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Coach: Luna junior varsity football team raw but tough

By Staff | Sep 11, 2014

The Luna junior varsity team blanked King Kekaulike 14-0 in their first game. PHOTO BY GLEN PASCUAL.

LAHAINA – High school football coaches across the nation will agree that the key to success at the varsity level is highly dependent upon the pipeline of players coming up through their junior varsity programs. It is thus no surprise that the Lahainaluna varsity has dominated the Maui Interscholastic League for the past decade and is currently the number one-rated Division II team in the state.

The Luna junior varsity team, led by 17-year veteran head coach Aloha Kaniho, has mirrored the successful effort of the varsity over the years by also dominating the MIL standings with eight championships and a pair of runner-up finishes.

To say the least, that is no small task, as Coach Aloha and his staff of Nolle Smith, Sonnie Waiohu, Dal Magno, Darren Kawahara, Andy Claydon, Craig Wise and Victor Akauola are charged with molding a cohesive team unit – based on the established template of the varsity -using a roster of mostly first-year players, some having never played organized football before in their lives.

“Yes, it is a revolving door at the JV level; the players come in and then they move up – sometimes even during the season,” explained Kaniho from the sidelines of “The Imu,” Lahainaluna’s nearly completed, state-of-the-art athletic facility.

“This year we are really raw, as we have only four returnees on the 42-player roster. We are really freshmen heavy, a really young team, and I am really grateful for the leadership example that our four returnees – Bradda Hamakua, Hoaka Walters, Shandon Agapay and Kanoe Gouveia – bring to the team. There has been some talk around the league to go to an all freshmen JV format. Hopefully, all schools will go to this system.”

The Lahainaluna High School football team won the first-round Maui Interscholastic League title with a 42-7 win over the Baldwin Bears on Saturday night. Sione Filikitonga (8) scored twice in the second quarter during the game at War Memorial Stadium. PHOTO BY GLEN PASCUAL.

“We are also really small and not that fast,” he continued. “But, like all Lahainaluna football players, they are tough and disciplined. I am always amazed at that. We’ll try to do things like the varsity as we have before – the same drills, the same terminology, the same base offensive and defensive sets and formations. We will put in some wrinkles – try to balance the running and passing on offense – and line up in some four-man fronts with blitz packages and zone coverages on defense.”

Lahainaluna will compete with Baldwin, Maui High and King Kekaulike for the MIL championship, playing each team twice.

Kamehameha Schools Maui, faced with a drought of players, dropped JV football this year.

In conclusion, Coach Aloha thanked the the wives and girlfriends of the coaches – particularly his wife, Pam “Peewee” Kaniho – for their understanding of the time-consuming schedule faced by the staff.

“I also want to thank all the parents and the community for all they do. Their support is very important and a big part of our success as a team,” he said.

Be pono. Go Lunas!