Bears Blowout Sabers, Earn MIL Div. I Title and State Trip
By Rodney S. Yap
Trick or treat?
The outcome of Friday’s Maui Interscholastic League Division I playoff championship was so lopsided, fans of prep football here thought Halloween came a day early.
That’s because 56-7 in any language, division, league — much less a highly-anticipated postseason playoff game in the final weekend of October — is down right scary.
Friday’s night march to the War Memorial Stadium end zone, included a pair of defensive touchdowns that sucked the life blood from Maui High, while sending Baldwin back to the state tournament for its 11th appearance in 12 years.
The win gave Baldwin rookie mentor Pohai Lee his first championship as head coach and his first Gatorade shower on the War Memorial Stadium sidelines.
Lee said state tournament officials told him the Bears (8-1) will play in the state quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu against the third-place team from the Oahu Interscholastic Association — Waianae and Farrington play for that spot today.
The coach also praised the work of his assistants coaches and staff for having the boys ready to compete and then execute their respective game plan on both sides of the ball.
Baldwin quarterback Chayce Akaka led the team offensively with two back-breaking touchdown runs, the first coming on a nifty 16-yard scamper that open the game’s scoring with 7 minutes, 37 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Then later, Akaka buried the Sabers’ hopes of a comeback midway through the third quarter when he instinctively reversed out of the pocket and weaved his way through the Sabers’ arm-tackling defense that had been playing on its heels since falling behind 28-0 on Taje Akaka’s 58-yard interception return for a touchdown in front of the Maui High bench.
Chayce Akaka also added one passing touchdown, his league-leading 20th of the season, to older brother, Tage, before leading the team in the postgame handshake in the middle of the field.
When asked if the team could play any better than it did Friday before an estimated crowd of 3,500, Akaka the quarterback hesitated before responding: “Yeah, I think so, I’m never satisfied with the way I play — always looking to improve. I’ve got to give lots of props to the O-line and the defense, they really held things together when they had to.”
The loss was the Sabers (6-3) most lopsided since losing to Baldwin 52-0 in 2010.
The return of defensive lineman Avant Sheldon (No. 40) appeared to give the Bears’ defense a huge boost. Sheldon’s stellar play, after missing a pair of games due to injury and academics, sparked his teammates as the 6-foot, 1-inch, 260-pound junior rushed the passer with reckless abandon and made numerous tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Maui High running back Soane Vaohea was held to 66 yards rushing on 11 carries. He came into the game as the MIL’s leading rusher with 900 yards.
Afterwards Vaohea said he was “speechless,” and “I don’t know what to say right now.”
“It’s a tough loss, just one of those games I guess.”
What was evident from the get go was Baldwin’s dominance on defense, particularly at the point of attack, where the Bears’ defensive front beat the Sabers’ offensive line repeatedly off the ball. It was the Bears’ penetration into the Saber backfield, where most of the damage was being done.
The rewards for their efforts were three fumbles and an interception. Two of the turnovers produced touchdowns and the third — a 75-yard fumble return by sophomore linebacker Aloalii Laga — set up a 2-yard run by running back Kamaki Gouveia that gave Baldwin a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Baldwin grabbed the momentum for good in the second quarter, exploding for 28 unanswered points, the first 14 coming on back-to-back plays by Taje Akaka in a span of 19 seconds. That’s when Taje caught a 9-yard pass from Chayce, and then on the first play after the change of possession, Taje picked off Hoe as the Maui High quarterback was being chased out of the pocket.
A 99-yard fumble return by Laakea Kahoohanohano-Davis and a 3—yard run by Gouviea as time expired gave Baldwin a comfortable 42-0 halftime lead.
Although Baldwin fell to Maui High 3-0 in its first-round meeting, the Bears have had their way with the Sabers, winning 28 of their last 31 meetings dating back to 2001.
Maui High avoided a shutout when Hoe connected with Vaohea on a 44-yard screen pass about a minute into the fourth quarter. At that point, the game was being played under mercy rule, with a running clock, and Baldwin had basically cleared its bench.
The Bears closed out their scoring in the third quarter with Chayce Akaka running for a 14-yard touchdown and Chazzaniel Sau, playing his first game in six weeks after an injury, scored from 12 yards out. The two scores came at 5:55 and 1:17, respectively.
Chance Akaka did not play the final 10 minutes of the game, brother Tage handled mop-up duty instead.
Friday’s MIL Division I Playoff Summary
BEARS 56, SABERS 7
At War Memorial Stadium
Maui High 0 0 0 7—7
Baldwin 14 28 14 0—56
BH—Chayce Akaka 16 run (Kelii Kaiama kick), 7:37.
BH—Kamaki Gouveia 2 run (Kaiama kick), 2:28.
BH—Taje Akaka 9 pass from C. Akaka (Kaiama kick), 7:59.
BH—T. Akaka 58 interception return (Kaiama kick), 7:38.
BH—Laakea Kahoohanohano-Davis 99 fumble return (Kaiama kick), 3:30.
BH—Gouveia 3 run (Kaiama kick), 0:00.
BH—C. Akaka 14 run (Kaiama kick), 5:55.
BH—Chazzaniel Sau 12 run (Kaiama kick), 1:17.
MH—Soane Vaohea 44 pass from Austin Hoe (Chevee Freitas kick), 10:57.
* Note: All individual and team statistics complied by Robert Collias of The Maui News.