Lunas Rout Warriors, Face Baldwin on Saturday
By Rodney S. Yap
It’s over, the scoreless streak, that is. And Lahainaluna High School co-head coach Bobby Watson couldn’t be happier.
“To be honest, it’s been more of a distraction than anything else,” Watson said Saturday of the Lunas’ scoreless streak that lasted 23 1/2 quarters before host Kamehameha Schools Maui did what no other Maui Interscholastic League team could do — score.
The dramatic moment, in an otherwise drama-less game, came midway through the third quarter with the Warriors trailing 28-0. At that point, Lahainlauna had outscored its MIL opponents 203-0, picking up five consecutive league wins along the way.
To their credit the Warriors enjoyed the deepest penetration against the Lunas all season, moving the ball to the 8-yard line before going backwards 10 yards over the next three plays. On fourth down, KS-Maui coach Kevin O’Brien decided to call on reserve place-kicker Kamaha’o Romero instead of rolling the dice on another touchdown attempt.
With classmate and quarterback Chase Newton holding, the sophomore split the uprights for a 35-yard field that drew mixed reaction from the Upcountry crowd of about 1,800.
“If it didn’t happen last night it was bound to happen in the Baldwin game,” Watson said Sunday afternoon. “I think everybody is more relieved than anything else . . . it’s not a big deal any more. I think it (the streak) takes away from the game itself.”
Lahainaluna’s Mark Alamon caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kiko Kohler-Fonohema on the next possession to cap a seven-play, 58-yard scoring drive. The final tally officially put the Lunas ahead of the MIL, 215-3.
Lahainaluna is now 6-0 in MIL play and 7-0 overall. The Division II win against the Warriors mean the Lunas are one win away from representing the MIL in post-season play at the state’s small-school tournament.
The Warriors fell to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the second round.
In 34 years of coaching at Lahainaluna, Watson said he could not recall another Lunas team shutting out five consecutive league opponents in the same season.
“If you’re talking about Lahainaluna, I’ll tell you, ‘I don’t think so.’ But if you’re asking me about the league, the truth is I never paid much attention to who scored on who and that kind of a thing, that’s never been a concern of mine or something that I looked at.”
For Watson, it’s about winning and losing, not keeping score — or tracking scoreless outcomes.
“As coaches we go into games trying to figure out our opponent’s offense and defense. That’s what it’s about,” said the 1969 Lahainaluna graduate. “Don’t get me wrong, what the kids have accomplished is good for the school and the community, but I think that’s where it ends. I think it’s always good for the community and the school to have something to cheer about.”
Watson and the Lunas will have plenty to cheer about Saturday when they celebrate their homecoming against MIL Division I champion Baldwin, beginning at 7 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.
“I haven’t broken the film down yet, but I know we weren’t doing things fundamentally like we should have on Saturday, both on offense and defense. We need to get things done better. I thought we did a terrible job of adjusting.”
As the team’s defensive coordinator, Watson thrives on preparing his players to be in position to make plays. Tackles are made by design, not luck.
“It comes down to this,” the coach noted. “Sometimes the kids want to make the plays and forget about their responsibilities and that happened a lot last night. Our kids are over pursuing to the ball and things like that, and we should have stayed home and watched for counters instead. The other thing is, we did not tackle well at all. So it’s something that we have to look at and fix. It’s the same thing with the offense.”
Lahainaluna will be favorite against Baldwin on Saturday for the first time in years, by virtue of its 32-0 rout on Sept. 7, when the Bears were without two of their best players in quarterback Keelan Ewaliko, the MIL’s two-time offensive player of the year, and linebacker Jordan Hoiem, who expects to be cleared by his doctor on Monday after nursing a fractured foot for five weeks. Ewaliko has already verbally committed to attend Hawaii next season, while Hoiem accepted an invitation for an unofficial visit to Oregon, where he attended his first college football game when the Ducks played Arizona a week ago. Hoiem, only a junior, has received official Division I offers from Hawaii, Utah, Utah State and University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
“I don’t look at that,” Watson said of favorites and underdogs. “I know the kids read what’s written about them, but I don’t. Being favorite our being the underdog, all that kind of stuff, I don’t look at it that way.
“Every time we play Baldwin we tell ourselves, ‘They’re the best.’ They are the best on Maui and in order for us to be a good team and go deep in the playoffs, we have to give them a good game or keep it close enough that we can beat them in the end.
“Every time we play them, that’s our mentality. We are never going to say, ‘Yeah, I think we can beat them because we have better talent.’ I don’t think we have ever approached Baldwin that way. We’ve always approached Baldwin as, ‘They are the top dogs on Maui’ and in order for us to get there, we need to beat them. And until that happens Baldwin is still the top dog on Maui — and it’s always going to be that way.”
Watson added, “For us to come out and beat them in that first game, that was good, but they did not have their whole team. Now we are playing Baldwin at its best.
“For years the big game has been between us and Baldwin, it used to be Baldwin and Maui High. But consistently it’s between us and Baldwin and during the years that we’ve had the opportunity to beat them we had a decent playoff run. So we still look at it like that.”
In other words, Baldwin remains the measuring stick in the MIL.
“Exactly,” Watson said. “And they are always going to be that. It’s never going to be us and we realize that. It doesn’t matter what the newspaper says, it doesn’t matter what the radio guys say. We never look at it that way.
“This is really bigger than just an MIL game. But as far as the MIL is concern, Baldwin is still the top dog and we have to go out there and prove that this year we may have a better team than they do. But only at the end of the game will we find out. Everything on paper and everything people talk about means nothing. At the end of the game is when you really find out what happens.”
Saturday’s Scoring Summary
Lahainaluna ….. 21 ….. 7 ….. 7 ….. 0-35
KS Maui …………. 0 ….. 0 ….. 3 ……. 0-3
LL—Semisi Filikitonga 37 interception return (Kiko Kohler-Fonohema kick), 10:13.
LL—Jeffrey Ancog 22 interception return (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 8:36.
LL—Filikitonga 43 pass from Kohler-Fonohema (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 5:24.
LL—Jared Rocha-Isalas 1 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 11:23.
KSM—Kamahao Romero 35 FG, 6:32.
LL—Mark Alamon 7 pass from Kohler-Fonohema (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 3:19.
Junior varsity-Lahainaluna 27, Kamehameha Maui 7.