Lahainaluna puts focus on balance
After getting past Iolani, title game with Konawaena awaits
The Lahainaluna High School football team vanquished one of the state’s top passing offenses Friday night by beating Iolani in the First Hawaiian Bank Division II Championship semifinals at War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku.
On Nov. 18, the Lunas will face another of the state’s best air attacks when they play Konawaena in the title game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Lahainaluna earned its berth in the final by holding on for a 35-27 win over the Raiders after leading 35-10 at halftime. Iolani’s Tai-John Mizutani had 204 of his 290 passing yards in the final two quarters, while the Lunas had 13 of their 17 first downs in the first half.
“I wish we could have helped out the defense a little more in the second half, get a little more first downs, put up at least one score,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said after the win.
“We cannot be playing one half of football, but I’m glad we got what we had in the first half — 35 came in really handy.”
The defending champion and top-seeded Lunas will be in the D-II state final for the fifth time in 11 years when they face the second-seeded Wildcats, who beat No. 3 Waipahu 53-50 in the other semifinal.
“It’s nice to have all those accolades, but it means nothing,” Tihada said. “We’ve got to play one game at a time. It doesn’t matter who we face, but we cannot be doing this. We’ve got to be way more consistent — it’s been a problem all year. It’s something we’ve got to really, really work on.”
Konawaena’s Austin Ewing was 30-for-53 for 370 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions against Waipahu. He has passed for 2,193 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions overall this season, according to scoringlive.com.
The Lunas had 377 rushing yards against the Raiders — 299 in the first half — and the only pass they threw in the game was incomplete. Joshua Tihada ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns, while Elijah Ragudo added 139 rushing yards and a score.
“I just wanted to put my team in the best position I could,” Joshua Tihada said. “It’s going to feel great to have the opportunity to defend our title in two weeks.”
The Lunas are the lone Maui Interscholastic League team still in title contention. Maui High was eliminated from the Division I tournament with a 26-7 loss to top-seeded Hilo at Wong Stadium on Saturday.
The Sabers, who were making just their third trip to the state tournament since it began in 1999, have 34 players who made the trip to the Big Island eligible to return next season.
“We came out and we balled out, did our best to execute plays,” said junior linebacker Atu Falekaono. “We just need to improve on everything and just come out and play ball. It’s motivation for next year.”
Sophomores Naia Nakamoto and Solomone Tongi combined to run for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns in the MIL season. Nakamoto added 126 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown, against the Vikings.
“I told them, ‘We’ve got a lot of freshmen, sophomores, juniors. We’re going to battle next year to be back here.’ “ said Sabers coach Rodney Figueroa. “We know how it is to get here. I told them Hilo took three years to build to get to where they wanted to go, to that state championship game. And we’re going to build towards that.’ “
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships
D-II semifinal: Lahainaluna 35, Iolani 27
D-II semifinal: Konawaena 53, Waipahu 50
D-I semifinal: Damien 13, Kauai 10
D-I semifinal: Hilo 26, Maui High 7
Friday, Nov. 10
At Aloha Stadium
Open semifinal: Waianae vs. Kahuku, 4:30 p.m.
Open semifinal: Saint Louis vs. Mililani, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 18
At Aloha Stadium
D-II final: Lahainaluna vs. Waipahu, 2 p.m.
D-I final: Damien vs. Hilo, 5 p.m.
Open final: Waianae-Kahuku winner vs. Saint Louis-Mililani winner, 8 p.m.