Seniors help lead Lunas to championship
LAHAINA — The Lahainaluna High School varsity football team closed out their 2009 season by dropping a 20-12 thriller to Aiea in the quarterfinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Playoffs on Nov. 20 at Na Alii field on Oahu before some 2,000 fans, most of them dressed in Lunas red.
Lahainaluna thus finished the year with a 6-4 overall record (6-2 in the Maui Interscholastic League), including a stirring 28-14 victory over arch-rival Baldwin to end the regular season on a five-game winning streak. The Lunas captured their third consecutive MIL D-II championship to advance to the state playoffs.
This playoff effort punctuated a remarkable season for the Lunas, which saw a young and inexperienced team rebound from two early season losses to work their way back to a championship effort. The Aiea game also marked the end of the high school football careers of the 15 seniors on the team.
For three-year lettermen George Chihara and Imihana Ampong, as well as two-year players Paula Toa, Nelson Agmata, Brandon Knight, Sheldon Akina, Blake Ball, Blaze Kalilikane, Holden Mowat, Hesekaia Vaea, Kody Kahaialii, Jaret Levi Nahooikaika, Ridge Lanoza, Mikey Casicas and Zachary Corpuel, this game marked the end of the line.
"I am so proud of all of the kids on the team this year," said Lunas co-head coach Bobby Watson last week.
"They really worked hard, played hard and turned it around for us. All of the coaches did a great job as well, tweaking things here and there as the season went on, to take us further than we had expected to go. Some of the Aiea coaches complimented us after the game about our effort — the intensity and discipline the team played with — and this is a credit to the kids and to my coaching staff. These coaches are tremendous at teaching the fundamentals — blocking and tackling — within the guidelines and discipline of Lahainaluna football."
That staff included co-head coach Garret Tihada, Mike Arakawa, Randy Arakawa, Clifford Corniel, Kekoa Mowat, Dean Rickard, Joey Tihada and Kenui Watson. The team trainers were Jon Conrad and Mikala Mejia.
Coach Watson had particular praise for the departing seniors: "It is always an honor to see these guys go through the program, hang in there and make it through. I will surely miss them, but I hope to see them come back to Lahaina and contribute to the community in a positive way, particularly in coaching the kids here. Hopefully, we gave them some of the life skills and character that will help them become productive citizens in the community that their families can be proud of."