Lunas Rout Kekaulike With Traditional Strengths
By Rodney S. Yap
Fans of Lahainaluna High School football were not disappointed Friday at the official Maui Interscholastic League reveal, where the 2014 early-season model of the Lunas was unveiled at War Memorial Stadium before an estimated crowd of about 2,000.
Lahainaluna received high marks in its season-opening test against King Kekaulike, using its traditional strengths — a powerful running game and stout defense — to effectively control the line of scrimmage and ultimately the 48-7 outcome.
The game served as the MIL regular-season opener for both teams.
The top-ranked Lunas (2-0) extended their overall consecutive win streak to 10, including 16 of the last 17 league games, while
King Kekaulike fell to 1-17-1 against the Westside school in the last decade.
Operating with plenty of familiar faces and names in key positions, Lahainaluna found its comfort zone midway through the first quarter to eventually build a 28-7 halftime lead.
Returning quarterback Makoa Filikitonga ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, while last year’s MIL Offensive Player of the Year Jared Rocha-Islas showed why he pound-for-pound one of the strongest prep football players in the state with his solid red-zone running and short-yardage touchdowns.
At 5 foot, 9 inches, Rocha-Islas was the only MIL athlete and one of only three from more than 200 participants at the 2014 PIAA Under Armour Combine on Oahu who weighed fewer than 200 pounds — 189 lbs. in May — and tested in the bench press using 225. Rocha-Islas’ 10 reps at 225 were ranked among the best at running back.
Defensively, the Lunas held King Kekaulike to 34 yards rushing or 1.1 yards per play. Na Alii finished with 116 total yards, 36 coming on their longest play from scrimmage — a 4th-and-4 pass from quarterback Kawika Homalon to Corry Brown and the 1-yard line. Homalon scored the Upcountry school’s only touchdown three plays later.
Unfortunately Lahainaluna two-way all-star and returning Defensive Player of the Year Connor Mowat was assisted off the field after injuring his knee on the third play of the game. Mowat watched the game from the sidelines afterwards, occasionally using crutches to get around.
Defensively, Lahainaluna was led by linemen Penisimani Taufa and Jayven Paleka-Wright, linebacker Brandon Akina and defensive back Ansen Cabanilla.
Offensively, the Lunas hope to develop a more balance attack in 2014, making more of a commitment to the pass. Evidence of that change in philosophy came right before halftime when the team used its two-minute, no-huddle offense to go 92 yards in 13 plays. Filikitonga made three clutch first-down plays — with his feet and his arm — to preserve the momentum and capped the 3-minute drive with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Isaiah Biga-Rogers.
Cabanilla added a third-quarter touchdown on a 37-yard run and sophomore Kaya Philips-Aki capped the Lunas’ scoring with a 1-yard run with 10:12 left in the game.
The Lunas, ranked No. 1 in three Division II polls across the state, went to the bench in the second half and closed out the game in mercy rule — under a running clock as a result of a 35-point lead.
King Kekaulike had trouble containing the fleet-footed Filikitonga, who finished with 127 yards rushing and 48 yards passing (7-for-13). He extended his MIL streak of at least one touchdown run of more than 50 yards to 11 league games when he broke loose for 54 yards at the 7:23 mark in the second quarter.
The Lunas’ offensive ground game was spearheaded by returning all-star linemen Justin Hong (6-3, 310) and Daniel Sulunga-Kahaialii (6-4, 275), as the Lunas rolled up 31 first downs, including 17 at halftime, and a whopping 474 yards in offense.
King Kekaulike has a bye next week, while Lahainaluna faces Kamehameha Maui, Saturday, Aug. 30, at War Memorial Stadium. Kick off is 7 p.m. (live on ESPN 900AM radio).
LUNAS 47, NA ALII 7
Lahainaluna (2-0)…. 14 ….. 14 ….. 13 ….. 6—47
King Kekaulike (0-2) ….. 0 ……. 7 …… 0 ….. 0—7
LH—Jared Rocha-Islas 1 run (Austin Wagner kick), 7:15.
LH—Makoa Filikitonga 13 run (Wagner kick), 1:32.
KK—Kawika Homalon 1 run (Kawika Akahi kick), 9:58.
LH—Filikitonga 54 run (Wagner kick), 7:23.
LH—Isaiah Biga-Rogers 14 pass from Filikitonga (Wagner kick), :34.
LH—Rocha-Islas 3 run (Wagner kick), 9:31.
LH—Ansen Cabanilla 37 run (kick failed), 1:48.
LH—Kaya Phillips-Aki 1 run (kick failed), 10:12.
* Individual statistics complied by Rob Collias of The Maui News.