Defense Dominates Lunas’ Win Over Maui High
By Rodney S. Yap
Saturday’s football game between Lahainaluna and Maui High will best be remembered as the gift that keeps giving.
That’s because both teams will be better in the weeks to come — and perhaps the critical postseason — after an exhausting review of the Lunas’ 14-0 victory over the Sabers at War Memorial Stadium.
The football game pitting the Maui Interscholastic League’s Division I first-round champion Sabers and the Division II first-round champion Lunas, was hardly an “instant classic.” Instead, the video playback of Saturday’s game could end up being a boon to both teams in the weeks to come. There were plenty of plays worth revisiting, and a second look may reveal answers to the fumbled snaps, procedure penalties, illegal motion, red-zone deficiencies, and three-and-out offensive packages.
Players and coaches can correct their misfortunes in hopes of turning a negative result into a positive one in the weeks to come. Both teams had already clinched first-round bragging rights in their respective divisions, so Saturday’s outcome was inconsequential in regards to the league standings.
Winning allowed top-ranked Lahainaluna to complete a perfect 4-0 first round, while quietly extending its MIL win streak to 13. The Lunas are 5-0 overall.
Coming off a bye week, the 10th-ranked Sabers dropped to 2-1 in the MIL and 3-1 overall. Maui High concludes its first-round schedule Saturday, Sept. 20, at King Kekaulike.
A crowd of about 4,700 watched the MIL’s two best football teams combine for five first downs in the first half. Not bad considering both school’s are defensive driven.
Lahainaluna relied on its big-game experience and disciplined ways throughout the scoreless first half.
Maui High traded punts with the Lunas early but was unable to establish good field position due to costly penalties. In fact, a 15-yard illegal participation penalty on a fourth-down punt allowed the Lunas to regain possession and eventually extend their only scoring drive.
Offensively, the Lunas were handicapped as their go-to running back Jared Rocha-Islas saw limited action because of cramps. Sophomores Donavon Defang and David Kawabata more than held their own, but the two combine cannot account for the contributions a healthy Rocha-Islas — four-year starter — provides.
To his credit, Kawabata scored the game’s lone offensive touchdown on a 3-yard plunge up the middle with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.
Although the Lunas have made the forward pass a priority this season, quarterback Makoa Filikitonga struggled to find open receivers off play-action pass plays.
Maui High’s offense was challenged to execute the center snap to quarterback Austin Hoe, who is the only quarterback in the league who operates the team’s base offense behind center. Hoe still fumbled the exchange six times.
Two weeks ago, after beating Baldwin, Bui said the center snap to Hoe was a game-only issue.
“I’m not sure what the problem is, but we have to fix that. It’s not an issue in practice.”
If defense wins championships, both schools can be proud of their efforts Saturday:
* The Lunas’ defense matched its offense on the scoreboard, when senior linebacker Ryan Delatori picked off a shuffle pass by quarterback Austin Hoe and returned it 50 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
* The Sabers’ defense held the Lunas to 120 yards in total offense, two first downs in the first half and seven first downs total. Coming into the game Lahainaluna’s offense averaged 412 yards per game and 25 first downs.
The Vainikolo’s — Alexander and Atunasia — are two of the most active linemen in the MIL and the heart of the Sabers’ defensive front. Again, the two were all over the field, with Jonathan Pono Lolohea, Arven Lacaden and Tristan Nichols assisting the interior attack.
* The Lunas’ defense was stout as usual, yielding 47 total yards and only 12 in the second half. Junior Nau Filiai had an extraordinary night, leading the team in tackles and tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, seniors Connor Mowat, Peni Taufa and Brandon Kaina were actively wreaking havoc in the Saber backfield.
Saturday’s MIL Scoring Summary
At War Memorial Stadium
LUNAS 14, SABERS 0
LH—David Kawabata 3 run (Josten Saribay kick), :51
LH—Ryan Delatori 50 interception return (Saribay kick), 5:49
* All individual statistics complied by Rob Collias of The Maui News.
* The ScoringLive.com rankings are attributed to Lahainaluna and Maui High in this story.