Sabers Earn First-round Div. I Title With Win Over Baldwin

September 12, 2015, 11:43 AM HST · Updated September 13, 12:58 PM
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By Rodney S. Yap

The Maui High School football team celebrate a 3-0 victory over Baldwin Friday night after the sound of the final buzzer at War MemoriL Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

The Maui High School football team celebrate a 3-0 victory over Baldwin Friday night after the sound of the final buzzer at War MemoriL Stadium. Photo 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.”

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    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.

    Maui High linebacker Feleti Afemui wrestles a Baldwin runner to the ground Friday at War Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High linebacker Feleti Afemui wrestles a Baldwin runner to the ground Friday at War Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    “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

    Second Quarter

    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.

    Baldwin's Chayce Akaka looks for someone to throw to in the closing seconds of Friday's game against Maui High as Saber Soane Vaohea gives chase. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin’s Chayce Akaka looks for someone to throw to in the closing seconds of Friday’s game against Maui High as Saber Soane Vaohea gives chase. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Israel Emelio emerges with the ball after he recovers a Baldwin fumble midway through the third quarter Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Israel Emelio emerges with the ball after he recovers a Baldwin fumble midway through the third quarter Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High running back Soane Vaohea (1) tries to shake the tackle of Baldwin's Chris Bacos (41) near the end zone Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High running back Soane Vaohea (1) tries to shake the tackle of Baldwin’s Chris Bacos (41) near the end zone Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka looks for an open receiver Friday against Maui High. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka looks for an open receiver Friday against Maui High. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Nathan Nunez (34) tries to bring down Baldwin's La'akea Kahoohanohano-Davis. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Nathan Nunez (34) tries to bring down Baldwin’s La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Feleti Afemui (17) and Nathan Vierra (6) close in on Baldwin's La'akea Kahoohanohano-Davis. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Feleti Afemui (17) and Nathan Vierra (6) close in on Baldwin’s La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Mykah Bailey (8) wrestles with Baldwin's La'akea Kahoohanohano-Davis while covering a kick off Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Mykah Bailey (8) wrestles with Baldwin’s La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis while covering a kick off Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Alani Malafu wraps up Baldwin receiver Kelii Kaiama. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Alani Malafu wraps up Baldwin receiver Kelii Kaiama. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High quarterback Austin Hoe (7) decides to keep the ball and avoids a Baldwin defender. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High quarterback Austin Hoe (7) decides to keep the ball and avoids a Baldwin defender. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin's Kawena Alo-Kaonohi (5) lunges at the feet of Maui High quarterback Austin Hoe (7). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin’s Kawena Alo-Kaonohi (5) lunges at the feet of Maui High quarterback Austin Hoe (7). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High School head coach Keith Shirota talks to one of his players during the first half Friday against Baldwin. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High School head coach Keith Shirota talks to one of his players during the first half Friday against Baldwin. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High running back Soane Vaohea (1) tries to get in between defenders La'akea Kahoohanohano-Davis (21) and Kawena Alo-Kaonohi (5). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High running back Soane Vaohea (1) tries to get in between defenders La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis (21) and Kawena Alo-Kaonohi (5). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin defensive back Jansen Roldan (8) breaks up this pass intended for Maui High receiver Justine Dancel (26). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin defensive back Jansen Roldan (8) breaks up this pass intended for Maui High receiver Justine Dancel (26). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin's Chazzaniel Sa'u (10) is helped off the field by teammates Kawena Alo-Kaonohi (5) and Chris Bacos (41) and head coach Pohai Lee looks on. Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin’s Chazzaniel Sa’u (10) is helped off the field by teammates Kawena Alo-Kaonohi (5) and Chris Bacos (41) and head coach Pohai Lee looks on. Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High linebacker Feleti Afemui wrestles a Baldwin runner to the ground Friday at War Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High linebacker Feleti Afemui wrestles a Baldwin runner to the ground Friday at War Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    The Maui High School football team celebrate a 3-0 victory over Baldwin Friday night after the sound of the final buzzer at War MemoriL Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    The Maui High School football team celebrate a 3-0 victory over Baldwin Friday night after the sound of the final buzzer at War MemoriL Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin's La'akea Kahoohanohano-Davis readies to get a jump on the snap count. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin’s La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis readies to get a jump on the snap count. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Soane Vaohea (1) runs into all kinds of traffic including Baldwin's La'akea Kahoohanohano-Davis (21) Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Soane Vaohea (1) runs into all kinds of traffic including Baldwin’s La’akea Kahoohanohano-Davis (21) Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High offensive coordinator Kaulana Noa talks to one of his players during a break in the action Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High offensive coordinator Kaulana Noa talks to one of his players during a break in the action Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High defensive coordinator Kamaloni Vainikolo talks with one of his defensive players. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High defensive coordinator Kamaloni Vainikolo talks with one of his defensive players. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High running back Soane Vaohea (1) looks at a lineup of Baldwin defenders. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High running back Soane Vaohea (1) looks at a lineup of Baldwin defenders. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Jamie Fisher Elisara gets ready to block Baldwin lineman Kalauga Alii Laloulu (45). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Jamie Fisher Elisara gets ready to block Baldwin lineman Kalauga Alii Laloulu (45). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin's Leafi Satele runs after Maui High's Austin Hoe (7). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin’s Leafi Satele runs after Maui High’s Austin Hoe (7). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin defensive line coach Kawika Kahui talks to several of his players during a time out Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin defensive line coach Kawika Kahui talks to several of his players during a time out Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin's Chazz Sa'u checks in with a concern family member on the sidelines Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin’s Chazz Sa’u checks in with a concern family member on the sidelines Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin coach Kawika Kahui and lineman Makana Wright (71) prepare to go into the locker room at halftime Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin coach Kawika Kahui and lineman Makana Wright (71) prepare to go into the locker room at halftime Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Focused Maui High band member during halftime presentation. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Focused Maui High band member during halftime presentation. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    The drums team of Maui High's award-winning band during Friday's halftime presentation at War Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    The drums team of Maui High’s award-winning band during Friday’s halftime presentation at War Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka prepares to hand the ball off to running back Kamaki Gouviea (24). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka prepares to hand the ball off to running back Kamaki Gouviea (24). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Josh Shirota and Mahonri Anitema (54) swarm all over Baldwin's Kamaki Gouviea. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Josh Shirota and Mahonri Anitema (54) swarm all over Baldwin’s Kamaki Gouviea. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin punter Damien Awai (25) gets off this nice punt during second-half action Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Baldwin punter Damien Awai (25) gets off this nice punt during second-half action Friday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High's Keith Penias (13) escapes the grasp of Baldwin's Jac Keoni Yoruw. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

    Maui High’s Keith Penias (13) escapes the grasp of Baldwin’s Jac Keoni Yoruw. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

     

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