Lunas Paid Their Dues to Be Here in the Semifinals
By Rodney S. Yap
The work that has helped produce the outstanding numbers that have come to define this particular Lahainaluna High School football team started a year ago.
Waipahu had just defeated Lahainaluna 19-15 in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs on Oahu.
“After we loss that game, we pulled all the underclassmen to the side and we gave them an option,” said Lahainaluna defensive backs coach Kenui Watson. “We said if you don’t want to lose next year than we have to get stronger. We returned home from the tournament on Saturday and on Sunday, the boys showed up at the weight room.”
On Sunday Coach Kenui said he was surprised to receive the number of calls he received, from “at least eight individual kids.” The group talked about an off-season training program and the commitment that was expected of each player.
Leading the underclassmen were Tytus Lucas, Mark Alamon, Jeffrey Ancog, Kiko Kolher-Fonohema, Bronson and Brandon Kaina, Jared Rocha-Isalas, Christian Whitehead, Connor Mowat, and Joshua Coston.
Those are the names of the players who will be leading the Lunas on Saturday against Nanakuli, at 4 p.m., in the first of two Division II semifinal games at Aloha Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on OC16, channel 12, ESPN 550AM radio.
“We usually give them a week to take off, but we asked them if they were serious about next year,” Watson said. “They all call me on Sunday, and several of them needed a ride so I picked up a bunch of them.”
“After that Coach Garret (Tihada) wrote down all the lifts he wanted the boys to be doing and they showed up everyday since,” Watson said. “Three core lift days and one free lift day. Most of the kids were into other sports already, like baseball and volleyball, wrestling, but every morning at 6 a.m. they showed up to lift.”
Kenui Watson said, “Every year after our last game we say our goodbyes to the seniors and we always pull the underclassmen to the side. And in the last four years we were eliminated early at states, and every time after we lose the kids get all pumped up
“In the last four years we’ve been stressing to the kids that we will never be as talented as some of the other teams, but we can always outwork our opponents. You can always get yourself a little better prepared physically.”
Watson is from the old school were there is no substitute for hard work, a philosophy he learned at a young age playing for his father, Bobby Watson.
“I remember him telling me, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent is waiting to work hard.’ And it’s always that way. If your the most gifted kid out there but you’re lazy, somebody is going to take your job. We’re also trying to get them ready for life. If you’re lazy and you don’t go to work, you’re going to get fired. You might as well learn now, it might not always be what you want to do, but sometimes you just have to do it.”
Watson said when the group made the commitment, there was an unwritten rule: “No excuses.” In other words, “If you didn’t show up, you were done, you couldn’t come back. It wasn’t an optional thing.”
“Everybody who came in the morning played more than just football. Jeffery (Ancog) did not play football his sophomore year, so the other kids made sure he showed. They felt that if he was going to play, then he needed to show up.”
Other kids jumped in along the way.
“The kids started talking to their friends and on a good day we would have 16 kids there at 6 a.m.,” Bobby Watson said.
“This year we’ve been fortunate to not have any major injuries. I believe it is because of the strength we put on,” Kenui Watson added. “I feel that is the result of the strength that we put on. If the kids did get hurt their bodies seem to heal faster.
“The kids who are naturally strong will always have it, but our overall strength needed to get better. We were behind,” Kenui said.
Four Luna players finished in the top 10 at the 2012 Maui Football Combine.
“The combine showed because we had more guys who were up there. All the kids who were ranked high were those kids who came to the weight room,” Kenui Watson said.
Watson used quarterback Kolher-Fonohema as an example.
“Kiko last year, he was fragile, as he got himself stronger in the weight room I could see his confidence growing. And when they did 225 (bench press) for the first time and to see the smile on his face, you knew how much he had pushed himself to get there.”
“Look at Connor (Mowat) and how well he’s been playing,” Kenui Watson said of his two-way center/nose guard.
“We told them that when the season starts they were going to see the benefits of the hard work they had put in and they all are enjoying the benefits of that hard work today.”