Kaiser halts Lahainaluna
WAILUKU – The best regular season in program history ended in disappointment for the Lahainaluna High School football team Saturday night.
The top-seeded Lunas lost for the first time in 11 games, 20-9 to fourth-seeded Kaiser in a First Hawaiian Bank Division II semifinal before about 9,000 fans at War Memorial Stadium in a defensive battle that left Lahainaluna (10-1) one game short of its third state championship game appearance.
The Cougars (12-1) will meet Kauai in the D-II state championship game next Saturday at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. No. 3 Kauai defeated No. 2 Iolani, the six-time defending champion, 28-7 on Oahu.
“As advertised, big, strong, fast – they are the
real deal,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said of Kaiser. “I wish them luck next week.”
The Cougars erased a 9-7 halftime deficit with a pair of touchdown runs by Fitou Fisiiahi in the third quarter.
After a 20-yard punt gave Kaiser the ball on its 47-yard line, Fisiiahi, a 6-foot, 235-pound fullback, broke free through the middle and went 44 yards to give the Cougars a 13-9 lead. After an 18-yard punt, he scored from 1 yard out to cap a 39-yard, six-play drive with 2:53 left in the quarter.
Kaiser had a 174-36 advantage in third-quarter yards. Fisiiahi finished with 76 yards on nine carries. Thomas Boutenbah-Leong ran for 91 yards on 19 carries and Canaan Saole had 84 yards on 10 carries.
“Our defense did a good job,” Tihada said. “We just couldn’t keep them off the field. They have a couple really good running backs. We couldn’t move the ball, we couldn’t do anything offensively. We left our defense in a bad situation all night by keeping them on the field.”
The Cougars committed 15 penalties for 163 yards. The Lunas were flagged 10 times for 91 yards in the hard-hitting game.
Kaiser plans on moving to the Red Division – Division I – next year in the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
“I will tell you what, this (Lahainaluna) team – I said it all week long – we deserve to be in the Red Division and so do they,” said Cougars coach Rich Miano. “They are strong, they are athletic, they are tough, they are well-coached. We knew this would be our toughest game.
“Coming over here to Maui, this was a great challenge and these guys are awesome.”
With less than five minutes left in the game, the Lunas lost quarterbacks Makoa Filikitonga, Kiko Kohler-Fonohema and Kawika Kinimaka on back-to-back-to-back plays. Kohler-Fonohema left the game in an ambulance after a tackle at the end of a 19-yard run that drew a flag on the Cougars for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Kohler-Fonohema walked a few steps toward the Lahai-naluna sideline before crumpling to the turf, but waved a shaka to the crowd before entering the ambulance strapped to a backboard. Filikitonga appeared to have suffered an injury near his shoulder one play earlier and did not return.
Kinimaka appeared to hurt a knee and was carried off the field by teammates. He left with a heavy knee brace on.
Jared Rocha-Islas, the leading rusher and scorer in the MIL, left in the first half on crutches with an apparent ankle injury. He had 63 yards and a touchdown on five carries
“Kiko had movement,” Tihada said. “I’m hoping, but I think it was more precautionary than anything else. Makoa had something that started with his head and went down to his collarbone area – we have got to wait and see on that one. Kinimaka is a knee.”
Tihada said Rocha-Islas may have suffered a fractured ankle.
“We missed Jared for sure,” Tihada said. “Like we say every year, it is the guys up front. They were just a little bigger, stronger, faster than us. Those front-four guys did a hell of a job for Kaiser.”
Lahainaluna bounced out to a 7-0 lead on a 49-yard run by Rocha-Islas midway through the first quarter, but Kaiser immediately tied the game when Boutenbah-Leong returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for
Late in the first quarter, the Lunas drove from their own 14-yard line to the Cougars’ 1, but were then thwarted on two straight runs by Kohler-Fonohema and a sack of Filikitonga. Rocha-Islas’ 25-yard field-goal try was blocked and Kaiser took over at its own 4.
On fourth-and-11 in punt formation, Fisiiahi was caught in the end zone for a safety by Connor Mowat after a bad snap with 6:59 left in the half.
After the free kick, Rocha-
Islas fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and Kaiser’s Ocean Ku-au recovered on the Lahainaluna 24. On the next play, Fisiiahi fumbled and the Lunas’ Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa recovered.
The Lunas were unable to get a first down and Kaiser took over on the Lahainaluna 36 after a 19-yard punt.
On second down, a shotgun snap sailed over the head of Kahoalii Karratti for a 32-yard loss. The Lunas reached the 35, but could go no further before the clock ran out.
“It hurts right now, stings,” said Tihada, who led the team to the first 10-0 regular season in school history. “But we will look back at this later on and see that we had a decent season, but right now it really doesn’t feel good. We will get over it, we will get back in the weight room and start again next year.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
RUSHING-Kaiser, Boutenbah-Leong 19-91, Canaan Saole 10-84, Fitou Fisiiahi 9-76, Kahoalii Karratti 3-31. Lahainaluna, Makoa Filikitonga 24-69, Jared Rocha-Islas 5-63, Kiko Kohler-Fonohema 8-50, Christian Whitehead 2-23, Nathaniel Hapakuka-Nunuha 1-3, Kawika Kinimaka 1-1, Ansen Cabanilla 2-(-2), Jeffery Ancog 3-(-9), Chris Kaniho 2-(-12).
PASSING-Kaiser, Kahoalii Karratti 3-12-1-37. Lahainaluna, Makoa Filikitonga 3-8-0-8.
RECEIVING-Kaiser, Butenbah-Leong 2-30, Curt Clivio 1-7. Lahainaluna, Kohler-Fonohema 1-7, Amateo Flores 1-6, Whitehead 1-(-5).