WAILUKU - Call this a defensive battle.
The Lahainaluna High School football team found a way to win without its top three quarterbacks - all out with injuries - and an offense that struggled all night. The Lunas beat stubborn Maui High 29-10 on Friday night in front of about 2,000 fans at War Memorial Stadium by forcing eight fumbles, recovering four of them, intercepting two passes and holding the Sabers to one complete pass for 5 yards and no first downs in the second half.
The final fumble by Maui High was returned 29 yards by Mark Alamon for a touchdown and put a capper on the night.
Lahainaluna High School’s Tytus Lucas is pursued by Maui High’s Christian Fontanilla during the first quarter of the Lunas’ 29-10 victory over the Sabers on Friday at War Memorial Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Maui High quarterback Siueli Vaha looks deep as Lahainaluna’s Justin Taylor rushes in on Friday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"Maui High played well, our defense played well," said Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada, whose team improved to 2-1. "Both teams had a lot of injuries but they came out to play."
The team teams combined for one completed pass, in 20 attempts.
"The Lunas are a tough team," said Sabers coach David Bui. "It was a good defensive battle, the Lunas kept us in check offensively. We didn't execute the plays very well and me being the offensive coordinator, that is on me. We have got to go back to the drawing board on Monday."
Clinging to a 7-3 lead, the Lahainaluna defense stopped Maui High on downs at the Lunas' 9-yard line with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Sabers (1-2) then took the lead with their defense, however, when Fred Sims grabbed a pass tipped by Kevin Thorman and ran 15 yards into the end zone with 53 seconds to go in the quarter.
On the next drive, the Sabers faced fourth-and-19 from their own 9 and elected to have quarterback Siueli Vaha run out the end zone for a safety with 8:47 to play.
After the free kick, Maui High forced a three-and-out - and then things got really crazy.
The Sabers ran a double reverse from their own 18, but fumbled the second exchange, and the Lunas' Ernest Fatongia recovered on the 6.
Jared Rocha scored on the following play - his second touchdown run on his second carry to make the score 15-10 with 6:58 remaining.
Maui High's Jarrin Cabo returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the 7, but Vaha was sacked for a loss of 12 yards on first down and Semisi Filikitonga intercepted a pass on fourth-and-15 and returned it 70 yards to the Sabers' 20.
Tytus Lucas - playing quarterback for starter Kiko Kohler-Fonohema, who was out with a concussion - scored four plays later from the 6 with 3:35 left.
Filikitonga, who also ran for a game-high 113 yards, came up with another another interception with 2:26 to go.
The Lunas drove 46 yards to the Maui High 1-yard line midway through the first quarter, but Lucas fumbled and the Sabers' Kimo Tashiro-Rivera recovered. Lahainaluna got the ball back on the 1 two plays later when Vaha fumbled, but the Maui High defensive line stuffed four straight runs.
The Sabers appeared to have a big breakthrough on a 57-yard pass from Vaha to Keone Kapisi early in the second quarter, but the play was called back on a motion penalty. On the same drive, Maui High reached the Lahainaluna 19 after a 30-yard run by Justin McCrary and a 24-yard run by Cabo, but the Lunas forced another fumble and took over with 8:43 left in the half.
After a punt was shanked for 7 yards out of bounds, the Sabers started their next drive from the Lunas' 33 and finally broke the scoreboard ice with a 28-yard field goal by Kapisi with 4:49 left in the first half.
Lahainaluna then put together an 80-yard, 11-play drive that ended with Rocha's 7-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-2 with 20 seconds left in the half. The drive started with a 33-yard run by Filikitonga.
The Lunas did not attempt a pass until the second play from scrimmage in the second half, and Lucas finished 0-for-5 with an interception. Maui High was 0-for-6 in the air in the first half and 1-for-15 in the game.
In the second half, Maui High had minus-16 yards of offense and the Lunas 129.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
Lahainaluna ..... 0 ..... 7 ..... 0 ..... 22-29
Maui High ......... 0 ..... 3 ..... 7 ....... 0-10
MH-FG Keone Kapisi 28, 4:49.
LL-Jared Rocha 7 run (Rocha kick), 0:20.
MH-Fred Sims 15 interception return (Kapisi kick), 0:53.
LL-Safety, Siueli Vaha runs out of end zone, 8:47.
LL-Rocha 6 run (run failed), 6:58.
LL-Tytus Lucas 6 run (Rocha kick), 3:35.
LL-Mark Alamon 29 fumble return (Rocha kick), 1:31.
Junior varsity-Lahainaluna 27, Maui High 0.
Lahainaluna 29, Maui High 10
Baldwin at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 23
Baldwin vs. Maui High at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 24
Lahainaluna vs. Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.