Lunas Get Offensive in 28-7 Victory Over Bears
By Rodney S. Yap
This time, it was Lahainaluna High School’s offense — not its signature defense — that set the tempo and ultimately lowered the boom on Baldwin, before a crowd of more than 8,000 at War Memorial Stadium on Friday.
Using their patented no-huddle offense, Lahainaluna engineered back-to-back scoring drives of 86 and 74 yards on its first two possessions of the game. Baldwin blinked one play into the second quarter and found itself trailing 14-0.
“The kids gave us great effort last night,” said Lahainaluna co-head coach Bobby Watson on Saturday, following his team’s 28-7 victory over Baldwin.
While much of the pre-game hype centered around the Lunas’ stingy defense that posted nine shutouts in 14 games dating back to last season.
On Friday the 13th, however, it was Lahainaluna’s offensive that stole the spotlight, particularly the play of starting center Connor Mowat, guards Brandon Kaina and Danniel Sulunga-Kahaialii, and tackles Justin Hong and Pousima Galoia.
Collectively, the Lunas’ offensive front averages 6 feet, 2 inches, 273 pounds, which is the biggest line inside of tight ends Jared Purdy and Connor Rosen-St. John that co-head coach Garret Tihada can remember.
“Lahainaluna hasn’t seen an offensive line this size in a long time. And they move pretty good, too,” added Tihada, who is also the team’s offensive coordinator. “That’s because they’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room and that has helped them a lot.”
Sharing time with Mowat (5-11, 240, Jr.), Kaina (5-11, 215, Jr.), Sulunga-Kahaialii (6-4, 275, Jr.), Hong (6-2, 285, Jr.), and Galoia (6-4, 350, Sr.), are backup guard/tackle Vaituuloa Puteni (6-2, 305, Sr.), and Jordan-Thomas Valmoja-Kaleikini (5-8, 270, Sr.), who plays every line position and relieves Mowat at center when the captain needs a breather.
“Dean (Rickard) and Kekoa (Mowat) do a good job of coaching these kids up and getting them ready during the week, so when they are out there, they are not confused,” Watson said.
In Lahainaluna’s modified Wing-T offense, at least one lineman, and often two, depending on the Lunas’ point of attack, will pull or trap block to the strength of the play and serve as the lead blocker(s).
On Friday, Lahainaluna’s offensive linemen led the way for running backs Jared Rocha-Islas, Christian Whitehead, Kiko Taylor Kolher-Fonohema, and quarterback Makoa Filikitonga. Rocha-Islas led all rushers with 156 yards and a touchdown in 12 carries, while Filikitonga added 150 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts.
“They also spend a lot of time doing sled work and running. From the line to the receivers this group has spent a lot of time in the weight room working on strengthening their core and getting explosive, they have done a really good job on that,” said Tihada.
“If you go back to that ’97 (championship) team or even before that, you can go back to when Dean Rickard was playing. We always knew that if you get in the weight room and get stronger, you’re going to be more successful.”
Baldwin’s defense was on its heels early, bent over and winded, having to stay on the field for almost 10 of the 12 minutes in the first quarter. Lahainaluna rolled up 172 yards and eight first downs in the first quarter, running off 25 plays to the Bears’ six for 20 yards.
In all, Lahainaluna had 480 yards in total offense, 473 on the ground, and 20 first downs.
Tihada also praised the read-and-run playmaking of quarterback Filikitonga.
“We didn’t call lot of pass plays, but when we did, he’s understanding that you don’t have to always throw the ball. He made one wrong decision last night when he should have gotten rid of the ball, but other than that his decision making was a lot better last night than it was against King K.”
Lahainaluna improves to 3-0 in the Maui Interscholastic league, while Baldwin fell to 2-1.
“It hurts when we can’t get everybody in the game, because they (the subs) work just as hard as anybody else,” Tihada said. “We need to clean things up, ball security and penalties, and once we do that I think we will be on the right track.”
Friday’s MIL Game Summary
Baldwin 0 0 0 7—7
Lahainaluna 7 7 0 14—28
LH—Christian Whitehead 2 run (Jared Rocha-Islas kick), 6:11.
LH—Rocha-Islas 1 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 11:36.
BH—Dusty Flores 1 run (Benjamin Wuthrich kick), 11:44.
LH—Makoa Filikitonga 43 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 10:36.
LH—Jeffery Ancog 65 run (Rocha-Islas kick) 1:18.
Junior varsity-Lahainaluna 9, Baldwin 7.