Lunas Familiar With State Tuneup in November
By Rodney S. Yap
The Lahainaluna High School football team has been down this road. The road to the Division II State Football Championships is one that is well traveled where the Lunas are concern.
Frequent Flyers via Hawaiian Airlines in November is all part of the pre-Thanksgiving plan for Lahainaluna, its administration and loyal supporters who annually invade Aloha Stadium wearing the West side red, white and black.
In the last nine years, the only time Lahainaluna did not have reservations to Oahu was in 2005 and 2006, the year King Kekaulike represented the Maui Interscholastic League and won the league’s only state football title in either division.
So the preparations leading up to Lahainaluna’s semifinal game on Nov. 17 at Aloha Stadium against the winner of No. 3 Konawaena and Nanakuli are no different than any other year.
“It’s always good when you can rest up,” Watson said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting ready to play the winner of Friday’s game. We are going to be basically half-pack most of the time and we’re looking to polish things up. We’re not making any kind of contact. Everything is back to fundamentals.”
What the second-seeded Lunas stand to gain from the first-round bye far outweighs the play-every-week philosophy.
Watson said the break has already helped to heal quarterbacks Kiko Kolher-Fonohema and Jeffrey Ancog — the team’s top two signal callers through the last week of the regular season. Kolher-Fonohema was hampered by an ankle injury and Ancog has been cleared to return from a concussion he suffered against Baldwin, Oct. 13.
Meanwhile, the Lunas have strengthen the quarterback position in the absence of Nos. 1 and 2. Elevating sophomore Sione Filikitonga from the junior varsity in the Lunas’ season finale and the younger brother of Semisi Filikitonga, one of the team’s half-a-dozen two-way performers, threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns in engineering a 31-0 victory over Maui High.
The win gave Lahainaluna the league’s co-championship and a 7-1 league mark, 8-1 overall. It also secured the Lunas’ No. 2 seeding, behind five-time Division II state champion and top-seed Iolani.
The last time Lahainaluna was seeded No. 2 was in 2007, when Iolani beat the Lunas, 28-21, in the championship tilt.
Like all the previous Lahainaluna teams, this year’s squad is built around its defense — one that has produced a record six MIL shutouts and given up just 23 points in eight games.
Watson is the mastermind behind the defensive calls and over the last nine years his influence has helped Lahainaluna finish first in the MIL for fewest points allowed seven times.
“If you win by one point, you win,” Watson said. “It doesn’t matter if they run for 300 yards against you as long as they don’t score. We try to keep them out of the end zone.”
No team in the history of the MIL has kept its opponent out of the end zone better than the Lunas in 2012. Aside from Baldwin’s 20-17 overtime win, Lahainaluna gave up a field goal to Kamehameha Maui. That’s it.
“Our goal at the beginning of every season is to get to the state playoffs. With a decent defense we’re going to have a shot.”
In the last nine years, the Lunas are 58-15-2 (.794 winning percentage) in the MIL and 71-24-2 (.750) overall. Lahainaluna has had three nine-win seasons, but never an 11-win mark like it did in 1997 with senior captains Jansen Mederios and Lui Fuata.
Watson has a few sayings he’s repeated over the years, a few go back to that 1997 season — but all of them apply to this year’s state contenders:
~ “We have to outwork everybody because we’re not as talented.”
~ “It doesn’t matter if they have 60 players on the sidelines, you can only play 11. We’ll see who’s 11 is better in the fourth quarter.”
~ “It’s about the off-season commitment. When the kids are committed to the off-season program good things happen during the season.”
Lunas were 6-1-1 in MIL and 9-2-1 overall in 2004 — led league in offensive scoring (326 points)
Lunas were 8-2 in MIL and 9-2 overall in 2005 — led league in defense (100 points allowed)
Lunas were 7-2-1 in MIL and 7-2-1 overall in 2006 — led league in defense (117)
Lunas were 6-1 in MIL and 9-2 overall in 2007 — led league in defense (113) and offense (396)
Lunas were 6-1 in MIL and 7-3 overall in 2008 — led league in defense (169) and offense (306)
Lunas were 6-2 in MIL and 6-4 overall in 2009 — Tied with Baldwin for second defense (168)
Lunas were 6-2 in MIL and 7-3 overall in 2010 — led league in defense (120)
Lunas were 5-3 in MIL and 7-5 overall in 2011 — led league in defense (154)
Lunas are 7-1 in MIL and 8-1 overall in 2012 — led league in defense (37) and offense (298)
*Point totals are based on overall records