Sabers break through Warriors’ defense

Junior+Colton+Cabanas+evades+a+Saber+tackle.+The+Warriors+played+the+Sabers+on+August+24%2C+2012+at+the+War+Memorial+Stadium.+The+Warriors+lost+a+close+game%2C+10+to+7.

Photo by Reid Cairme

Junior Colton Cabanas evades a Saber tackle. The Warriors played the Sabers on August 24, 2012 at the War Memorial Stadium. The Warriors lost a close game, 10 to 7.

By Reid Cairme, Sports editor

KAHULUI-The Maui High Sabers barreled through the Kamehameha Maui defense in the last three minutes of the game last night, knocking down the Warriors’ 7-3 lead, and winning the game 10-7, at War Memorial Stadium.

“Both teams played a great game,” Maui High School Head Coach David Bui said. “Unfortunately, one team had to win and one had to lose”

In their first possession on their own 23-yard line, the Sabers were trapped, advancing only 9 yards against the imposing KS defensive line.

But six minutes into the first quarter, a bad snap to KSM kicker Acer Pahukoa gave the Sabers the ball on the KSM 35-yard line.

From there, the Sabers slowly moved up to the 8-yard line on short carries. When KSM defensive back Chayce Tancayo stopped their ball carrier there on a third down, the Sabers’ Jared Kapisi kicked a field goal, bringing the score to 3-0, Sabers.

With four seconds left in the first quarter, the Warriors missed the opportunity to tie it up when sophomore Colton Cabanas’ 31-yard field goal kick fell short of the distance. Had it cleared the uprights, the game would have ultimately ended in a tie.

“Its disappointing we didn’t play well enough offensively,” KSM Head Coach Kevin O’Brien said.

Four minutes into the second quarter, the Warriors found themselves in virtually the same situation. The Sabers recovered a fumbled pass by KSM quarterback Kala’i Yap and took possession on the KSM 34-yard line.

The Warriors held them there for three downs, including through a false start penalty against the Warriors, and after making forward progress of only two yards, the Sabers attempted to make a 31-yard field goal that was just short, bouncing inward off the goal post crossbar.

Despite the offensive errors that put the Sabers within striking distance twice in the first half, the Maui Warriors defense was formidable, and the Sabers struggled to find a way to get past them throughout the first quarter. The Warriors formed a tight wall in the center of the field, forcing the Sabers to pass and go to the outside more than they should have and keeping their forward progress to a minimum.

The teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with the score still 3-0, Sabers.

The Warriors came back energized after halftime. Yap was making successful calls using himself, sophomore Chase Newton, and senior running back Stephen Barut to move the ball 68 yards to the one-yard line. Cabanas ran the ball right up the middle and scored for the Warriors. The extra point kick was good and the Warriors gained the lead 7-3, at the beginning of the third quarter.

During the rest of the third quarter and most of the fourth, the two teams seesawed back and forth without scoring, racking up many penalties on both sides and turning over possession multiple times.

The Warriors missed another opportunity to capitalize on good field position when sophomore linebacker Bryant Kubo intercepted a Maui High pass in Warrior territory, and, with 20 yards to go, a field goal attempt by Cabanas went wide.

Despite another dramatic interception by Kubo near the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Warrior defense started to collapse as the Sabers punched through them on quick play after quick play with only three minutes left in the game.

“We got to play better or it will be a long night,” Coach O’Brien said. “We need to play well the entire 48 minutes of the game.”

It only took the Sabers 6 plays to move the ball to the Warriors’ 1-yard line, where the Sabers’ Moana Vainikolo finished the job and scored. The PAT was good, and the Sabers were now ahead by a field goal, 10-7, with 44 seconds left on the clock.

“Our defenses were worn out,” KSM defensive lineman Rusty Hue Sing said.

But a Warrior victory was still within reach thanks to senior Aydan Lopes who caught the Sabers’ squib kick on the Warrior 45-yard line. With 22 seconds left on the game clock, Yap had time to fire off three pass plays to Newton and Pono Freitas, all incomplete.

With the sound of the final buzzer, the Sabers won the first MIL game of the season 10-7. The Warriors left the field with heavy hearts.

“We straight up lost because of too many mental mistakes,” Hue Sing said. “This game will test the character of our team for the rest of the season.”

In some ways, last night’s game was reminiscent of last season’s opener. In both games the teams were evenly matched. The 2011 game actually went into double overtime. The Sabers won that game by one point, the difference between a successful Sabers point after kick and a failed Warrior conversion attempt.

The Warriors’ next game is at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, August 31, at War Memorial Stadium. They will be playing against Lahainaluna High School.

The junior varsity game will begin at 4:30. Previous to the varsity game yesterday, the JV team also lost to Maui High, 20-0.