Lahainaluna football team wins state championship
LAHAINA – The iron clad tradition of discipline, self-sacrifice and true grit work ethic of the Lahainaluna High School football program reached the summit last Friday evening with a thrilling 21-14 victory over the Kapaa Warriors of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation in the Division II title game of the 2016 First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships at Aloha Stadium on Oahu.
A model of virtue in the world of high school athletics, Luna football has transcended common wisdom to become the standard of success that led to ten consecutive Maui Interscholastic League Division II championships. This formula suppresses individuality and promotes team ethics, respect and hard work at a premium.
The success of the program brought home the MIL titles and annual tickets to the state playoffs, where they reached the semifinals nine times and competed in the championship finale at Aloha Stadium four times. The fourth climb proved to be the winner for the Red Tide of the West Side.
The green wave from the Garden Isle has been a familiar and formidable opponent for the Lunas. The Warriors shut out Lahainaluna in the preseason this year and knocked them out of the playoffs last season in the semifinals. But the Lunas came back with a vengeance in 2016, as their reliable defense once again topped the MIL and the offense improved dramatically throughout the season and peaked in the playoffs to reach the championship final.
Special teams play also contributed to the surging team’s success and proved to be the catalyst in the title game, as a blocked punt was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter and the offense moved the ball in typical Lahainaluna efficiency to push their lead to 14-0 at the halftime break.
It was the defense’s turn to shine in the third quarter when Kapaa turned to their passing game. A deflected pass attempt was intercepted and returned for what turned out to be the Lunas’ winning margin as the lead was extended to 21-0. But the Warriors are a quality team and they came back with a vengeance to close to 21-14 deficit with four minutes left to play in the game.
Co-head coach Bobby Watson’s defense then buckled down to turn back Kapaa’s next three possessions, and co-head coach and offensive coordinator Garret Tihada’s unit pushed the ball up the field for two crucial first downs that sealed the contest and the first state football championship for Lahainaluna.
“This is really the culmination of the effort of so many people – all of the coaches, the school staff, the boys and their families, the entire community; all of it. That Kapaa team is as tough as they come, and we are so thrilled to have won the game to bring the championship home to the West Side,” concluded Coach Garret.