LAHAINA - With a guarded sense of optimism heading into the 2012 Maui Interscholastic season, the Lahainaluna High School varsity football team looks to be poised and ready to defend its streak of five consecutive Division II championships and a drive to the state title game.
The Lunas finished the 2011 campaign with a 5-3 regular season mark (7-4 overall) to win that fifth straight MIL title and advanced to D-II semi-finals with a victory over Konawaena before falling short to Waipahu in a 19-14 thriller.
This year, the MIL has revamped its format and returned to the two round system with champions declared for both halves and a title game, if necessary, to be played at the end of the season. Also, with a smaller enrollment this school year, King Kekaulike has moved over to the D-II bracket with Lahainaluna and Kamehameha Schools Maui, while Maui High and Baldwin will battle it out for the D-I championships. Furthermore, Molokai, St. Anthony, Seabury and Hana high schools will kick off the first official MIL Eight Man football competition this year.
Lunas, in full dress, show their might in a team photo taken by Walter Chihara.
The tradition of rock solid football here on the Westside continues to be guided by a veteran staff headed up by co-head coaches Bobby Watson and Garret Tihada, who double up as the defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively.
The list of long time assistant coaches includes Mike Arakawa (linebackers), Dean Rickard (offensive line), Kekoa Mowat (OL), Kenui Watson (defensive backs), Joey Tihada (running backs), Randy Arakawa (receivers, special teams), Sonnie Waiohu (defensive line, special teams) and Dal Magno (LB, special teams).
According to Coach Garret Tihada, the Lunas have made an impressive commitment to their strength and conditioning effort over the off season and currently as the school year gets under way.
"There has been a core group, including our team captains Tytus Lucas and Mark Alamon, along with Kiko Fonohema, Chris Whitehead, Semisi Filikitonga, Connor Mowat, and several other players, including some underclassmen, that have been in the weight room consistently during the off season. And now, the entire team has committed to coming up to school at 6 a.m., three times a week, to lift.
"They've also ramped up their academic attention by having tutorial sessions at 3 p.m. every day, along with alma mater song practice after that," Coach Garret continued. "All this has served to build the team's confidence, and it showed in the pre-game attitude and in the way our linemen, on both sides of the ball, fired off of the line of scrimmage in our game against Keaau. That was a pleasant surprise."
Coach Garret further explained that the Lunas on offense will stick to their tried and true ground game lining up in the Oregon spread and flexbone formations. "We've got some strength in our running game so we'll run the ball more than the rest of the teams in this league, but we will pass when the opportunity arises."
On defense, Lahainaluna will line up in 4-3 and 3-4 formations, depending on what the opposing team is doing. The Lunas are particularly strong at the linebacker and defensive back positions and will more than likely rank at the top of the league at season's end as they have traditionally over the years.
The two round regular season began last week and will continue through November followed by the MIL and state playoffs.
Lahainaluna will not have any home games at the on campus facility this year as plans move forward for completion of the stadium here in Lahaina. All games will be played at War Memorial Stadium or at the upcountry school fields.
"Our thanks goes out to the Lahaina community for their continued support, to the Friends of Lahainaluna Football organization and to Fleetwood's Restaurant for their support of Luna football. We're really looking forward to a good season. The boys have really made an impressive commitment in the off season and now. They've really worked hard," concluded Coach Garret.