The Maui News 2018 MIL Football All-Stars
Top honors go to Lunas, Saber
The 2018 Maui Interscholastic League football season was memorable for many reasons.
In an MIL season that ended with two familiar division champions, one of the all-time best team defenses and a rare three-peat state-championship team, two record-setting running backs and a first-year defender lead The Maui News MIL All-Star teams.
Maui High School’s Naia Nakamoto ran for 1,353 yards, a single-season league record, and 16 touchdowns. Lahainaluna’s Joshua Tihada was third on the MIL rushing list with 796 yards — to go along with 13 touchdowns — before he rushed for four touchdowns in two state tournament games, giving him a record 14 rushing touchdowns in state tournament games.
The pair of juniors are the choice of the league’s coaches as co-MIL Offensive Players of the Year.
“That’s an honor to me, I’m just super stoked about that,” said Nakamoto, whose father Kevin Nakamoto was a co-MIL Defensive Player of the Year for St. Anthony more than 25 years ago. “I didn’t think it was going to be me — I’m surprised.”
Said Tihada: “I was surprised. I’m just blessed to play with all the guys I get to play with, and Naia’s a great player. To share the award with him, it’s just a great honor — he’s just a great player. I’m just honored to represent Lahainaluna and our community.”
Nakamoto and Tihada are joined on the MIL first-team offense by Lahainaluna linemen Tausinga Hafoka, Ikaika Viela, Taai Galoia, and Joshua McCoy; Kamehameha Maui quarterback Tiliti Adams and wide receivers Karsyn Pupunu and Makani Smith-Kemfort; Maui High offensive lineman Edwin Marcos; Baldwin wide receiver Kapena Kamai; and King Kekaulike’s Trey Hunter (utility).
On defense, the clear pick of the coaches was Lahainaluna senior defensive lineman Apakasi Felemi, who last season was a first-team MIL All-Star as an offensive lineman.
“It’s good to hear, you know, but I couldn’t make it without my team, their help,” said Felemi, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound senior nose guard. “My first year was my sophomore year and I was a center. Last year, I was a guard. … This year the coaches told me I was going to play defense most of the time. I like defense better.”
Felemi is a multi-talented athlete. He finished fourth in the discus and eighth in the shot put at the state track and field meet in May. He played rugby “for my whole life” growing up in Tonga before moving to Maui during the summer before his freshman year.
Felemi is joined on the MIL defensive first team by Lunas defensive linemen Elijah Oliveira-Kalalau and Tuipulotu Lai,
linebackers Nyles Pokipala-Waiohu and Etuati Storer, and defensive back Kaihulali Casco. The other defensive first-teamers are Maui High defensive lineman Viliami Makoni, linebacker Atu Falekaono and defensive back Trent Takara, and Kamehameha Maui linebacker Jayden Delatori, defensive back Kapena Gushiken and Tristan Catan (utility).
The Lunas defense allowed 109 yards per game and surrendered just 13 points defensively in eight MIL games.
They have won 21 games in a row overall over the last two seasons –their 34-32 comeback win over Kapaa in the Division II state championship game was fueled by three second-half touchdown runs by Tihada.
Felemi is one of 21 seniors who leave the Lunas after three straight state titles, something only Saint Louis (2016-18) and Iolani (2007-12) can match.
“Kasi has been one of those guys that always works hard,” Tihada said. “He always keeps our team on point, keeps everyone in place. He’s just a great leader all-around. … He deserves that award.”
Nakamoto accounted for 57.3 percent of the Sabers’ offensive yards in MIL play as he helped Maui High win their second straight D-I league title. His rushing record came in a season when he was the first to break 1,000 yards since three players did it in a 10-game season in 2006.
“That was surprising, too,” he said. “I didn’t know I was going to do that this year — I just have got to thank God for that. I give a lot of credit to my O-linemen, and our receivers, they all work super hard at practice. I have got to give it up to them.”
Kamehameha Maui’s Ulima Afoa was named MIL Coach of the Year by his peers after leading the Warriors to a 6-3 record this season, the best winning percentage in school history.
“It’s definitely a team award,” Afoa said. “Those things don’t happen without the team success. I’m honored … but that’s definitely a reflection of what the team accomplished.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org