped off the field by teammates after going down just two minutes into the first quarter.
Maui High held the Bears to 243 yards in total offense, 176 yards fewer than Baldwin had been averaging coming into the game. The Sabers’ stellar defense play was highlighted by a pair of interceptions — by Nathan Vierra and Alani Malafu — and a key fumble recovery midway through the third quarter by Israel Emelio.
“Tonight’s game was all about defense, but we can do better,” said junior linebacker Feleti Afemui, who forced the fumble of Baldwin’s Taje Akaka in the third quarter and was among the Sabers’ leading tacklers. “We still have more to improve on. But the next round will be a lot harder and we are going to have to have to play even better.
“I expected it to be low scoring,” Afemui added. “But I think the next time we play them, their offense is going to come out hard and we are going to have to step up and be prepared.”
The Sabers mixed up their offense and picked up 179 yards. Running back Soane Vaohea finished with 85 yards on 21 carries.
Maui High set up its winning field goal by driving 66 yards in 14 plays. Vaohea chucked the pigskin seven times for 34 yards, and quarterback Austin Hoe hit Edmund Foronda with a 31-yard pass.
The Sabers also benefitted on their lone scoring drive when an apparent Baldwin fumble recovery was overturned due to an inadvertent whistle.
All tallied, Baldwin finished with 12 penalties for 96 yards.
Friday’s MIL Scoring Summary
At War Memorial Stadium
SABERS 3, BEARS 0
Baldwin 0 0 0 0—0
Maui High 0 3 0 0—3
MH—FG Chevee Freitas 31, 3:17
Junior varsity: Maui High 36, Baldwin 35
*Note: All individual and team statistics complied by Rob Collias of The Maui News.