Maui High Gets Defensive in Triumph at Lahainaluna, 14-2
By Rodney S. Yap
The often unappreciated exercise of executing the center snap in a football game saw its value soar to new heights Friday as errant snaps contributed to all the scoring in Maui High’s 14-2 triumph at Lahainaluna.
The Lunas dug a hole on the game’s first play from scrimmage, when the center’s snap to quarterback Enele Scanlan, who was calling signals out of the team’s shot-gun formation, sailed over his head before bouncing into the hands of Saber linebacker Hanisi Lotulelei and returned 15 yards for a touchdown.
“You don’t expect that to happen on the first play of the game,” said Lotulelei, a converted running back now playing outside linebacker in the Sabers’ 3-4 defense. “I seen the ball snap over the quarterback’s head and I ran as fast as I could to picked it up and score.”
Maui High demonstrated exceptional team speed on defense throughout the contest, wreaking havoc in the Lunas’ backfield with ends Jamie Fisher and Feleti Afemui. It was the senior captain, Afemui, who had the play of the game, picking up the Lunas’ fifth fumble of the first half and sprinting 89 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes, 19 seconds remaining before halftime.
A low snap from center, followed by a missed handoff near the line of scrimmage, allowed Afemui to scoop up the football and not miss a beat en route to the end zone untouched.
The game was the Maui Interscholastic League regular-season opener for both teams. The Sabers’ improved to 1-2 overall, despite watching their offense get shutout for the third consecutive week.
The perennially Division II champion Lunas fell to 1-2, losing their MIL opener for the second straight year.
“We didn’t do a good job of preparing the kids,” said Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada.
The team’s lack of offensive production is due to a breakdown in fundamentals, the coach added: “We started off a lot better with our fundamentals, and I’m not sure if we’ve been less picky about it or what, but I know we have got to get back to the drawing board — and it comes down to all of our first steps. And Maui High was a lot quicker than we expected.”
The night belonged to the defensive units, as Sabers held Lahainaluna’s offense to 59 yards. The Lunas’ defense was equally stingy, holding the Sabers to 72 total yards on offense.
The last time Maui High played at Sue Cooley Stadium, Lahainaluna upset the Division I school 17-7.
“It was a much happier ride back into town with the win compared to when we played them last year,” said Lotulelei, who received congratulatory phone calls from his older brothers, Tau, a starting linebacker at UNLV and, John, a reserve linebacker with the Oakland Raiders.
Lahainaluna’s only points came from its defense on a safety, 12 seconds before intermission. This time it was Maui High who failed to successfully snap the ball from center.
Saber quarterback John Michael Mokiao-Duvauchelle was about 3 yards deep in the end zone, standing in shot-gun formation, when the ball was snapped and hit him in the hip. Running back Isaiah Grijalva alertly dove on the loose ball before Lahainaluna’s Mosese Felemi came flying over from the defensive side of the ball.
Tihada feels the problems are fixable and the team welcomes the upcoming bye week.
“No matter what happens, we preached to them the whole week that everyone is going to mess up — coaches and players. And the only way we are going to be successful is if we stick together.”
SABERS 14, LUNAS 2
At Sue Cooley Stadium
Friday’s Scoring Summary
Maui High 7 7 0 0—14
Lahainaluna 0 2 0 0—2
MH—Hanisi Lotulelei 15 fumble return (Kalia Kapisi kick), 11:49.
MH—Feleti Afemui 89 fumble return (Kapisi kick), 2:19.
LH—Safety, Isaiah Grijalva tackled in end zone, 0:12.
Note: All individual and team statistics were complied by Robert Collias of The Maui News.