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Unbeaten, unscored upon, Lunas still get no respect

October 1, 2012 - Robert Collias
It is beginning to baffle me, but as the Lahainaluna High School football team continues to roll through what is the unquestioned best Neighbor Island league in the state, the Lunas continue to draw very little respect.

I cannot recall any defense in the 22 years that I have been covering the MIL that has posted five straight shutouts as the Lunas have in rolling up their 6-0 overall, 5-0 MIL slate so far. Lahainaluna is, btw, one of only two unbeaten teams in the state (No. 1-ranked Kahuku is the other after a 31-6 romp over previous No. 2 Farrington on Saturday).

Now, please don't think I am putting the Lunas in the class of Kahuku — two very different animals, which is why we have Division I and Division II — but there is no question Lunas should be ranked in the state's top-10 polls (of which there are two, and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

I vote in both polls and this is how I sent in my ballot(s) earlier this afternoon: 1. Kahuku, 2. Punahou, 3. Farrington, 4. Mililani, 5. Saint Louis, 6. Kamehameha Kapalama, 7. Iolani, 8. Lahainaluna, 9. Leilehua, 10. Waianae.

The scoringlive power rankings for week 8 came out this evening and the Lunas are 12th, behind No. 10 Iolani and Radford among Division II teams. Now, I have no argument with five-time defending state D-II champion Iolani being the top-ranked team in the division, but I also have no doubt that the Lunas would beat Radford on a neutral, home or away venue. With five points total from the 16 pollsters, the Lunas just aren't drawing much of their due credit.

Baldwin, the seven-time defending MIL overall champion and a seven-time state D-I semifinalist, has always climbed in the state rankings — reaching No. 2 a couple of times — as it rolled through the MIL. The Bears have also garnered a No. 2 seed in the big school state tournament on two different occasions.

The Star-Advertiser poll (I won't link it here because it is a pay-for-view site) has had Konawaena — a 43-40 loser to Iolani in the preseason — ranked in the top 10 for most of the season, including last week (this week's results will come out Tuesday).

That, in my mind, is ridiculous when one considers these facts: A young Luna team that went just 5-3 in the MIL last season beat an 11-1 Konawaena team in a state playoff game 23-6 just 10 months ago; Kona plays in the BIIF, which any way you want to slice it, does not measure up to the MIL, ever; Kona lost by far its best player to graduation and the UH roster in linebacker Mike Andrade.

To expand, the BIIF has never won a state playoff game, D-I or D-II, in the 13-year history of the event and before that, the Big Island league never won a title in the Neighbor Island Football Championship series, which ran for 11 seasons prior to the inaugural state tournament. Kona has run up impressive numbers in the BIIF this season, including an 86-0 win over Ka'u and a 76-0 victory over Kohala (don't know quite how that is possible with the state's mercy rule running clock), but it did the same thing last season when the Lunas smoked 'em.

Kona beat Maui High 38-17 in the preseason on the Big Island, the Lunas handled Maui High 41-0 last week at War Memorial Stadium. Kona does have four transfers from Kealakehe on this season's team, but the Lunas played without their top two quarterbacks, including starter Kiko Kohler-Fonohema, and still beat up the Wildcats, snagging seven interceptions. Kohler-Fonohema missed that playoff game with a broken jaw, but is back now and getting better every week.

Kona, which was recently docked four wins due to the use of an ineligible player (only one in league, however), is now in a dogfight for the BIIF D-II title, tied with Kamehameha Hawaii and Honokaa, all at 4-1. Kona struggled past KS-Hawaii 16-3 this weekend — Lahainaluna hasn't had a close game in a much better league all season in rolling up a 180-0 scoring bulge over the MIL. With an average 36-0 margin of victory, however, the Lunas do have respect for their opponents — no win has seen more than 42 Luna points on the scoreboard.

The only time Lahainaluna has given up points — in a 35-14 win over Keaau on the Big Island Aug. 17 — one of the touchdowns surrendered came on an interception return and the other was on a 21-yard drive after a turnover. Keaau is a BIIF D-I team and will not face Kona this season.

Lahainaluna leads the MIL in offensive and defensive yardage and those margins will only grow after the Lunas outgained King Kekaulike 393 yards to 60 in Friday night's 42-0 win. Coming into this weekend, the Luna D had given up less than half the yardage as No. 2 MIL defense Baldwin (318 yards to 696).

My point here all comes down to this crucial fact: The D-II state playoffs will have two teams receive first-round byes, one of which will most assuredly and deservedly go to Iolani.

If Kona draws the No. 2 seed over Lahainaluna, it will, IMHO, be a travesty. It will also, however, give the probable third-seeded Lunas (in that scenario) the chance to go to the Big Island and show the state what it has been ignoring.


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