Lunas’ Last MIL Titles Were in 2004 and 2001
By Rodney S. Yap
As shocking as it was to see Baldwin High School bear the wrath that was Lahainaluna’s lopsided 32-0 first-round win on Sept. 7, it was only one game.
The explosion on the Lunas side of the field was the result of seven frustrating season, repeatedly falling short to the Bears in the final analysis, despite representing the Maui Interscholastic League in state-tournament play.
For the record, Baldwin has won nine of the last 11 MIL championships, including seven straight since 2005.
Although the league is now divided in two divisions, bragging rights to the overall title remain — official or unofficial.
Lahainaluna hopes to end its seven-year drought on Saturday when the two schools battle at full strength, beginning at 7 p.m., at War Memorial Stadium. The game can be heard live on ESPN AM550, with play-by-play by Barry Helle and color commentary by Fred Guzman.
Lahainaluna won its last MIL title in 2004 and was the league’s lone representative in postseason play at the Division I tournament.
The Lunas beat Mililani on the Valley Isle, 41-34, to advance to the semifinals. Kamehameha Kapalama, led by running back Jayson Rego of Maui, defeated Lahainaluna 21-6 before going on to claim the state title under head coach Kanani Souza, now the interim athletic director at KS-Maui.
Lahainaluna fell short the year before, losing to Aiea in the semis 21-14, of the state Division II tournament. Aiea went on to claim the state title the following week.
Since then, Baldwin and Lahainaluna have represented the MIL in postseason play every year, expect in 2006, when King Kekaulike went on to claim the state’s Division II championship — under JW Kenton.
When was the last time Baldwin got worked, by any MIL team, like the hurt the Lunas put on the Bears five weeks ago?
The Lunas dominated the Bears in a championship game in 2001. The final score was 24-14, but Lahainaluna led 23-0 at halftime, taking advantage of six first-half miscues by Baldwin to build a huge cushion. The Bears settled down in the second and put up a pair of touchdowns, but it was too little, too late. Baldwin committed nine turnovers (six interceptions) and four major penalties that either thwarted a scoring opportunity it had built or contributed to a change of possession.
Current Baldwin defensive ends’ coach Kawika Kahui was a senior captain that year. Following the game, Kahui said: “Lahainaluna is a good team. They are a smart team and they’ve got a good coaching staff. We knew they were not going to rollover and quit.”
Instead, the Lunas avenged the 26-7 beat down they suffered in their previous meeting with Baldwin.
Kahui, the MIL’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year from 2000, said: “We were all disappointed and frustrated. Especially the seniors. We just couldn’t put anything together early in the game.”
The Lunas went on to faced Kahuku in the first round of the state tournament, losing to the eventual state champions 57-14.
The graphic on the left shows some facts and figures about the postseason history of Lahainaluna and Baldwin high schools since Hawaii established a true state tournament in 1999.
* After losing to the Lunas in 2004, Baldwin went on to post 19 consecutive MIL wins — a 14-14 tie with Kamehameha Maui in 2006 — followed by a 17-game winning streak. Over the course of a five-year span, from 2005 to 2009, the Division I school had an unbeaten streak of 36-0-1.
Baldwin’s win streak was eventually snapped by Kekaulike in 2009, in a first-round game played Upcountry. Na Alii won 14-7 with Kenton at the helm.
* In 2006, Lahainaluna played for the state Division II title, but came up short 28-21 against Iolani, which has claimed every small-school crown since. The Lunas’ seven-point loss remains the closest Division II final since the tournament’s inaugural year in 2003 when Aiea beat Damien 9-7.
* Baldwin should have advanced to the state Division I championship in 2006, the year it led Kahuku 20-14 before the Red Raiders scored on a safety and a Hail-Mary pass two plays later to earn a dramatic come-from-behind victory, 22-20. Current Baldwin quarterback coach Jordan Helle was a senior that year.
The Red Raiders’ Cinderella season under Reggie Torres continued the following week when Kahuku pulled off another last-minute victory, stunning Saint Louis in the title game, 7-6. Kahuku scored all of its points in that contest in the final 23 seconds of the game.
* In the first true state championship tournament in 1999, then Baldwin head coach Joe Balangitao, who was instrumental in helping to make the eight-team tournament a reality, led Kahuku in the first half of the semifinals before eventually losing 27-12.
* In 2000, Maui High’s last league championship under head coach Curtis Lee, the Sabers hosted Waianae and loss 21-0.
* In 1995, Maui High finished 6-0 in league play and 8-0 overall, outscoring its opponents 208-40. The Sabers only allowed 93.2 yards per game, 44 first downs, 15 fewer than the next best defense Lahainaluna.
* In 1987, Maui High’s defense finished with a league best 88.1 yards per game, allowing a total of 529 yards in six games — 296 on the ground and 233 passing.