Lunas win state championship in thrilling game against Konawaena
LAHAINA – In what will be remembered in Hawaii High School Athletic Association history as the most thrilling football championship final ever played, the Lahainaluna High School Lunas defeated the Konawaena Wildcats in SEVEN overtimes by a score of 75-69 to bring a second consecutive state title home to the West Side.
The never-say-die Lunas maintained the relentless discipline that has characterized the program throughout the history of the oldest high school west of the Rockies to outlast the game Wildcats in a slugfest that lasted 11 rounds – four quarters of regulation play and then the do-or-die seven overtime stanzas for a total game time of four hours and 15 minutes.
The key play came in seventh overtime by the Luna defense with the score tied at 69 after the two teams traded field goals in the sixth extra frame.
Konawaena had the ball and had driven to the half-yard line. The Wildcats elected to go under center for the snap of the ball for the first time in the game. The quickness of the Luna’s defensive front and an inexperienced center for Konawaena resulted in a fumble that Lahainaluna recovered in the end zone. The Lunas would not be denied after that.
In four power plays emblematic of the ground-and-pound running game of Luna football, the Big Red put the ball into the end zone to end the longest playoff football game in HHSAA history.
The winning score pushed the final numbers to 75-69 and sent the Lahainaluna sideline, the fans at Aloha Stadium and the hundreds more watching the game on the pay-per-view telecast back home on Maui into bedlam.
The victory didn’t come easy. The Lunas built 15-point leads twice during regulation, as Offensive Coordinator Garret Tihada pulled out all the stops in play selection to score three touchdowns through the air and gain several key first downs with play-action completions.
But the game Wildcats kept coming back and tied the score in regulation with 30 seconds left to play.
The teams then stood toe-to-toe and traded touchdowns in the first five overtimes, field goals in the sixth and then the decisive goal line stand and knockout punch to end the game by the Big Red Machine.
“Our kids went through two overtime games this year (both wins over D-I MIL powers Baldwin and Maui High in regular season contests), and they know what it’s like to play in games like that. But nothing like this has anybody ever been through. It really shows the heart of the team – of both teams, really – to play on with such intensity. I couldn’t be prouder or happier for the boys, the coaches, the school, the community,” said Coach Tihada.
Perhaps most of all, the climatic outcome of the contest was a fitting conclusion for the high school football careers for the 23 seniors on the Lahainaluna roster.
All of them played crucial roles in this final game and, moreover, all during their four years contributing to the team’s success.
“We just can’t thank these seniors enough, and we will certainly miss the leadership example they have given all these years. Of course, we wish them well in all that they do in the future,” said Coach Tihada.
The Lahaina community sent the team off on Friday evening with a rally along Lahainaluna Road that included fireworks and a police and fire truck escort.
Upon their return late Saturday night, the rally intensified, and the victory parade went all the way up to the school.