HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first round of the 2019 First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships takes place this weekend, when OIA Division I runner up’s Leilehua (9-2) head to the Valley Isle for a showdown against the Baldwin bears (5-4).
The Mules come into Friday night’s contest hungrier then ever following a gut wrenching loss to Moanalua in the OIA Division I title game a few weeks back.
Mules head coach Mark Kurisu believes the adversity his team has faced throughout the season will prove to be a motivating factor heading into tomorrow night.
The Mules defense has been stellar all season. The unit has tallied three shutouts during the regular season and on average gives up just 12.3 points per game.
Senior linebacker Vitale Afoa has emerged as one of the most physical players in the state.
With Leilehua travelling by plane to Maui for the game, Kurisu believes it could be beneficial for his team.
“I think it might be helpful,” said Kurisu. “We got a young team, sometimes when we play in front of big crowds we tend to kind of look for family, friends and it kind of gets you off-centered, when you go away your focused to look at each other more.”
The Baldwin Bears (5-4) come into the tournament with one of the more balanced attacks in the Division I.
Bears quarterback La’a Asuega-Stark has 11 touchdowns on the season and has the offense averaging 200 yards per outing.
Although Stark has also thrown 11 int’s the Baldwin defense has shown the ability to tighten up in tough situations.
Baldwin head coach Pohai Lee know’s the Mules present a unique challenge in that the two don’t play in the same conference and don’t play the same teams.
With the Mules heading to the Valley Isle, Lee looks at the game as an opportunity to not only represent the Maui community but the entire island of Maui.
“We’re very happy for our boys,” said Lee. “It’s a huge thing we talk about, representing the island of Maui when we get to this point in time, it’s a bonding thing among the boys on Maui.”
Kickoff between the Bears and the Mules is set for Friday Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.