Lunas three-peat as state Division II football champs
LAHAINA – The 2018 First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championship Division II final that pitted the Lahainaluna High School Lunas against the Kapaa Warriors on Thanksgiving weekend was a classic example of a tale of two halves.
At a sun-baked Aloha Stadium -with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff – the top-seeded and undefeated Lunas scored on their opening drive of the contest but then gave up 26 unanswered points to the upstart Warriors from Kauai. Lahainaluna had defeated this same Kapaa team 30-10 in the preseason.
Then, to start the second half already down by 19, the Lunas turned the ball over. The Warriors set up shop at the Lahainaluna seven yard line looking to put the game away with another score.
But as has been the case for so many years for the Red Tide of the West Side, their defense rose to the occasion. They forced a turnover and recovered the fumble at the one yard line.
Thus began a comeback for the ages, as the Lunas took to their ground and pound offense and drove 99 yards for a touchdown. The dominance continued as the offensive line opened huge lanes for the Lahainaluna ball carriers in clock-eating drives for 250 yards that ate up most of the second half. The Lunas scored three more touchdowns to take a 34-26 lead while the defense stuffed the Kapaa offense for most of the second half.
This Kapaa team, however, would not go down without a fight to the finish. With three-and-a half-minutes left to play, the Warriors drove to what could have been the tying score of the contest. After the one-yard pass play for the touchdown, the pass attempt for the game-tying two-point conversion was high and incomplete and sent the Luna sideline into a frenzy.
With two minutes left on the game clock, the Lunas denied Kapaa another chance as they recovered the onside kick attempt and then ran out the clock to seal the victory. Lahainaluna thus completed the three-peat for the school’s third consecutive state championship, winning their 21st straight game, 11th Maui Interscholastic League title in a row, and solidifying their position as one of the top athletic programs in the state.
Co-head coach Garret Tihada had special praise for the 21 seniors that have had a major influence on the growing success and integrity of the program.
“This senior class will be remembered as having the most successful state championship runs in Lahainaluna history. Their success (and the success of the team.) is no accident, nor is it luck. Many of these seniors have been lifting weights at 6 a.m. for the last six years, and they have been working on their speed and quickness for the past four years. They have developed a refuse to lose attitude in the team, and it showed in the biggest game of their lives.”
That senior leadership group was spearheaded by four-year varsity players Etuati Storer, Kawehi Gillcoat, Nyles Pokipala Waiohu, Lennox Kahahane Lived, Ikaika Tihada Viela and Tausinga Hafoka. Other members of the 2018 senior class are Jonah Damasco, Imee Koike, Kamaha’o Acpal, Kamalei Watson, Zeff Dudoit, Sheldon Frias, Elijah Oliveira Kalalau, Miki Winter Tufuga, Cobe John Nakamura, Apakasi Felemi, Kainalu Ka’ilila’au, Joshua McCoy, Armani Treu, Pablo Dinero Rico, and Isaiah Ah Wah.
In closing, Coach Tihada expressed the team’s gratitude for their support throughout the years. “Thank you to the West Side community for your everlasting support of the team. Thank you especially for the sendoff rally and the incredible welcome home celebration (with fireworks). Only in Lahaina is there this type of support,” he said.