Lahainaluna Earns First Div. II State Football ChampionshipNovember 19, 2016, 2:26 PM HST · Updated November 19, 8:12 PM 0 Comments
Lahainaluna High School used a balanced attack on offense, defense, and special teams Friday to claim the school’s first state Division II football championship since the small-school tournament was organized 14 years ago.
All-three phases of the team contributed points in the Lunas’ 21-14 triumph over Garden-Isle nemesis, Kapaa High School, before a sea of red supporters at Aloha Stadium.
Instead of playing catchup down the stretch, Lahainaluna preserved its one-touchdown advantage in the final seven minutes of the game, as the defense forced a four-and-out, and the offense benefitted from two ill-advised Kapaa penalties that resulted in Lahainaluna first downs in the closing stages of the game.
Kapaa only committed five penalties in the game. However, two of the violations came in the final three minutes, as the Lunas were determined to seal their fate by trusting the ball to sure-handed veteran Donavan Defang. And the fourth-year senior carried the ball four times, squeezing a little more than 3 1/2 minutes off the game clock before being forced to punt with just 13 seconds remaining.
Two plays later, the final gun sounded, triggering a wild celebration by team members and coaches on the field, by long-time loyal supporters in the stands, and throughout the prideful 96761 community on the Westside of the Valley Isle.
The fourth time proved to be the charm, honoring Lahainaluna with the school’s first state Division II football championship. The Lunas finished runner-up to Iolani in 2007, 2012, and 2014.
Ten years ago, King Kekaulike defeated Kauai in the only other all-Neighbor Island finale since the First Hawaiian Bank / Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament was introduced in 2003.
Lahainaluna’s previous best post-season finish was in the 1997 Neighbor Island Football Championship against Waimea of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation. The Lunas went undefeated in the Maui Interscholastic League’s 10-game regular season and finished with 12 wins. Ironically, Lahainaluna’s only loss that year was against the same Waimea team — in the preseason.
The 2016 version of the Lunas took a page from the ’97 playbook avenging a 21-0 loss at home to the Wildcats in September. Lahainaluna finishes 9-4 overall, while Kapaa (8-2) came up short in the matinee championship game for the second straight year. Radford denied the Wildcats a Division II title last year.
Moments after the game, the names of Lahainaluna co-head coaches Bobby Watson and Garret Tihada were inserted into the Division II champions’ column of the HHSAA’s official website at www.sportsHIgh.com.
“These are some very special boys, and I’m just glad I had this chance to play with them,” said Lahainaluna defensive back Siale Hafoka during a TV interview after the game. “I’m just happy we were able to do it for the seniors on this team.”
Hafoka was chosen the Lahainaluna Impact Player of the Game by OC16 and asked to comment on his 22-yard touchdown return that put the first points on the scoreboard, one minute into the second quarter. Sophomore Kupono Kahae-Ampong sparked the special-team’s play by blocking a low line-drive punt off the foot of Kurt Napolean.
“I did the easy part, it was my teammates that set it up for me,” said Hafoka, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior, who also had five tackles and one pass breakup from his defensive back position. “First by blocking the punt and then by leading the way for me. All I did was pick it up and run behind them.”
Hafoka later teamed up with quarterback Etuati Storer on a 39-yard pass-catch that put the ball on Kapaa’s 5-yard line. A rare first-down pass by the Lunas, caught Kapaa’s defense napping, and two plays later Coach Tihada called a double reverse for Kiliona Keohuloa, and the junior alertly ran it into the end zone from seven yards out. The extra-point kick by Pablo Rico put Lahainaluna on top 14-0 with 8 minutes left in the first half.
Two minutes into the second half, junior cornerback Bailey Honda jumped the route on a flat pass attempt and returned the interception 55 yards. The defensive touchdown gave Lahainaluna a commanding 21-0 lead and made the Wildcats’ offense a one-dimensional aerial attack for the remainder of the game.
Before collecting all the championship hardware, Lahainaluna’s Tihada was asked to comment on the team’s stellar defense. The coach said the offense and special teams have always fed off the stout play of the defense,
“The defense didn’t just start playing well this year,” Tihada noted. “Every year for the last 20 years, it’s been our defense that has carried us. And they did it again tonight.”
End Unaloto Pahulu was tied for team highs in tackling with seven, including one behind the line of scrimmage for minus-6 yards and a sack for minus-4 yards. La’akea Shim also had seven tackles, while senior linebacker Josaiah Somblelon-McEwen, and 5-foot-7, 145-pound senior nose guard Hoaka Phillips each had five tackles.
Following the Lunas’ victory the team stayed to watch Mililani defeat Iolani, 31-20, for the First Hawaiian Bank / HHSAA Division I championship.
Tihada said there is going to be a special time and place to celebrate Friday’s championship in the upcoming days and weeks, but the team has to answer a 4 a.m. Saturday wake-up call to make its 6 a.m. return flight to Maui.
“When we get home we can start planning a celebration . . . we have a lot of backers and great fans in Lahaina. Tonight we’re going to watch Iolani play and thank them for not playing in the Division II tournament.”
Iolani made it to the Division I championship game on its first try this year, spreading its wings after eight Division II championships.
Kapaa made a game of it in the second half, starting with a 1-yard run from Kapena Texeira with 6:27 to play in the third quarter and quarterback Teili Fonua connected with Gabe Keener on a 32-yard touchdown reception with 7:04 in the fourth quarter.
Despite all of its efforts, it was too little, too late for the Warriors.
