Lunas reach state final
Tihada’s three scores help beat Iolani, set up meeting with Konawaena in bid for repeat
WAILUKU — The Lahainaluna High School football team relied on its offense in the first half and its defense in the second to reach the First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Championship final for the fifth time in the last 11 years.
The defending champions beat old nemesis Iolani 35-27 on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium and will play Konawaena in the title game on Nov. 18 at Aloha Stadium.
“We did just enough to win,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said. “We’ve got to be thankful for that.”
Joshua Tihada had three touchdown runs for the Lunas (10-1), who led 35-10 after two quarters but weren’t assured of the win until Kaihulali Casco intercepted a Tai-John Mizutani pass with 1 minute, 36 seconds to play.
“I just want to say thanks to all my O-line, everyone around me,” said Joshua Tihada, who rushed for 167 yards on 29 carries. “We had a great scheme going into the game and we had a good push at the end. Thank God to all my defense. … It all worked out.”
After Mizutani ran for a 6-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 50 seconds to play, Lahainaluna’s Leovigildo Amby recovered the onside kick. The Lunas got a first down on a 1-yard dive by Joshua Tihada on fourth-and-inches before Pablo Rico’s 50-yard field-goal try into the wind was short, giving the Raiders the ball on their own 20-yard line with 2:11 left. Casco’s interception three plays later set off a raucous celebration by Lahainaluna fans.
The Lunas, who had lost all three of their previous meetings with the Raiders in the state tournament, were successful on all three of their fourth-down conversion attempts. Lahainaluna was 5-for-14 on third downs — 1-for-7 in the second half.
Mizutani ran for 137 yards and two scores and passed for 290 yards with a touchdown. He was intercepted twice.
“I was real nervous, you know, that QB was a good scrambler, he’s got running skill and it was kind of hard to defend the passes,” said Lahainaluna defensive back Laakea Shim. “We kind of pulled through at the end.”
The Raiders (4-6) cut the deficit to 35-17 on a four-play, 70-yard drive — Mizutani found Jonah Miyazawa for a 37-yard scoring strike with 9:14 left in the third quarter.
On its next possession, Iolani appeared to have a touchdown when Rayden Kaneshiro caught a 28-yard pass from Mizutani, but a holding penalty nullified the score. Two plays later, Carter Kamana dropped a pass in the end zone, and Mizutani was eventually stopped one yard short of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
On the next play, however, the ball was snapped over the head of Joshua Tihada, who was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
The Raiders reached the Lunas’ 5 on the ensuing possession, but Jake Yokogawa’s would-be touchdown catch on the first play of the fourth quarter was called back by a penalty, and Mizutani was stopped two yards short on fourth-and-11 on the following play.
“Our kids never give up, they keep fighting, that’s all you can ask,” Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “We got off to a hellacious start, and then Lahainaluna, they do what they do. Our kids had good fight. We dug ourselves a big hole and again, they fought their way out of it. Credit, but give them credit, too.
“We had two scores (called back). We just didn’t make plays when we needed to make the plays.”
Iolani’s Mika Makekau kicked a 28-yard field goal to cap the game’s first series.
Later in the first quarter, Koa Evalu-Robinson sacked Mizutani, forcing a fumble that Shim recovered on the Lunas’ 47. Lahainaluna took a 7-3 lead on a 1-yard run up the middle on a direct snap to Joshua Tihada after the takeaway.
After a 63-yard punt, the Lunas went 99 yards in 13 plays the next time they had the ball, pushing the lead to 14-3 on Tihada’s 42-sprint up the middle on third-and-9. Five plays earlier, Tihada ran for 2 yards on fourth-and-1 at midfield.
Lahainaluna stretched the lead to 21-3 on a similar play up the middle — Shim went 39 yards after a quick handoff from Tihada. Three plays before the score, Tihada ran for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Iolani 45.
Iolani needed just 93 seconds to climb within 21-10, on Mizutani’s 9-yard touchdown run with 3:22 remaining in the first half.
The Lunas answered nearly immediately when Elijah Ragudo went 62 yards for a score on third-and-7.
After Etuati Storer intercepted a Mizutani pass at the Iolani 26, the Lunas pushed the lead to 35-10 when Tihada ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left in the first half.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Iolani 3 7 9 8–27
Lahainaluna 7 28 0 0–35
IOL–FG Mika Makekau 28, 8:24.
LL–Joshua Tihada 1 run (Pablo Rico kick), 3:23.
LL–Tihada 42 run (Rico kick), 8:59.
LL–Laakea Shim 39 run (Rico kick), 4:55.
IOL–Tai-John Mizutani 9 run (Makekau kick), 3:22.
LL–Elijah Ragudo 62 run (Rico kick), 1:49.
LL–Tihada 5 run (Rico kick), 0:37.
IOL–Jonah Miyazawa 37 pass from Mizutani (Makekau kick), 9:14.
IOL–Safety, Tihada tackled in the end zone, 1:48.
IOL–Mizutani 6 run (Jake Yokogawa pass from Mizutani), 5:50.
First downs 21 17
Rushes-yards 24-145 64-377
Passing yards 290 0
Total offense 435 377
Return yards 39 15
Comp-Att-Int 26-47-2 0-1-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-43 3-39
Punts-avg 2-50.5 3-30.0
RUSHING–Iolani, Mizutani 19-130, Kaua Nishigaya 5-15. Lahainaluna, Tihada 29-167, Ragudo 18-139, Shim 3-44, Jesse Dudoit 2-14, Aliksa Pihda 4-11, Nainoa Irish 3-8, Lennox Kahahane-Lived 1-3, Taai Galoia 1-2, Team 3-(minus 11).
PASSING–Iolani, Mizutani 26-47-2-290. Lahainaluna, Galoia 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING–Iolani, Miyazawa 13-193, Carter Kamana 6-46, Jake Yokogawa 4-40, Drake Shigemura 1-12, Nishigaya 1-2, Rayden Kaneshiro 1-(minus 3).
MISSED FIELD GOALS–Lahainaluna, Rico 52 (BL), 50 (SH).
FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
D-II semifinal: Lahainaluna 35, Iolani 27
D-II semifinal: Konawaena 53, Waipahu 50
D-I semifinal: Kauai vs. Damien at Vidinha Stadium, 2 p.m.
D-I semifinal: Maui High vs. Hilo at Wong Stadium, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 10
At Aloha Stadium
Open semifinal: Kahuku or Mililani vs. Campbell or Waianae, 4 p.m.
Open semifinal: Saint Louis vs. Kahuku or Mililani, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 18
At Aloha Stadium
D-II final: Lahainaluna vs. Waipahu, 2 p.m.
D-I final: Kauai-Damien winner vs. Maui High-Hilo winner, 5 p.m.
Open final: Semifinal winners, 8 p.m.