Luna football team looks to improve day by day, game by game
LAHAINA – Some 30 years ago, the Lahainaluna High School football team would make the trek to Waianae High School on the leeward coast of Oahu to take part in a weeklong summer training camp with the Seariders, at that time the dominating program of the Red Division of the Oahu Interscholastic League.
During those sessions, Luna head coach Bobby Watson would pick the brain of Waianae’s legendary headman, Larry Ginoza, on the keys to success of the perennial gridiron champs.
“He (Ginoza) told me that it is important to instill a winning mentality to the team. Refuse to lose,” Coach Watson, now the dean of Maui Interscholastic League coaches, stated last week from the Lahainaluna Athletic Field. “All schools have athletic talent, but the key is to make a winning attitude in the program.”
Mission accomplished. Luna football today, riding the crest of Red Tide success to ten consecutive MIL Division II titles, is firmly established as one of the top programs not only on Maui but throughout the state. They refuse to lose.
Lahainaluna is currently the top- ranked D-II team in the state – a position the Lunas held throughout last season – and has reeled off two decisive victories over Kapaa (one of the Kauai Interscholastic League’s top teams) and King Kekaulike in the MIL opener two weeks ago.
“We just need to keep improving, day by day, game by game,” said co-head coach Garret Tihada, who is joined by Mike Arakawa, Dean Rickard, Clifford Corniel, Joey Tihada, Randy Arakawa, Kenui Watson, Sonnie Waiohu, Dal Magno and Gene Alim on the veteran Luna coaching staff.
“We’ll be strong on both the offensive and defensive lines, but we lack depth of game-experienced players. At this point, we have ten players playing both ways, and four of them are on the field almost the whole game.”
A pleasant surprise for the Luna coaches is a roster of 45 players that includes a leadership core of senior standouts Connor Mowat, Brandon Kaina, Justin Hong, Scotty Medeiros Tangatailoa, Jared Rocha Islas, Sione Filikitonga, Peni Taufa and Danny Kahaialii.
Rounding out the roster are 16 more seniors, ten juniors and ten sophomores.
“We are definitely senior heavy this year – so we have some experience at key positions – and both lines are talented but not deep,” explained Coach Garret. “We’ll rotate the defensive line and the defensive backs to keep fresh players in the game at those positions.”
The Lunas will set up in a 3-3-4 defensive alignment similar to last season, when this unit recorded six shutouts and gave up an average of five points per contest in MIL play.
The offense will again operate out of a shotgun-wing T formation with a tight end to one side and two wideouts to the other. Traditionally a run-oriented attack, Coach Garret – the Lunas’ offensive coordinator – said the offense will pass more often this season.
“We want to throw the football more often to make the defenses we face more honest and have to think about our passing game,” he said.
The five MIL schools that participate in the 11-player football schedule (an eight-player MIL league started two years ago and includes Seabury Hall, Molokai, Hana, Lanai, Saint Anthony, and newcomer Kihei Charter, playing games on Thursday evenings) are Lahainaluna, Baldwin, Maui High, Kamehameha Schools Maui, and King Kekaulike. Baldwin and Maui High make up D-I, while the Lunas, Kamehameha, and King Kekaulike comprise the D-II category. All five schools compete for the overall MIL title.
The MIL season runs through Oct. 25, with league playoff games and the state playoffs to follow in early November. Be there. Imua Lunas!