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Luna JV football coaches prepare players for varsity competition

By Staff | Sep 10, 2015

Nolle Smith (left) and Aloha Kaniho are among the veteran coaches of the Lahainaluna High School junior varsity football team.

LAHAINA – There is no tougher head coaching position to have than to be the lead mentor of a high school junior varsity football program. And when the varsity graduates a class of sterling athletes in the preceding year, the escalator up cleans out the bulk of the players that the junior varsity team was banking on for modicum success.

Over the last decade, Luna football rode high as one of the highly rated programs in the state and the top gun here on the Valley Isle. But with 22 seniors moving on from the 2014 team that was the number one-rated Division II program in the state and the overall Maui Interscholastic League kingpin, the player pool has shifted to shallow waters for Lahainaluna football. It also left the JV football program in scramble mode once again.

But the Luna junior varsity program has been blessed with the steadfast leadership of head coach Aloha Kaniho over the last 18 years and has weathered the storm throughout those two decades.

While other MIL football programs such as Kamehameha Schools Maui have dropped their JV teams due to lack of numbers, Lahainaluna carries forward with diligence and grit to maintain the mission of first preparing younger, inexperienced student athletes for the varsity, and two: fielding competitive, hard-driving teams.

Since 1996, the Luna JVs have ridden high on the MIL ladder, winning nine championships and never falling below third place in the six-team standings.

More importantly, Coach Aloha and his staff of Nolle Smith (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Dal Magno (defensive coordinator/linebackers), Sonnie Waiohu (defensive line), Darren Kawahara (running backs), Andy Claydon (wide receivers), Chris Pinho (offensive line), Victor Akauola (offensive line) and Craig Wise (offensive line) have instilled into their charges the discipline and determination, along with the gamut of Luna systems – in essence, the Lahainaluna way.

“We are a very inexperienced group this year,” said Coach Aloha recently. “We have 42 players on our roster, but very few of them have any experience at this level. Our main goal is to feed the varsity with personnel that will allow them to succeed; after that, we want to compete as best as we can in the MIL. Most of all, we are looking for leadership among the few returning or experienced players that we have.”

The Luna JVs finished the 2014 campaign with a 6-2 record to finish in second place after winning the title in the previous season. The MIL junior varsity teams include Lahainaluna, Baldwin, Maui High and King Kekaulike, with all of them playing a two-round schedule through the third week of October.

“Once again, we send our thanks out to all of our wives and girlfriends for their patience and understanding during this time of the year. We also send our appreciation out to the Lahaina community for their support of the team, as well as the Lahainaluna administration and staff for their guidance and help,” said Kaniho.

“This has really been an exciting start to the season with the opening of Sue D. Cooley Stadium for night games. We just hope we can keep the kids focused with all that’s going on.”