Lunas’ MIL Gridiron Success Measured On Team Concept

September 26, 2016, 5:57 AM HST · Updated September 26, 5:57 AM
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Lahainaluna's swarming defense gang-tackles Maui High running back Hanisi Lotulelei (34). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna’s swarming defense gang-tackles Maui High running back Hanisi Lotulelei (34). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

By Rodney S. Yap

While the Lahainaluna High School football team has enjoyed some outstanding individual efforts this season, none compares to the team effort the Lunas have demonstrated in September.

Saturday was no exception, as Lahainaluna showed Maui Interscholastic League Division I opponent Maui High that players working together do more work than if their individual efforts were added together.

It’s been Lahainaluna’s blueprint for success on the gridiron for years: the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. And players who buy into the Aristotle synergy, are fundamentally agreeing to practice the culture the Lunas’ longtime coaching staff teaches.

Lahainaluna's Bailey Honda (3) follows his lead block and tries to get around Maui High's defensive pursuit. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna’s Bailey Honda (3) follows his lead block and tries to get around Maui High’s defensive pursuit. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

The familiar team concept is also the lone common denominator among all of Lahainaluna’s championship teams.

Like musicians working together, feeding off one another, creating more than they would or could by themselves, Lahainaluna orchestrated a 17-9 victory over Maui High at War Memorial Stadium.

The win, before an estimated crowd of 3,500, was the Lunas’ third MIL overall win and second straight since nearly upsetting MIL defending champion Baldwin three weeks ago at home.

Lahainaluna's Donavan Defang (21) decides to keep the ball instead of handling it off to teammate out ofthe "Wildcat" formation. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna’s Donavan Defang (21) decides to keep the ball instead of handling it off to teammate Elijah Ragudo (24) out of the “Wildcat” formation. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Senior Justice Tihada ran for two first-half touchdowns as the Lunas led 14-0 at halftime. Tihada rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries and the Lunas finished with 298 yards rushing. In all, 11 different Luna players carried the ball, including seven in the first quarter. Junior quarterback Bailey Honda was perhaps the most effective, picking up 85 yards on only seven carries.

Understanding the Lunas’ winning concept is easy, replicating the process has proven to be illusive and ultimately the most difficult challenge year in and year out.

This particular Lahainaluna team was average and arguably underachieving until the Lunas’ leadership chose to implement the best plays from three different offensive schemes. Utilizing all of their skilled players, the Lunas rotate their base Wing-T formation with a quarterback behind center and the Single-Wing formation with an unbalanced line that often features another lineman on the strong side of the formation who essentially is eligible to catch a pass as a tight end. The third scheme is the Wildcat, which features three backs out of the shotgun.

Maui High's Feleti Afemui (17) knocks the ball loose from behind , while chasing Lahainaluna runner Donavan Defang in second-half action Saturday. Photo y Rodney S. Yap.

Maui High’s Feleti Afemui (17) knocks the ball loose from behind , while chasing Lahainaluna runner Donavan Defang in second-half action Saturday. Photo y Rodney S. Yap.

The Sabers’ defense shut down the Lunas early in the second half and turned a safety midway through the third quarter into its first points of the game.

Lahainaluna’s defense managed to preserve the victory, shutting down Maui High’s ground game in  the second half, after Saber running back Hanisi Lotulelei ran for 118 yards — but no touchdowns — in the first two quarters of play.

`The Sabers eventually scored an offensive touchdown against the Lunas’ defense — after being denied the end zone for seven consecutive quarters — when backup quarterback Kainalu Tancayo lobbed a 16-yard pass to LJ Lindsey on fourth down.

Maui High wide receiver LJ Lindsey grabs this pass from Kainalu Tancayo against Lahainaluna's double coverage for the Sabers' lone touchdown Saturday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Maui High wide receiver LJ Lindsey grabs this pass from Kainalu Tancayo against Lahainaluna’s double coverage for the Sabers’ lone touchdown Saturday. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

But Maui High never really threatened to score again, unable to take advantage of turnovers due to a host of drive-killing penalties and dropped balls.

Lahainaluna would eventually sealed the deal with a 10-play drive midway through the fourth quarter that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Haaheo Au.

Saturday’s Scoring Summary

LUNAS 17, SABERS 9

At War Memorial Stadium

Lahainaluna 7 7 0 3—17

Maui High 0 0 2 7—9

First Quarter

LH—Justice Tihada 2 run (Haaheo Au kick), 4:17

Second Quarter

LH—Tihada16 run (Au kick), 0:42

Third Quarter

MH—Safety, Dean Miyamoto tackled in end zone after bad snap from center, 5:45

Fourth Quarter

MH—LJ Lindsey 16 pass from Kainalu Tancayo (Kalia Kapisi kick), 10:49

LH—Au 22 field goal, 6:36

JV Result: Lahainaluna 21, Maui High 8

WARRIORS 38, NA ALII 0

Kamehameha Maui’s Damon Martin scored three touchdowns and rushed for 247 yards on 21 carries to lift the Warriors to a 38-0 rout of King Kekaulike Friday at Kanaiaupuni Stadium.

The homecoming victory was the Warriors second in MIL play, while winless King Kekaulike fell to 0-5.

Baldwin celebrates its homecoming against KS-Maui on Friday, Sept. 30, at War Memorial Stadium, while King Kekaulike host Maui High on Saturday, Oct. 1. Both games begin at 7 p.m. and can be heard live on Maui’s ESPN AM900.

Friday’s Scoring Summary

At Kanaiaupuni Stadium

King Kekaulike 0 0 0 0—0

KS-Maui 6 11 7 14—38

First Quarter

KM—Damon Martin 14 run (kick failed), 7:57

Second Quarter

KM—Martin 11 run (Nathan Facuri pass to Kainoa Sanchez), 8:18

KM—Kealaula Keliikoa 28 field goal, 2:03

Third Quarter

KM—Martin 69 run (Keliikoa kick), 11:38

Fourth Quarter

KM—Tristan Catan 8 run (Keliikoa kick), 8:59

KM—Tyerell Baldonado-Kaleiopu 53 run (Keliikoa kick), 5:47

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