Maui Sports

Final Thoughts: Coach Tihada Reflects on Season

November 28, 2012, 9:06 AM HST
* Updated November 29, 10:23 AM
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Lahainaluna assistant coach Kekoa Mowat (left) and co-head coach Garret Tihada at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Glen Pascual.

By Rodney S. Yap

Maui Now caught up with Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada for a final season-ending, question-and-answer interview. Below is Tihada’s very candid responses. Tomorrow we will give you Lahainaluna co-head coach Bobby Watson’s reaction to the same questions. Like Tihada, Watson’s remarks are very thought provoking coming from someone who has strolled the Lahainaluna sidelines for 28 years.

Tihada is also Lahainaluna’s offensive coordinator.

Lahainaluna fell short of its attempt to win the Hawaii High School State Division II Football Championship on Friday, Nov. 23, against six-time state champion Iolani, 36-33, at Aloha Stadium. The Lunas also loss to Iolani for the title in 2007, 28-21.

The Lahainaluna Nation in red at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Glen Pascual.

Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on the game, can you share some of your thoughts, some of the things that come to mind when you think back on the game?


“A lot of the same thoughts. We knew that night that we let it slip away. In the end we thought we would come down and at the very least kick a field goal to force overtime. Again, we let it slip away. We had the game won on more than one occasion. If we could have just sustained that second to last drive that we had, make a first down, we would have won.


“And the interception. If we had held onto that ball . . .  nothing that we didn’t know that night.”

If you could change one thing that you did on Friday, what would it be?

“I think I would have gone for it on fourth down of our first possession. We ended up punting the ball into their end zone and we were in their territory, I know it was early in the game and stuff, but I think we should have gone for it. After that they went up 15-0 on us and it might have changed things a little bit if we went up first. If anything, that’s the one thing I would have changed . . . it was weighing heavily on my mine at the time.”

Lahainaluna’s Kiko Kolher-Fonohema (2) and Connor Mowat (54) hold hands with teammates to sing the school’s alma mater following their defeat to Iolani last week Friday at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Glen Pascual.


What’s the next goal, the next thing you’d like to see Lahainaluna accomplish?

“The kids want to get back at it and start preparing for next year. It’s the same thing from last year after the Waipahu loss, they want that feeling again.

“I haven’t really thought of that. It depends on what they do over the offseason. If they dedicate themselves to winning and preparing then we will get it done. Every year we hear the same thing from the kids: ‘I’m going to the weight room, I’m going to get stronger.’ When you get that kind of talk and then that kind of follow-through action during the season, and you get the talent on top of that, it makes things pretty exciting.”

Although you loss, is there something you can take away for a game like this?

“I think we have to prepare our kids a little better, both offensively and defensively. There were things on both side of the ball that we could have done better.

Iolani’s quarterback Reece Foy was most dangerous when he rolled out of the pocket and scrambled in the open field?

“Oh most definitely, all their big plays came off plays like that — on third downs. You can tell they work on that scramble drill. They know exactly where to go when he scrambles and find the open areas.”

Lahainaluna fans were armed with signs and ready at last week’s championship game with Iolani. Photo by Glen Pascual.

Tell me about your fans and the Lahaina community, what was it like to see that sendoff and welcome they gave the team, as a former player and now coach?

“The send off was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that, with that much people cheering. That was totally unexpected. I know we have a good following, and this might sound ignorant on my part, but I don’t really know why. We go out there and coach and the kids go out there and play — and that’s it — I really don’t understand it other than the fact that these people really, really love football and Lahainaluna.

“I know we don’t do anything to deserve all that we got from the community. I know a lot of people saw the video and stuff, and even for the people who were there, it was hard to get the full impact, unless you came down from the top to the bottom and saw how much people were there, how much little kids, people holding flashlights, signs, waving. I hope somebody video taped it from the top to the bottom, because it was just crazy, crazy, chicken skin the whole way.”

Tihada recalled a day-time version of a similar sendoff in 2007, adding:  “We had people out there with signs like that, but this one was bigger. And for the time of night, we left the school at around 9 o’clock, you’d think people had better things to do at 9 o’clock on Thanksgiving than to sit outside and wave at us, but they came out and it was incredible.”

An emotional moment, following their loss to Iolani last Friday at Aloha Stadium, Lahainaluna captain Tytus Lucas (32) sings the school’s alma mater with his teammates. Photo by Glen Pascual.

What was your proudest moment?

“The farewell was probably it. Everything else were things that we do all the time, preparing for the game and traveling, the kids have to work with each other to grab the bags, counting all the bags and stuff. With the leaders we had this year, everything was automatic and stuff. We had great leadership.

As coaches, rarely during the whole year did we have to stop practice and talk to the kids after practice about discipline and hard work. Generally, the more we have to talk to the kids about that, the worst our season is.”

Is this the best team Lahainaluna has ever produced, how would you rank this team?

“That’s a hard one because all of these teams are so different. But if you want a flat out number, from what I’ve seen — and Coach Watson and my dad (Lanny) have been around a lot longer and seen so much other teams — but personally, maybe first, and at the very worse a close second to the ’97 team.”

Is Coach Watson considering retirement, is there a timetable for him stepping down?

“I’m hoping he’s not cause we are not ready for him to leave yet. He has talked about it over and over again. He has not had that serious sit down, to tell us he’s done, but he has asked us to let him know when we’re ready for him to go.

“Good luck with that one Coach,” Tihada said to Watson.

Lahainaluna fans line Lahainaluna Road as the Lunas’ team bus returns to the school the day after the game on Oahu. Photo by Glen Pascual.

Is there something left on Coach Watson’s bucket list to accomplish?

“The man is very intelligent and he’s pretty well verse in a lot of different areas. I remember we were driving on the Big Island after having camp there for a week and we were driving back into town and we got to talking about the Eucalyptus trees and for whatever reason he started talking about the Eucalyptus trees and explaining to us about it for 20 minutes — it was amazing!”

What’s the next goal, the next thing you’d like to see Lahainaluna accomplish?

“When we got back and things finally got back to the way it supposed to be in terms of our offseason. We didn’t get a 100% last year and we definitely could have done better, but it was certainly better than recent years. So that’s a goal right there. And it’s not all about just getting back to states. Like we told those kids that came at 6 a.m. every morning over the offseason, ‘You guys have already won. Every single one of you figured out the secret to success — outwork everybody else — that is the ultimate goal. And these kids will turn out to be the kind of young men we want them to be, disciplined and productive citizens.

“Every school has the same blue print, I don’t care what school you go to, every single one has a blue print for success. We’ve always had it for a long time, its just a matter of everybody buying into it, from coaches to players.”

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