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Baldwin High School’s (from left) Sione Tulimahe, Keelan Ewaliko, Kina Malafu and Thad Shishido celebrate after a first-quarter touchdown during the Bears’ win over Lahainaluna last week. The Bears host Farrington in a state tournament quarterfinal Friday.
Baldwin looks to contain state’s leading rusher
Posted Nov. 10, 2011
By ROBERT COLLIAS / Staff Writer
The Maui News
WAILUKU - At first glance, it might appear that the schedule makers were not kind to the Baldwin High School football team in its quarterfinal matchup against Farrington for the First Hawaiian Bank Division I state tournament that takes place Friday at War Memorial Stadium.
The Bears know it will not be easy, but they don't mind taking on the Governors, ranked No. 2 in the state by scoringlive.com, in the 6 p.m. game that will be televised by OC-16.
The third-seeded Bears draw the Govs, the runners-up in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, because of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association rule that says league champions and second-place teams must be on different sides of the bracket.
Kahuku beat Farrington 23-0 in the OIA championship game last week.
As the third seed in the six-team bracket, Baldwin should draw the sixth seed, which is OIA third-place finisher Leilehua. The Mules, however, have eliminated the Bears in the last four state tournaments behind their vaunted passing attack by a cumulative count of 158-87, including a 35-26 win last season in the quarters at War Memorial.
Not that the Govs will be an easy opponent for the seventh-ranked Bears.
"We know that they are big, they are strong, they are a heavy running team, just like the Farrington teams of the past," Baldwin coach A.J. Roloos said.
Farrington (10-1) is led by the state's leading rusher, 5-foot-10, 199-pound junior Tyler Taumua. His 1,570 yards rushing tops the state by 495 yards and he is also the leading scorer in the state with 17 touchdowns.
Baldwin (8-1) counters with the top two rushers in the Maui Interscholastic League - junior quarterback Keelan Ewaliko and running back Kina Malafu. Ewaliko edged Malafu for the MIL rushing title, 810 yards to 800, but the running back missed a game and a half with a knee injury. Overall in nine games - including the Bears'
48-10 loss to Orange County, Calif., power Edison - Malafu had 828 yards rushing to Ewaliko's 811. Both had 12 touchdowns rushing, with Malafu ranking sixth in state rushing yards and Ewaliko ninth.
Ewaliko is the first player in recent memory to lead the MIL in rushing and passing, where he had 921 yards in league play and 1,059 overall. He had 14 touchdowns and six interceptions overall through the air and is the 10th-ranked passer in the state.
Baldwin must find a way to slow down the Govs' running game - 253.4 of their 358.1 yards per game come on the ground. The Bears gave up just 379 yards on the ground in eight MIL games and a total average of 128 yards per game defensively.
Against Taumua and company, Roloos said, "We are going to have to play our 'A' game. We have to play a perfect game. We have to take care of the ball, tackle and stop them on offense and don't make too many turnovers."
The Bears' front eight in their 4-4 defensive set leads the way for a team that surrendered just 41 points and had four shutouts in eight MIL games. Seniors Miki Fangatua, Vili Tolutau, Pasoni Tasini and Izeah-Edward Fernandez Ruiz start things on the defensive line and the linebackers led by B.J. Wilhelm-Ioane are the stalwarts that Roloos will be counting on Friday night.
Tolutau, one of the top rugby players in the state, leads the Bears with 11 quarterback sacks on the season.
"Following our keys will carry us to the ball, so our defense is good and I think we can stop their O-line," Tolutau said. "(Taumua) looks good on film, but the key will be getting to him and wrapping him up."
Tolutau plans to play rugby in college, but he enjoys playing defense with the likes of Tasini and Wilhelm-Ioane, both NCAA Division I prospects. Tasini already has scholarship offers from Utah, UNLV and Hawaii.
"Oh, it is fun playing with those guys - I know they are going to be playing in college," Tolutau said. "The offensive lines key on those two, which frees me up."
Offensively, the Bears know they must keep up with the Govs.
Malafu, a 5-11, 185-pound senior, knows he and Ewaliko, a 5-11, 175-pound junior, will be sharing the load on the ground as they have all season behind the Bears' offensive line.
"I think our key is our offensive line picking up the work against their defense because in the MIL we did good, but we can't compare anything in the MIL to the OIA," Malafu said. "Those are some big boys, so we are going to face something we never faced before. Our O-line is up to the challenge, they are really picking it up."
Ewaliko said it will also be important to keep the running game clicking. The Bears rushed for 2,070 of their 3,117 total yards offensively in the MIL, piling up 37.3 points per game.
"Our key to put points on the board against Farrington is to work hard, pick up the blocks and just have mistake-free football," Ewaliko said. "Having Kina in the backfield makes things easier for me. Having the two leading rushers shows we are both capable of running and making great reads. Kina has great vision and he can really see the holes."
Ewaliko knows there will be times in the game when he must also put the ball in the air.
"I feel we can get the passing game going because our O-line can do well against them," Ewaliko said. "We just need to make the blocks and if I have time our receivers will get open."
Roloos said it will be basic football that wins the game.
"They are going to try to keep the ball away from us," he said. "When we do have the ball we have to come up with some kind of score each possession. We know they are not going to be easy to stop."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com