Heart and masterful coaching helped the Lunas succeed
The Lahainaluna High School football program has been on a high-speed run at the top levels of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association rankings for nearly a decade now, but coming into the 2015 season, a cloud of reasonable doubt had surfaced. The Lunas’ run of gridiron glory looked to be in serious jeopardy.
Gone were 22 seniors – including 20 starters – from the state Division II finalists and Maui Interscholastic League overall champions of the 2014 campaign, and it was an undersized, inexperienced roster that took to the turf at Sue D. Cooley Stadium on the Lahainaluna campus this season.
There is, however, an immeasurable quality that this 2015 Luna team maintained throughout the year that overrides all athletic quantitative measures: heart.
All season long, the varsity and the junior varsity teams fought through the adversity of inexperience – that was magnified by injuries – to rise to the occasion to finish the year at the top of the MIL standings.
The Lahainaluna JVs were about as young and green a team as one could imagine; yet they were able to scratch, claw and fight their way into a regular season stalemate with Maui High to force a championship playoff. With the elevator taking most of the returning players up to the varsity, the JV coaching staff was left with a roster with little organized football experience, but they molded their charges into a cohesive, winning unit.
Therein lies the key factor in the success of Luna football: coaching. And, indeed, it was the veteran staff at Lahainaluna that made the difference in this 2015 season that saw the team win a ninth straight MIL D-II title and reach the state semifinals for the sixth consecutive year.
Football is a sport that manifests teamwork at the highest level. To be a champion, organization is a must. The Luna coaches are masters at combining the defensive, offensive and special team facets of the game to forge an iron-clad tradition of excellence.
The 2015 Luna football team exemplified the true grit work ethic and camaraderie that characterizes all champions. It became readily apparent throughout the season that this group – particularly the 13 seniors – would be long admired for their tenacity and go for broke effort. Twisted ankles, dislocated elbows and strained knees couldn’t stop these Lunas. They are built tough to continue the tradition.
Lahainaluna also boasts the top “12th Man” support in the state. The Red Tide fan tradition surpasses all others, whether here on the Valley Isle or travelling to the neighbor islands for playoff games. At Vidinha Stadium in Lihue two weeks ago, the Lunas took on the top-rated Kapaa Warriors in a D-II semifinal match-up. The Red Tide fans nearly filled the visitors’ side of the stadium and surely sent a strong message across the field to the green wave of Garden Island fans: “Game on!”
We lost that contest to Kapaa, but the Lahainaluna ‘ohana should nevertheless be proud of their team. It’s the beginning of a new era. Imua, Lunas!