Lahainaluna Rallies to Beat Kamehameha Maui, 20-14
By Rodney S. Yap
The last time Dylan Delatori played quarterback was his freshman season three years ago.
On Friday, the Lahainaluna High School senior played the position with the poise and precision of a veteran, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Ronnie Espiritu, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter to beat Kamehameha Maui, 20-14, at Kanaiaupuni Stadium.
The win put the Lunas (2-3) in the driver’s seat for the Maui Interscholastic League Division II second-round championship.
Kamehameha Maui (2-4) beat Lahainaluna 11-7 on Aug. 22 to grab the MIL first-round Div. II title.
If both teams handle their business the rest of the way, an overall playoff game for the division title would take place on Oct. 31.
“I kept calling that play because I kept seeing the drag (route) open underneath and that’s where I thought he was going to throw it,” said Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada. “I had no idea he was going to throw it to the corner. . . . I guess it worked out.”
Like a charm, in fact.
Delatori’s second touchdown toss — a 10-yarder to Espiritu — gave the Lunas’ their first and last lead of the game with 3 minutes, 50 seconds to play.
Espiritu adjusted his route and tempo to the corner of the end zone while battling man-to-man coverage and at the last second he jumped up to catch the ball at its highest point — above the defender, after getting behind him.
“The kid went from no playing time last year to doing a hell of a job for us this year,” said Tihada of Espiritu. “He worked very, very hard over the offseason.”
The Delatori-Espiritu combo also capped the team’s tying touchdown drive to open the second half. Trailing 7-0 at halftime, Tihada said: “Our seniors really stepped up at halftime and they got really emotional. After all, the bottom line is if we lose this game we’re done for the season.”
So rather than quit, Lahainaluna executed an eight-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with Delatori finding Espiritu from 20 yards out.
Not bad for a quarterback who sat out his sophomore season because of academics, and suffered a concussion at the beginning of the season last year and never really got going.
“He was our No. 3 or 4th quarterback on our depth chart going into the season,” Tihada said of the 5-foot, 9-inch, 155-pound signal-caller. “It came down to ball security for us. And he protects the ball the best.”
Delatori finished 3-for-7 passing for 36 yards and two scores, and ran for 61 yards on 19 carries.
Tihada said high school football is all about “momentum.”
“In the second half we kept making plays to keep the momentum going. Because we actually loss the momentum when we gave up that pick six.”
The Warriors regained the lead 14-7 early in the fourth quarter when safety Kamuela Kaniaupio jumped the route on a flat pass and returned the interception 50 yards for a touchdown. Lahainaluna freshman Etuati Storer threw the pick when he was called in for duty with Delatori fighting cramps on the sidelines.
“The safety did a hell of job. He was playing really, really high and made that play,” Tihada noted.
Lahainaluna did not stay down for long, blocking a punt four minutes later to get the ball on Kamehameha’s 7-yard line, and tied the score on a 1-yard dive by Ivan Uphold-Pante with 5:32 to go.
“That was huge,” Tihada said of the block punt. “And in the end I thought that was the play of the game right there.
The Warriors jumped out to a 7-0 lead at halftime when Maika’ike English hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kainoa Sanchez with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
Friday’s MIL Scoring Summary
At Kanaiaupuni Stadium
LUNAS 20, WARRIORS 14
Lahainaluna 0 0 7 13—20
KS Maui 7 0 0 7—14
KS—Maikaike English 16 pass from Kainoa Sanchez (Kealaula Keliikoa kick), 3:03.
LH—Ronnie Espiritu 20 pass from Dylan Delatori (Haaheo Au kick), 9:03.
KS—Kamuela Kaniaupio 50 interception return (Keliikoa kick), 9:48.
LH—Ivan Uphold-Pante 1 run (Au kick), 5:32.
LH—Espiritu 10 pass from Delatori (kick failed), 3:50.
*Note: All individual and team statistics complied by Rob Collias of The Maui News.