State foot­ball

Sabers lose to Vik­ings


For sec­ond straight year, Hilo beats Maui High in D-I semi­fi­nal

Staff Writer

KEAAU, Hawaii — The Maui High School foot­ball team has never won a state tour­na­ment game, but the Sabers went down fight­ing in their lat­est ap­pear­ance.

De­fend­ing Divi­sion I state cham­pion Hilo beat the Sabers 35-24 in a state semi­fi­nal Fri­day night at the Keaau High School field.

The Maui In­ter­scholas­tic League D-I cham­pi­ons saw their sea­son end at 5-6 with their fourth loss in state and third in five sea­sons.

“Very much like our MIL cham­pi­onship, I’m proud of the boys,” Maui High coach James Kam­merer said. “They could have eas­ily packed it in, but de­fen­sively we got that fum­ble re­cov­ery for a touch­down and then some turnovers, so I’m very proud of our de­fen­sive ef­fort.

“Of­fense did their best as well, but I’m just dis­ap­pointed in my­self. Love these boys, love the pro­gres­sion that they had and hope that we can keep build­ing and get­ting bet­ter.”

Hilo pulled away from a four­point lead with two back-break­ing touch­down drives to end the first half and to be­gin the sec­ond half to push the lead to 28-10 with 8 min­utes, 12 sec­onds to go in the third quar­ter.

Both drives were kept alive when the Sabers were drawn off­sides on a hard count by Vik­ings quar­ter­back Kyan Miyasato.

The open­ing drive of the sec­ond half went 65 yards in 10 plays and was capped by a 1-yard scor­ing pass from Miyasato to Kyler Aguiar, who caught four passes on the drive for 47 yards.

The Sabers climbed back into the game on two huge plays by Mone Tongi. First, he re­turned a fum­ble 57 yards with 5:19 left in the third quar­ter. Then, af­ter a fum­bled punt, he ran in from 17 yards to make it 28-24 with 3:12 left in the quar­ter.

“Yeah, it had us hyped, the mo­men­tum changed, you could tell,” said Tongi, a ju­nior. “You could see we got that fire, we were rolling, but un­for­tu­nately things didn’t go our way.”

Af­ter the Vik­ings went 38 yards in four plays, Kalae Akui was stripped of the ball on a 13-yard re­cep­tion and Maui High’s Vil­iami Makoni re­cov­ered at the Sabers’ 18-yard line late in the third quar­ter.

The Sabers went three-and­out and the Vik­ings went 65 yards and took a 35-24 lead with 8:13 to play when Aguiar snuck in from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal.

That drive was kept alive when Maui High was called for rough­ing the kicker on a suc­cess­ful 33-yard field goal by Joshua Rosario.

“Def­i­nitely not the out­come we wanted or ex­pected, but we had a great sea­son, we all stuck to­gether at the end, and we tried our best to do what we could to get to where we wanted to go,” said Sabers se­nior Trent Takara.

The Vik­ings jumped on top early af­ter they were able to take ad­van­tage of a Sabers’ turnover.

Naia Nakamoto fum­bled on Maui High’s third play from scrim­mage and Hilo re­cov­ered at the Sabers’ 39-yard line. Hilo took a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard pass from Miyasato to Kalae Akui less than 3 min­utes into the game.

The Sabers helped the four­play drive with a 15-yard penalty when they hit a slid­ing Miyasato af­ter a 3-yard gain on first down. Miyasato then hit Leg­end Figueroa on an 18yard strike on the play be­fore the touch­down.

The Sabers took ad­van­tage of a take­away to climb within four points. Se­nior line­backer Cameron Rus­sell in­ter­cepted a shovel pass to set the Sabers up on the Hilo 15, but they could not gain a first down and set­tled for a 32-yard field goal by Brex Del­ray.

Mitchell Hirose nearly pulled in a spec­tac­u­lar touch­down pass on the play be­fore the field goal, but the ball glanced off his fin­ger­tips in the end zone.

The teams traded three-and­out pos­ses­sions be­fore the Sabers went on a 10-play, 60yard drive that ended on downs at the Hilo 15 af­ter Tae­len Bates nearly hauled in a touch­down pass on a trick play on sec­ond down.

The Vik­ings pushed their lead to 14-3 on an 11-play, 85-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard scor­ing dive by Guyson Ogata. Ka­leo Ramos ran the ball five times for 45 yards on the pos­ses­sion.

Nakamoto broke free just four plays later when he took a swing pass, broke a cou­ple tack­les and rum­bled 70 yards to score to bring the Sabers within 14-10 with 6:13 to go in the first half.

The Vik­ings an­swered on their next pos­ses­sion when Ogata caught a 45-yard pass from Miyasato on sec­on­dand-31 with 23 sec­onds left in the half.

The play came af­ter the Sabers pushed the Vik­ings back on a 13-yard hold­ing penalty. With just over 2 min­utes left in the first half, the Sabers’ de­fense was flagged for en­croach­ment on fourt­hand-5, giv­ing the Vik­ings a first down on the Sabers’ 23.

The Sabers gave the Vik­ings first downs three times on en­croach­ment penal­ties — all of the in­frac­tions led to touch­downs.

Maui High’s de­fense had six take­aways, four fum­ble re­cov­er­ies and two in­ter­cep­tions.

“Stress­ful game, I think we had six turnovers, we gave up one 70-yard touch­down, we gave up one scoop and score for about 60,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drum­mondo said. “Too much of a nail-biter. You can­not play big games and turn the ball over six times. It’s frus­trat­ing, but you’ve got to take the W’s any way you can get them.

“We didn’t ex­pect them to come over here and quit. We watched them on film and they’re a hell of a team.”

Robert Collias is at rcol­lias

Hawaii Tri­bune-Her­ald / TIM WRIGHT pho­tos

LEFT PHOTO: Maui High quar­ter­back Brex Deray looks to pass Fri­day. RIGHT PHOTO: The Sabers’ Mitchell Hirose goes up high for a pass.

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