Inexperienced Lunas working on consistency
LAHAINA — With 21 seniors in the Class of 2009 gone from the Lahainaluna High School varsity football team, and just one returning starter on defense and only two on offense, it’s an understatement to say that the Lunas are into a rebuilding mode for the upcoming season.
Then again, with a coaching staff led by associate head coaches Bobby Watson and Garret Tihada that has racked up over 150 combined years up at the “Imu” at the Athletic Field leading the football program, it is not a stretch to once again rank the Lunas as a contender for the Maui Interscholastic League Division II championship and overall high school gridiron bragging rights here on the Valley Isle.
According to Coach Tihada, the lone bright spot for the team that went 7-3 in 2008 on their way to a second consecutive D-II title and a semifinal appearance in the state playoffs is at the running back position, where several players return, including two starters.
“We have some youthful energy on this team that is a positive factor and a strength for us, but we are inexperienced almost everywhere with all of the offensive and defensive line, the linebackers, and all but one of the (defensive backs) gone. We do have the potential to be a good team,” Tihada said.
Along with Watson (the defensive coordinator) and Tihada (the offensive coordinator), the veteran Lunas coaching staff includes Mike Arakawa (28 years of experience) for linebackers, Dean Rickard (23 years) and Kekoa Mowat for the offensive line, Joey Tihada for running backs, Clifford Corniel for the defensive line, Randy Arakawa for wide receivers, Kenui Watson for defensive backs and trainers Jonathan Conrad and Mikala Mejia.
One interesting change for the Lunas this year will come on the offensive side of the ball, as the team will run out of the “Pistol” formation that takes the QB back out from under center into a short shotgun position.
Coach Garret said they will still run the ball in their conventional veer option and fly attacks, but added, “This formation makes it easier to pass — and we will throw the ball — but we want to run the ball first.”
For as long as MIL football fans can remember, the Lahainaluna defense has been the premier force on the Valley Isle. For decades, Coach Watson’s vaunted outfits have been the key, yet unsung, component of the Lunas’ success as the toughest, most disciplined team on Maui.
“The defense will run our traditional 4-3, but Coach Watson is also experimenting with a 3-3-5 to go against the spread passing offenses that most teams are playing. He always comes up with tough defenses,” Tihada explained.
“As a team, we need to find more consistency with our work ethic and discipline. This is our main focus, and if we can take care of those things, then we should be all right,” Coach Garret concluded.
The Lunas will kick off the 2009 season with a preseason contest this Saturday, Aug. 29, against the Red Raiders of Kauai High School at 12:45 p.m. The game will be preceded by “Redo the Imu” festivities (see page 18).
The Lunas will then move on to the MIL season opener versus Maui High on Friday, Sept. 4, at War Memorial Stadium beginning at 7 p.m. With the demise of St. Anthony/Pac 3 football due to lack of players, the MIL is down to five teams for the 2009 season. Lahainaluna will play Baldwin, Maui High, King Kekaulike and Kamehameha Maui each twice, and compete in the D-II category with Kamehameha Maui.