Diablos’ Victory Over Baldwin Enjoys Local Flavor
By Rodney S. Yap
When Valentine Haleakala Jr. decided to move from Maui to Orange County, Calif., 15 years ago, little did he know he would return to the Valley Isle to see his son play football against his alma mater — Baldwin High School — on the same War Memorial Stadium grass that stained his cleats back in the late ’80s.
The nationally-ranked Diablos capped a week of fun, sun and football Friday night with a 49-20 season-opening triumph against Baldwin, and sophomore defensive tackle Neff Kaleheo Haleakala highlighted his first-ever varsity game with a sack in the third quarter.
Mission Viejo, ranked 38th in the country by MaxPreps and No. 5 among Southland high schools by the Los Angeles Times last week, gave its fans plenty to cheer about, scoring 42 first-half points (42-13) and rolling up 513 yards in total offense against a Baldwin team that boasts 10 of the last 11 Maui Interscholastic League championships.
“It feels good to be here and it’s good to play my dad’s old team,” said the 5-foot, 11-inch, 270-pound Haleakala after a huge hug from his dad, Valentine, at the bottom of the bleachers.
“Its great to be here, back home. We moved when he was a 1-year-old,” said the older Haleakala, whose family now lives in Laguna Hills. “I was excited (when he got the sack). All I wanted was to hear his last name. I’m totally proud of him. He’s only a sophomore.”
Game announcer Spike Tavares gave “Haleakala” credit on the PA system, drawing cheers from family members and several of his teammates on the sidelines.
“It’s a big jump in skill level, but it’s fun,” said Haleakala about making the Diablos’ 82-player varsity roster. “It felt really good, it was my first varsity sack.”
There will be plenty of memories from Maui by the time the team returns to Southern California on Sunday.
“It was our first game and we had a lot of first-game mistakes,” said Diablos head coach Bob Johnson. “We’ve had a wonderful trip here and we really respect the Baldwin program and we wish them the best of luck. We have to get back and correct our mistakes, and I think we’re going to be a pretty good club.”
Mission Viejo committed 14 penalties for 137 yards despite returning eight starters on offense and three on defense.
The Diablos got touchdown runs by Tony Williams and Alex Suchesk in the first five minutes of the game, before Jake White returned a blocked punt 3 yards one minute later.
Quarterback Ian Fieber, who is already committed to San Jose State, played the first half and completed 10 of 15 passes for 156 yards with no interceptions. His only touchdown toss was a 6-yarder to Conner Hill that made it 28-7 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
“They are a nice combination and it gives us a lot of ways to beat teams,” said Johnson of his equally potent rushing and passing attack.
Mission Viejo plays host to Corona Santiago on Friday, Sept. 6
“They’re a good team. They have 5,000 students and a lot of numbers to pick from. We beat them last year pretty good and the year before, but we’ll see what happens next week.”
Baldwin managed 249 yards in total offense, 166 coming via the air on the strength of junior quarterback Josiah Maglente-Tonu who threw for two touchdowns and completed 17 of 36 pass attempts facing the Diablos’ heavy rush.
“They are a legit football team, a good, quality team and it was nice to play a team like that,” said Baldwin head coach Keneke Pacheco.
Maglente-Tonu showed plenty of poise under pressure, getting rid of the ball between two and three seconds, primarily to a handful of receivers and slotbacks running short in or out routes. The sure-handed Kawela Kaeo-Mata caught touchdown passes of 15 yards to end the first quarter and the first half. Teammate Chris Kazanecki was also a go-to target, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown pass from last week’s starter Jeremiah Badillo with less than a minute to play in the game.
“It’s something that we’ve been working on,” Pacheco said of the team’s quick-strike passing offense. “We still have a lot of improvement ahead of us, but I was proud of the way our boys played. It was a great game for us, a good challenge and a nice moutain to climb.”
Maglente-Tonu’s solid performance rivals the winning effort Badillo gave in leading the Bears to a 33-13 victory over Maui High two weeks ago.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Pacheco on deciding Baldwin’s starting signal-caller next week, when the Bears face Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7. “But that’s what we talked to them about. Put us in position to have to make tough decisions. We want to have to make the tough decision. Josiah had his chance to show us what he can do and we liked what we saw. Jeremiah came in and added some fresh legs to the offense, had some nice runs and made some good reads.
“I was really proud of the o-line and the way the boys played all night long. They just kept going out there and kept playing hard.”
Baldwin’s defense was led by the play of linebackers Teva Eldridge, Nohea Keahi, Kawena Alo-Kaonohi, Cajetan Martin and Patrick Turner.
Friday’s Game Summary
Mission Viejo 21 21 7 0—49
Baldwin 7 6 0 7—20
MV—Tony Williams 6 run (Zach Olson kick), 9:54.
MV—Alex Suchesk 39 run (Olson kick), 7:19.
MV—Jake White 3 blocked punt return (Olson kick), 6:18.
BH—Kawela Kaeo-Mata 15 pass from Josiah Maglente-Tonu (Benjamin Wuthrich kick), 0:31.
MV—Conner Hill 6 pass from Ian Fieber (Olson kick), 10:02.
MV—Rome Innocenzi 2 run (Olson kick), 6:26.
MV—Daniel Marx 8 run (Olson kick), 2:48.
BH—Kaeo-Mata 15 pass from Maglente-Tonu (kick blocked), 0:14.
MV—Hunter Bland 15 run (Olson kick), 2:46.
B—Chris Kazanecki 5 pass from Jeremiah Badillo (Wuthrich kick), 0:57.