Take two for Tihadas

Sophomore running back, trio of coaches played big roles in Lahainaluna’s second straight title

Joshua Tihada carries the ball for Lahainaluna High School during a 75-69, seven-overtime win over Konawaena on Saturday at Aloha Stadium in the First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Football Championship title game. MATT HIRATA photo

HONOLULU — After taking a two-touchdown lead on three occasions, the Lahainaluna High School football team suddenly did not look the same.

A member of a Lunas legacy got things back on track.

Joshua Tihada scored five touchdowns and also delivered a critical catch to convert a third-and-long play as Lahainaluna defeated Konawaena 75-69 in seven overtimes on Saturday at Aloha Stadium in the First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Championship final.

The Lunas had been outscored by 22 points in the fourth quarter and the first possession of overtime, then gave up an 8-yard sack and committed back-to-back false starts before an incomplete pass began their first overtime drive.

It was third-and-28 and their hopes of a second straight state title looked lost, but Tihada snagged a 32-yard pass.

Lahainaluna assistant coach Joey Tihada talks with his son Joshua, who scored five touchdowns Saturday and had eight in two postseason games. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

“We just can’t expect things like that,” Tihada said. “I mean, it was a good play, I have to admit. Nice throw and everything, good play call by the coach and we just executed very good.”

Tihada would cap the possession by scoring on fourth-and-1.

The sequence prompted one of what would be many Tihada celebrations around the stadium before the day was through — from Joshua’s grand-uncle Lanny, who was calling plays in the press box, to uncle Garret and father Joey coaching on the field.

Later, the news would reach big brother Justice Tihada, a freshman at the University of Oregon.

“It’s going to be great, I can’t wait,” Joshua Tihada said. “I have to tell him I got two now.”

Lunas teammates Dean Miyamoto (right) and Nyles Pokipala-Waiohu celebrate. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

Joshua Tihada’s final touchdown, from 4 yards out, was the game-winner. The joyful, exhausted reaction that followed — more than four hours after the opening kickoff — left Joey Tihada briefly unable to locate his second-oldest son.

“I was looking for him, but I couldn’t find him,” Joey Tihada said. “I just wanted to hug him. I’m so proud of him. I’m proud of all my boys, and the players that play for me, and all the Lahainaluna kids. But, you know, I’m just a proud dad right now.”

Joshua Tihada ran for 91 yards on 24 carries and totaled 258 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in two postseason games. His nine rushing touchdowns in the regular season led the Maui Interscholastic League. He had 10 carries in the overtimes and also finished with three catches for 75 yards against Kona.

“He’s one great player, and it’s scary because he’s only a sophomore,” said Lahainaluna’s Nyles Pokipala-Waiohu, a junior defensive lineman. “That catch, it’s hard to explain, just a great player.”

Pokipala-Waiohu then looked into the stands and saw the Lunas’ extended family, a sea of red-clad fans.

“This is a very special moment — our fans, our community, this team,” he said. “Just a special feeling that I will remember forever.”

It was a game that left many of the winners nearly speechless.

“Amazing, I don’t think anything like this will ever happen again,” said Lunas’ defensive lineman Koa Evalu-Robinson after recording eight tackles, including a sack and a 7-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Offensive lineman Dalton Lins perhaps summed it up best.

“That’s what Lahainaluna’s all about, is going to the end and pushing hard,” said Lins, one of 23 seniors on the roster. “That was a lot of fun. It got repetitive. If felt like a nightmare out there when they were scoring, but at the end we just got it done.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.