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Lahainaluna football team benefits from strong leadership

By Staff | Aug 4, 2016

The Lunas have a state-of-the-art home at Sue D. Cooley Stadium. PHOTO BY GLEN PASCUAL.

LAHAINA – Looking back on the 2015 football season, Lahainaluna High School’s 7-6 record seems lackluster – mediocre at best.

What those numbers miss, however, are big second half wins over Maui High and Kamehameha Schools Maui that secured the Lunas’ tenth straight Maui Interscholastic League Division II championship, as well as a thrilling victory over Kaimuki in the first-ever state football playoff game played at Sue D. Cooley Stadium on campus.

Also among the losses were two decisions versus the Kapaa Warriors – one in the preseason and the other in the state semifinals that advanced the Kauai powerhouse to the championship final. Two other Luna defeats were to MIL D-I titlist Baldwin, as the Bears finished the season as one of the top teams in the state.

The veteran Lahainaluna coaching staff, comprised of co-head coaches Bobby Watson and Garret Tihada, along with Mike Arakawa, Dean Rickard, Kekoa Mowat, Clifford Corniel, Sonnie Waiohu, Joey Tihada, Randy Arakawa, Kenui Watson, Dal Magno and Craig Wise, welcomed back some 40 student athletes from last year’s squad as official team practices began last month.

According to offensive coordinator Garret Tihada, the experience those players bring to the team should pay big dividends.

“About 20 of the returnees bring solid experience from last year, including four starters from the defense and four from the offense. It’s created a nice blend of the older and younger kids,” he said.

Coach Garret also pointed to the highly successful Maui Big Boy League during the spring that added continuity as key to the Lunas’ drive along the pathway to another successful season.

“The Big Boy program really helps us get the kids ready for the high school team. It leads right into our summer workouts and weight lifting program during the summer,” Garret noted.

He added that the roster numbers just under 50 student athletes, including 15 seniors, 18 juniors, 12 sophomores and two freshmen.

“We’ve had good participation in our summer and weight programs,” Garret said, as the team prepared to travel to the Big Island for a short camp last week. “We’re going to try to have mostly one-way players, but we are going to have the players learn both offense and defense so we can put them into certain situations. We’ll be strong in the defensive line but inexperienced in the offensive line. We have some really strong leadership coming from the older players.”

The Lunas will run a shotgun wing T offense and play a base 4-3 defense.

“We’ll try to keep the defenses honest and pass the ball about 30 percent of the time,” he added. “We’re inexperienced in the offensive line with only one starter coming back, but we do have some experience on offense, so we should be able to run the ball effectively.”

As always, Coach Watson’s defense will be solid in its adjusting 4-3 set.

Lahainaluna will kick off the 2016 campaign this Saturday, Aug. 6, in a preseason contest against Oahu Interscholastic League D-II power Pearl City here at home at Sue D. Cooley Stadium. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m., immediately following the junior varsity contest between the two schools. Tickets ($6, with kids under five free) are available from players and boosters, or at the school administration office. Call Rae Matsumoto at 662-4000 or Leeann Panlasigui at 661-9652 for information.

“Our thanks goes out to the Friends of Lahainaluna Football for their continued support of the program, and also to our JV staff for getting the younger players ready for the varsity,” concluded Coach Garret.

The Luna junior varsity was the MIL runner-up last year, as the team finished with a 5-3 record. The highly experienced coaching staff is led by Aloha Kaniho; he is joined by Nolle Smith, Sonnie Waiohu, Dal Magno, Darren Kawahara, Andy Claydon, Chris Pino, Craig Wise, Victor Akauola and Shane Tru.

“We have about 45 players on the roster right now, and that will rise when school starts and the boarders arrive,” said Coach Aloha last week. “As always, we’ll run the same systems as the varsity to get the kids ready to move up. We send our thanks out to our wives and girlfriends for their understanding and support all through the year.”

The athletic trainers are Jon Conrad and Helen Hetzel, with Brooke Whitehead, Kayla Delos Santos, Elizabeth Saia, Tavi Viela, and Mikela Alexander forming the student managers team.