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Young Lahainaluna football team a project for veteran coaching staff

By Staff | Aug 6, 2015

LAHAINA – There is a noticeable twinkle in the eyes of the veteran Lahainaluna High School football coaching staff as official practice began last week – kind of like somebody who is anticipating something very interesting coming up in the near future.

Indeed, with the official unveiling of the state-of-the-art Sue D. Cooley Stadium on the Lahainaluna campus – a facility that was named a top ten high school venue by USA Today – for the first-ever home football game to be played under the lights here on the West Side against Keaau of the Big Island this Saturday night, Aug. 8, the fever pitch is rising in excitement to match the record-breaking heat wave Hawaii has been experiencing of late.

But the game is the underlying focus for the Luna staff led by stalwart mentors Bobby Watson and Garret Tihada, the program’s co-head coaches, and assistants Mike Arakawa, Dean Rickard, Kekoa Mowat, Clifford Corniel, Joey Tihada, Kenui Watson, Sonnie Waiohu, Randy Arakawa, Dal Magno, Craig Weiss and Trainer Jon Conrad.

It should come as no surprise that this group, with some 250 years combined on the sidelines guiding the Lunas, has cranked up their intensity to meet the challenge of defending the Red Tide supremacy and Maui Interscholastic League championship football at Lahainaluna.

They had the visionary acumen several years ago to realize that the graduation of last season’s seniors – 22 strong of some of the outstanding student athletes ever to put on the pads and bright red uniforms for the Lunas – would create a vacuum of experienced players for the 2015 season.

With the 2013 inaugural season of Maui Big Boy Football, a league for intermediate school age kids that are too big for the traditional Pop Warner Football program that takes place in the fall months, the Lahainaluna coaches turned their full attention to new spring league.

The coaches came out in force to mentor the Lahaina Big Boy team, installing the consistency, work ethic and discipline that has kept Luna football at the top of MIL and state football rankings for decades.

According to offensive coordinator and co-head coach Garret Tihada, all but two of the starters from last year’s 11-1 MIL champion and state finalist team have graduated, with 20 returnees to fill the leadership roles of the graduated stalwarts. There are ten seniors, 13 juniors, 20 sophomores and four freshmen set to carry forth the torch of Lahainaluna.

“Yeah, this season will really be a project for us,” said Coach Garret last week. “We’ll line up in our shotgun wing T formation, but we’re thinking of throwing the ball a lot more than in previous years because we lack the experience up front to pound the ball up the field like we did before. Maybe 40 percent of the time we’ll pass. We have some young players that can throw the football and a couple of newcomers that have shown that they can catch the ball as well.”

Defensive coordinator Bobby Watson’s unit will line up mostly in a three-man front with multiple sets – some four fronts and flexible schemes.

Tihada added that the special teams units are a whole new project as well. “The important thing for us is that these kids really have a great attitude. They are putting in the effort and there are no egos involved. Good kids all the way around,” he said.

With JV games starting at 4:30 p.m. and varsity games kicking off at 7 p.m., the Lunas’ 2015 football schedule includes: Aug. 8, Keaau at Lahainaluna; Aug. 22, Kamehameha Maui at Lahainaluna; Aug. 29, Baldwin at Lahainaluna; Sept. 4, Maui High vs. Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium; Sept. 12, King Kekaulike at Lahainaluna; Sept. 25, Lahainaluna at Kamehameha Maui; Oct. 2, Baldwin vs. Lahainaluna at War Memorial Stadium;

Oct. 10, Maui High at Lahainaluna; and Oct. 16, Lahainaluna at King Kekaulike.

So the 2015 football season is here, and Sue D. Cooley Stadium will be lighting ’em up on Friday and Saturday nights for the first time in the 184-year history of Lahainaluna High School. Be assured, the Red Tide will rise with the full moon over the West Maui Mountains to light up the spirits of the Luna faithful. Be there!