Keener’s play spark the Warriors’ offense and OC16 recognized his efforts by naming him Kapaa’s Impact Player of the Game. Keener had six catches for 88 yards and 147 all-purpose yards.
The Lunas finished with 177 total yards on offense, including 136 on the ground.
Kapaa had 252 yards, 160 via the air, and almost all of it coming after the first quarter. Lahainaluna dominated the time of possession in the first quarter, 8:57 to 3:03.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS . . .
* Kapaa threw on first down 11 times, missing six of its first seven first-down pass attempts. The Warriors broke their slump by targeting #9, who caught three of the team’s last four first-down pass attempts — all for first-down yardage of 12, 10, and 10, respectively.
* The Warriors best offense was the deep balls they threw on 2nd-and-long (8 or more yards). They threw down the field nine times on 2nd-and-long, connecting on six, including four for first-down yardage.
STATE DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP
FRIDAY’S BOX SCORE (Courtesy of www.sportsHIgh.com)
#3 LahainalunaLunas vs #1 Kapaa Warriors (Nov 18, 2016 at Aloha Stadium)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 ScoreLahainaluna Lunas... 0 14 7 0 - 21 Record: (9-4) Kapaa Warriors...... 0 0 7 7 - 14 Record: (8-2)Scoring Summary:2nd 10:59 LAHAINA - HAFOKA, Siale 23 yd blocked punt return (RICO, Pablo kick), , LAHAINA 7 - KAPAA 0 8:01 LAHAINA - KEOHULOA, K. 7 yd run (RICO, Pablo kick), 3-44 1:44, LAHAINA 14 - KAPAA 0 3rd 10:54 LAHAINA - HONDA, Bailey 55 yd interception return (RICO, Pablo kick), LAHAINA 21 - KAPAA 0 6:27 KAPAA - TEXEIRA, Kapena 1 yd run (OLIVER, Clifton kick), 15-90 4:27, LAHAINA 21 - KAPAA 7 4th 7:04 KAPAA - KEENER, Gabe 32 yd pass from FONUA, Teili (OLIVER, Clifton kick), 11-68 3:44, LAHAINA 21 - KAPAA 14 LAHAINA KAPAAFIRST DOWNS................... 8 15RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 42-136 33-92PASSING YDS (NET)............. 41 160Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 4-3-0 27-12-1TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 46-177 60-252Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0 Punt Returns-Yards............ 2-33 1-22 Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 1-8 2-61 Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-55 0-0 Punts (Number-Avg)............ 5-36.8 3-20.7 Fumbles-Lost.................. 0-0 1-0 Penalties-Yards............... 9-73 5-54 Possession Time............... 25:53 22:07 Third-Down Conversions........ 3 of 11 3 of 11 Fourth-Down Conversions....... 1 of 3 2 of 4 Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 1-1 1-2 Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-12 0-0RUSHINGLahainaluna Lunas-PAHULU, Unaloto 2-34; DEFANG, Donovan 8-29; RAGUDO, Elijah 10-27; KAWABATA, David 3-13; KEOHULOA, K. 2-8; TIHADA, Joshua 8-7; SINENCI, Radon 5-7; TIHADA, Justice 1-5; PIHDA, Aliksa 1-5; STORER, Etuati 2-1. Kapaa Warriors-MONIZ, Leighton 13-49; FONUA, Teili 10-18; BANASIHAN, Ryan 5-13; NAPOLEON, Kurt 1-8; TEXEIRA, Kapena 4-4.PASSINGLahainaluna Lunas-STORER, Etuati 3-3-0-41; POKIPALA-WAIOHU 0-1-0-0. Kapaa Warriors-FONUA, Teili 11-23-1-150; NAPOLEON, Kurt 1-3-0-10; TEXEIRA, Kapena 0-1-0-0.RECEIVINGLahainaluna Lunas-HAFOKA, Siale 1-39; KAWABATA, David 1-5; TIHADA, Joshua 1-minus 3. Kapaa Warriors-KEENER, Gabe 6-93; TABURA, Makena 3-32; NAPOLEON, Kurt 2-29; MONIZ, Leighton 1-6.INTERCEPTIONSLahainaluna Lunas-HONDA, Bailey 1-55. Kapaa Warriors-None.FUMBLESLahainaluna Lunas-None. Kapaa Warriors-MONIZ, Leighton 1-0.SACKS (UA-A)Lahainaluna Lunas-PAHULU, Unaloto 1-0; SOMBELON-MCEWEN 1-0. Kapaa Warriors-None.TACKLES (UA-A)Lahainaluna Lunas-PAHULU, Unaloto 7-0; SHIM, La'akea 6-1;SOMBELON-MCEWEN 5-0; HAFOKA, Siale 4-1; PHILLIPS, Hoaka 4-1; PERLAS-KAAI, M. 2-0; STORER, Etuati 2-0; DEFANG, Donovan 2-0; MORITZ, Elijah 2-0; FELICILDA, D. 1-0; TIHADA, Justice 1-0; SINENCI, Radon 1-0; TIHADA, Joshua 1-0; HONDA, Bailey 1-0; FELEMI, Mosese 0-1. Kapaa Warriors-WATANABE, B. 6-1; VALERIA, Izaya 6-0; TEXEIRA, Kapena 5-0; CARVALHO, Mana 4-0; FERNANDEZ, I. 4-0; KUPIHEA, Mana 4-0; PERONO, Raffy 4-0; ASOTASI, Daniel 3-0; BERNABE, Edward 2-0; ABERGAS, Dillon 2-0; RAMSEYERBURDETT 2-0; BROWN, Alii 1-1; FLORES, Kevin 1-0.