Rivalry renewed: Lunas take on very familiar foe for title

Tihada on moving up to Division I: ‘We would love that challenge’

Lahainaluna High School’s Joshua Tihada tries to escape a third-quarter tackle by Roosevelt’s Kevin Davis during the Lunas’ state semifinal win last week. The Lunas take on Kapaa this afternoon in the Division II state championship game at Aloha Stadium. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

LAHAINA — The friendly football rivalry between Lahainaluna and Kapaa high schools renews today at 1:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium with the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state title on the line.

It is a rematch of the 2016 state championship game won 21-14 by the Lunas, who have won 24 of their last 25 games dating back to the final regular-season game two seasons ago.

Lahainaluna has won six straight games in the state tournament and can join Iolani (2007-12) as the only team to win three straight state titles in any division.

“I don’t know if we ever sat down and thought about it,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said. “It’s a whole different team, taking it day by day, week by week. So, we haven’t sat down and talked about wouldn’t it be nice to get a third one or anything like that.”

Lahainaluna beat Kapaa 30-10 in a nonleague game in August on Kauai.

Lunas supporters gather along Lahainaluna Road to cheer for the team as they head to the airport Friday. -- GLEN PASCUAL photo

Last week in their 48-10 win over Roosevelt in the state semifinals, the Lunas lost three fumbles in the first half.

“Ball security, that’s going to be huge for this game because they don’t make very many mistakes, so we cannot make a lot of mistakes,” Tihada said. “They’ve been this way for a long time — they’re so fundamentally sound, very well-coached.”

Tihada said the two teams today — the Lunas are seeded No. 1, the Warriors are No. 2 — know each other well enough that there won’t be any secrets.

“We’ve played each other a lot in the last 10 years,” Tihada said, recalling a 24-0 loss to the Warriors in a state semifinal in 2015. “When we played them that year, I think that was the second time we lost to them, then we lost to them again in the preseason the following year, so that was three losses in a row. Then we beat them (in the 2016 state final), then we beat them again this preseason, so anything can happen.”

The Lunas will start 10 seniors today, five on each side of the ball.

Lahainaluna supporters cheer on the Lunas as they leave the school for the airport Friday. -- GLEN PASCUAL photo

Lahainaluna lost in state finals in 2007, 2012 and 2014 before breaking through. Kapaa has been the runner-up in 2015 and 2016 without ever winning the title.

“We can really, really draw on that,” Tihada said.

Kapaa coach Philip Rapozo said at the coaches media day this week, “We’re excited, I mean we’re blessed that we get to play for another state championship. That’s all you can ask for at this point. If you cannot get up for Lahainaluna, you don’t belong in this tournament. We’re focused, we’re ready to play, for me, the standard of Division II.”

Tihada said there has been talk about the Lunas moving up to Division I as soon as next year.

“We’ve brought that up before,” Tihada said. “We just want to be able to represent Maui. If we’re the best on Maui, we want to represent D-I and we were told that’s not how it’s going to happen. You have to declare early for some odd reason — I’m not too sure why.”

Does a win today perhaps prompt that declaration?

“That’s something we’ve got to sit down and talk about, but we would love that challenge,” Tihada said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

Today’s Games • At Aloha Stadium

Division II championship

No. 1 Lahainaluna vs. No. 2 Kapaa, 1:30 p.m.

Division I championship

No. 1 Hilo vs. No. 2 Waipahu, 4:30 p.m.

Open Division championship

No. 1 Saint Louis vs. No. 2 Mililani, 7:30 p.m.

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