Fans Give Lunas Boost With Send off to Div. II Finals
By Rodney S. Yap
Football is big in the small town of Lahaina in West Maui.
MIL Division II Championships are annual rites of passage at Lahainaluna High School in November, and so are trips to Aloha Stadium. Although the Lunas have only played the-day-after Thanksgiving one other time, in 2007 when they lost to Iolani 28-21, they may have started a new tradition.
At about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the players and coaches were bused from campus down Lahainaluna Road en route to Kahului Airport with police and fire-engine escort. Lahainaluna football fans, parents and students line the half-mile trek along the sidewalk near the intermediate school to the railroad track at the bottom of the hill, holding banners, waving signs and screaming encouragement at the bus as it drove by. Lights were flashing on the police and fire department vehicles as well as their sirens as the entourage got closer to the end.
Minutes after the experience, Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada posted this on Facebook: “Thank you to all the people who lined Lahainaluna Road and cheered as we headed to the airport. That was an unreal sight to see. Major chicken skin. I’m very PROUD to be a LUNA! Thank you!”
Fans also posted pictures and video of the experience, recapturing the intensity of the prideful moment as fans screamed their support. The message from the powerful video clearly shows an appreciative Lahaina community all-in.
Maui Interscholastic League Division II champion Lahainaluna (9-1) will face top-seeded Iolani (8-3) in the First Hawaiian Bank State Division II Championship today at Aloha Stadium, beginning at 4 p.m.
Both the Division II game and the subsequent Division I championship between No. 1 Kahuku and No. 2 Punahou will be available on OC16 via pay-per-view. You can order via your digital remote on channel 260 or HD 1260. Or call 643-3333. Today’s game-day price is $29.95 on Oahu and $14.95 for the Neighbor Island. Web PPV is via www.oceanic.com and cost is $10. The price includes both games.
The Division I championship is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
The Lahainaluna coaching staff kept the same travel itinerary from last week when the Lunas defeated Nanakuli in the first semifinal game 28-0.
The Lunas were aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 515, arriving in Honolulu at 11:30 p.m. After taking a bus to the team’s hotel and getting their room assignments, the players were unpacking around 12:30 p.m.
The coaches encouraged the players to slept in late this morning. They would meet for bunch at about 10:30 a.m. After returning to the hotel they would meet with the coaches for final instructions and game plan. They will be bused to Aloha Stadium around 2:30 p.m., giving them an hour of pre-game warmups before kick off.
The late-night travel — when Honolulu is half asleep — proved to be perfect as it allows the team to avoid transportation issues and an over-crowded lobby at the hotel, making for a stress-free transition.
The team travels well as plenty of its loyal followers regularly make this trip to the state tournament.
The last time Lahainaluna ended its football season with a championship victory against an outer-island opponent was 1997, when Lunas’ quarterback Jensen Medeiros led his teammates to the biggest win in school history. Lahainaluna beat Waimea 42-14 and Medeiros was instrumental on both sides of the ball. Defensively, his two interceptions were huge drive-killers and momentum builders, at the same time.
Collectively, the 2012 version of the Lunas are more talented, stronger and faster than perhaps any previous Lahainaluna champion. The 1997 team finished with 11 straight wins, also a school record.
Only one team can end its season with a victory. On Friday, the Lunas can make history, joining King Kekaulike as the only MIL teams to win a state football championship.
Imagine the Lunas’ return trip to the school if they win and the fans lined up on Lahainaluna Road to welcome them — that’s about as big as football can be in a small town like Lahaina.