MIL Football
Lahainaluna makes season debut with big win over Baldwin


Sat, Sep 30, 2023 @ War Memorial [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
Lahainaluna (5-1-0) 7 21 7 742
Baldwin (0-8-0) 0 0 0 00

The pride of the west side of Maui is back. 

Lahainaluna made its long-awaited and highly-anticipated return to the football field Saturday night in triumphant fashion. 

Lyric Kahala threw three touchdown passes in the first half and Avery Baybayan factored into two scores to lead the Lunas to a 42-0 win over Baldwin in their 2023 debut — nearly two months since wildfires ravaged the historic town of Lahaina. 

A spirited crowd of more than 5,000 fans at Wailuku's War Memorial Stadium was witnessed to the return of the Red Sea. 

"Just grateful for these kids to be able to get back on the field and actually in a game situation," Lahainaluna co-coach Dean Rickard said. "It was awesome and awesome to see the support for these kids here, too."

The Lunas opened the scoring at the 6:27 mark of the first quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Kahala to Kuola Watson.

Lahainaluna used a 21-point second quarter to take a 28-0 lead by halftime. On the very first play of the quarter, Kahula found Baybayan for an 18-yard TD pass. He then connected with Kaulana Tihada for an 8-yard TD pass with 4:21 left in the stanza, before T.J. Borges ran in a touchdown from four yards out just before the break. 

Baybayan opened the second half with his 69-yard kickoff return for touchdown. Joseph Arcangel tacked on the extra point to make it a 35-0 cushion for the Lunas. 

Brian Bautista | SL    Purchase image

Hoken Hironaka closed out the scoring with a 4-yard TD run with 7:30 to play. 

Lahainaluna ran for 119 of its 238 yards of total offense. 

Kahula finished 11-of-17 passing for 95 yards and was not intercepted. 

Baldwin was limited to just 29 total yards, including 19 rush for three yards. 

"We're happy with the passing. We're happy with the defense and what they did running to the ball," Rickard said. "Great first game."

The Bears managed only four first downs, while the Lunas notched 16. 

The turnover battle was even, as Lahainaluna came up with an interception on defense, but lost a fumble on offense. 

"We still got a lot of things we want to improve on and work on. We got the W and we scored 42 points, but four weeks out and everybody else (is) four weeks in. I'm pretty comfortable and satisfied with the conditioning level that we're at. We're pleasantly surprised that we weren't as gassed as we thought we might be," Rickard said. 

When tickets for the game were made available for purchase online earlier in the week, they sold out in just 26 minutes. Rickard said the support his team felt Saturday night was tremendous. 

"This is not even our home stadium, but you can see with the turnout what this team means to the community and what it represents," he said. 

It was Lahainaluna's first game since Nov. 11 of last year and its 40th consecutive win in league play. The program is synonymous with the entire west side of the island of Maui, which suffered an immense loss of both life and property as a result of the Aug. 8 wild fires. 

The Lunas' return to the field Saturday night was significant in many ways. 

"Just that mental toughness to overcome adversity and the resilience — that's the foundation of the Lahaina people and that's what our community is all about. It's kind of a reunion of sorts for many, but I'm just glad we came away with the win," Rickard said. 

Lahainaluna (1-0), the No. 10 team in the ScoringLive Power Rankings, will play Maui High Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium. 

Baldwin (0-5) visits Kekaulike Friday night. 

Statistics courtesy of Maui News staff writer Rob Collias

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