LAHAINA - In describing the contributions of the graduating seniors on the varsity football roster, Lahainaluna High School co-head coach Garret Tihada was direct as he said, "They are a special class - not only talent-wise, but for the dedication and tradition they have set down to the offseason work in the weight room. They paved the way for the future of the program to be successful."
That success in 2013 is obvious, as the Lunas have rung up their first undefeated (10-0) season in recent memory, won the overall and Division II Maui Interscholastic League championships, and, most importantly, the team - ranked number one in D-II by media outlets throughout Hawaii all season long - has earned the top seed to the state playoffs that begin Nov. 8.
What it boils down to is that Lahainaluna will have a first round bye in the six-team Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HSAA) playoff format, and then face the winner of the four versus five matchup from the quarterfinals.
Seniors on the Lahainaluna High School football team include, from left: front — Bronson Kaina, Ekolu Chang, Lauren Corpuz, Kaimana Ancog, Nate Hapakuka Nunuha and Chris Whitehead; back row — Aaron Naea, Leeland Alavazo, Loa Puteni, Pousima Galoia, Kiko “Shoyu-Superman” Fonohema, Shawn Rodrigues and Dylan Rabanal.
With the Lunas at the top of the seedings followed by Kaiser, Iolani Kauai, Konawaena and Pearl City, it would look to be either Kaiser or Konawaena for Lahainaluna in the semifinals at War Memorial Stadium here on Maui on Nov. 16.
And perhaps the key ingredient to that success has been the leadership of the Luna seniors for the program in their string of seven consecutive MIL D-II titles, along with deep runs into the state playoffs, highlighted by appearances in the championship final in 2007, and last year when they came within 80 seconds of the coveted goal.
So, the returning players from last year's team took a month off, and then they got back to work guided by weight room coach Lawrence Kauhaahaa. The seniors, in particular, dedicated themselves to the pathway of the 1997 Lahainaluna championship team that bought wholeheartedly into the Olympic weightlifting regimen to be bigger, stronger and quicker - particularly in the back, hips and legs.
"They really bought into that system, and they set the example to the younger players of that '97 team," said Coach Garret.
"They were up here in the weight room three, four times a week at six o'clock in the morning, all year long."
Led by four-year letterman Bronson Kaina and three-year players Kiko "Shoyu-Superman" Fonohema, Christian Whitehead, Hercules Mataafa and Pousima Galoia, as well as two-year returnees Jared Purdy, Conner Rosen St. John and Kaimana Ancog, the Luna team has solidified itself as one of the top programs in the state with a sterling reputation of being highly disciplined and in top physical condition.
Other contributing seniors include Lauren Corpuz, Dylan Rababal, Manu Hapakuka-Lono, Robert Chang, Leeland Alavazo, Nathaniel Hapakuka Nunuha, Shawn Rodrigues, Solomone Loketi, Aaron Naea, Vaituuploa Puteni and Jordan Thomas Valmoja Kaleikini.
And so, this group of student athletes will be putting on their Red Tide uniforms for the last times in the next two weeks.
Although many of them will go on to play on the collegiate level, it is clear that the Lahainaluna experience will remain deeply imbedded in their hearts forever.
Their contributions to the spirit of the Lahainaluna community now and in years to come will be remembered and appreciated always.
"We are so thankful to all of these boys for all they've done to pave the way for the younger players in the future. We owe them a lot for helping us become a successful team, and we wish them all the best in their futures," said Coach Tihada.