Kale Spencer is just a guy who likes to make plays.
As a 6-foot-4, 220-pound basketball and volleyball player, he is long, strong and agile. The wingspan is a plus.
On the gridiron, though, Spencer was a playmaker plus on Wednesday night under the bright lights. The two-way lineman returned a dropped pass 52 yards to paydirt as Kamehameha-Maui stunned previously unbeaten Kaiser, 48-24, in the Division II semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships. A crowd of about 624 (sold tickets), mostly loyal Kaiser fans, endured a windy, wet and cold night at Skippa Diaz Stadium.
“I caught the ball and then I just ran,” said Spencer, who started at defensive end and linebacker, and also played left tackle and some right guard.
Spencer wasn’t just a pick-six specialist. He racked up eight tackles, including four for loss, along with two quarterback hits. He even forced a fumble for good measure.
“Our plan was this is a business trip. We’re coming in, sticking to the game plan, do the best that we can at everything we practiced. And execute,” Spencer said.
After arriving on Wednesday morning, they went right to the resting spot of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
“It’s where the burial site of Pauahi and all the alii are. We went there and paid our respects. I think that mana helped us tonight. We spent an hour there. Very moving. We sang a little bit. We did our ha‘a.”
Kaiser never led. The high-scoring Cougars had averaged 38 points per game in dominating OIA D-II this fall. Coach Tim Seaman was wary of KS-Maui, which was 4-2 in MIL play.
Coach Ulima Afoa’s Warriors had already beaten D-I Baldwin and had gave eventual champion Lahainaluna a tough battle.
“We love playing Lahainaluna,” Spencer said. “Coach is a great coach. He instills in discipline in us, keeping our on heads straight, being able to keep playing and executing.”
The Warriors have known the frustration of finishing second to the Lunas in MIL D-II for decades. Lahainaluna’s promotion to D-I opened a door of opportunity. Now, the Warriors can shine. If they can get past top-seeded Kapaa next Thursday, they will claim their first football state title.
“I think we represent everyone that’s come before us, and everyone that is supporting us. I think we did a great job tonight of giving back to them,” Spencer said.
@ksmauiwarrior two-way starter Kale Spencer was a rocket with a 52-yard interception return in a 48-24 win over Kaiser on Wednesday. KS-Maui will face top seed Kapaa in the D-II state final next week. Kale has some shout outsz @HawaiiPrepWorld @HHSAAsports pic.twitter.com/flc5JGQQrh
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) December 23, 2021
Maui’s brand of football has always been strong.
Go back to the Curtis Lee years at Maui High, with Robert Kemfort demoralizing defenses on the toss sweep, to Baldwin’s dynasty that began under then-coach Chad Kauhaahaa, and there has always been the potential for statewide greatness on the Valley Isle. Lahainaluna, under Bobby Watson and Dean Rickard, are living proof.
There was no state tournament under the Lee regime, when his hulking linemen would run roughshod through the best defenses of Kauai and the Big Island in the postseason Neighbor Island Football Classic.
Lee lamented the opening of new high schools in Upcountry Maui.
“That’s where all our big boys come from,” he said during the Sabers’ heyday.
Those big boys now attend King Kekaulike. They also attend Kamehameha-Maui. Once football ends, Spencer will hit the basketball court. For now, he and the Warriors will relish their win. Maybe bed check, 11:30 p.m., will be pushed back so they can watch the game replay on TV.
“I think we all just worked together and trusted in each other, and executed,” Spencer said.