Mission Accomplished: Lunas’ Goal is to Win Games
By Rodney S. Yap
You don’t have to be fan of Lahainaluna High School football to appreciate the Lunas’ unbeaten win steak or their 180 points scored compare to none allowed.
Lahainaluna raised its MIL record to 5-0 (6-0 overall) Friday night with a 42-0 shutout at King Kekaulike, the Lunas fifth straight shutout in as many games, before an Upcountry crowd of about 1,600.
After the game a Na Alii parent said, “I’m a King Kekaulike fan, but I gotta give respect to those Luna boys, they deserve it.”
The Lunas broke open a scoreless game with 21 second-quarter points and put the game under mercy rule by midway through the third quarter. The slow start, combined with the explosive second quarter, and dominate defensive effort in the second half, have been a formula of success for the West side school in 2012.
As far as the shutout streak, co-head coach Bobby Watson said the media has blown it out of proportion.
“I think our kids have been fortunate,” Watson said. “We have taken advantage of some int’s and fumble recoveries.”
Watson admits his defense practices takeaways and many of their opportunities have come from preparation. However, the coach said, “I think that’s just part of the game and everybody does that.”
Lahainaluna out gained King Kekaulike, 393 to 60.
“We haven’t change many things from the way we practiced in the past to the way we practice now,” Watson noted. “We do a lot of the same things. But we have kids like (Hercules) Mataafa who is quick and little more matured. He’s an athlete and makes plays because of that, not so much more because of how we coach.”
Either way, Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada, who handles the offense, loves everything the defense does — especially the five consecutive shutouts.
“It’s amazing to see,” Tihada said. “And from an offensive standpoint, our best friend is a shutout, because it virtually guarantees us a win. Personally, I love it.”
Lunas’ quarterback Kiko Kohler-Fonohema completed nine of 16 throws for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns — a 10-yard toss to Semisi Filikitonga and a 1-yard pass to Tytus Lucas. Kolher-Fonohema also scored his league-leading seventh rushing touchdown of the season on a 10-yard run.
Filikitonga, who scored on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, an 85-yard jaunt off tackle, finished the night with two rushes for 133 yards and two catches for 27.
Tihada described Filikitonga’s touchdown run as “lighting in a bottle.”
The coach admitted he does not pay attention to his backfield personal when he calls a play and it’s the offensive linemen that dictates the play calling.
“It comes down to our lineman,” Tihada explained. “And right now, Connor (Mowat) at center is the only starter who has started every game for us. In fact, we’ve never had two games in a row using the same starters.”
Perhaps that is the reason the offense tends to start slow, he added, “I think it takes some time for them to get a feel for each other.”
Watson said the team does not talk about shutting down its opponent in practice.
“It’s about preparing to win not preparing to shutout the team we are going to face,” Watson explained. “The goal isn’t to not let them score, the goal is to win the game.”
“The fact that team’s have not scored on us shouldn’t be the big headline, I think the big headline should be the maturity of these kids, because of how many of them have played for us at such a young age.”
Watson was referring to the number of juniors who have been starters from their sophomore seasons and the amount of freshmen (seven) who played varsity last year.
“When you have a group of kids like that than you have a better chance of developing them, so they understand the game and they understand the way you are asking them to play. One year makes a big difference and as a coach you understand that. I’ll go back to the freshmen that played for us last year that are sophomores this year, compared to the sophomores that are playing at the jayvee level right now — there is no comparison. If they would play against their classmates it would be like seniors playing against freshmen. Maturity level and the things that they’ve learned makes a huge difference.”
Sophomores playing varsity can be huge to the success of a team, and certainly the individual growth of the player by the time he’s a senior.
“The thing that they learn first is not how much more physical the game is but how much quicker the game is,” Watson said. “They have to make an adjustment to the speed of the game. It’s not that they hit harder or are more physical, all that comes with maturity, that’s the thing I think they have a hard time adjusting to.
“The younger you are and able to adjust to that, the better you become. For example, the (Connor) Mowat boy, he’s our center, he’s got to deal with kids who are three times faster than he is getting off the ball. So now he’s in his second year of that, so by the time he’s a junior and senior there is nothing that is going to bother him and I think that is the big difference. . . . That’s what made the King Kekaulike team that won state so good, they had a number of talented sophomores.”
And that’s why Kekaulike’s current sophomore quarterback Ryley Widell is only going to get better, Watson said.
“He took some hits last night and he got up and he kept going, you got to appreciate that kind of stuff. He’s a sophomore and most sophomores wouldn’t have gotten up so you have to appreciate that,” Watson said of Widell. “As he matures, he’s going to be somebody that you really have to reckon with. He’s getting more confident in everything that he does and he made a nice run against us. Give the boy credit for that.”
Widell’s 41-yard keeper off a play-action fake is the longest run from scrimmage against the Lunas defense this year. Although Widell’s run put the ball on the Lunas’ 13-yard line, Na Alii went backwards 3 yards before Justen Romkee lined up for a 30-yard field-goal attempt, that fell short of the uprights.
Friday’s Scoring Summary
Lahainaluna 0 21 14 7—42
King Kekaulike 0 0 0 0—0
LHS—Semisi Filikitonga 10 pass from Kiko Kohler-Fonohema (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 11:15.
LHS—John Lacuesta 6 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 6:53.
LHS—Kohler-Fonohema 10 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 1:14.
LHS—Filikitonga 85 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 11:42.
LHS—Tytus Lucas 1 pass from Kohler-Fonohema (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 7:07.
LHS—Jeffrey Ancog 66 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 3:00.
Junior varsity-Lahainaluna 34, King Kekaulike 10.