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Lunas’ Tihada steps down after 31 years

Garret Tihada guided the Lahainaluna High School football offense for more than a decade. He announced Friday that he is stepping down as co-head coach. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Garret Tihada has stepped away from Lahainaluna High School football “for at least a year” after 31 seasons as a coach for the program.

The reason he cited was “changes to my personal life that would only allow me to be a part-time coach.” He has been co-head coach and offensive coordinator for more than a decade, including all three of the Lunas’ Division II state title teams in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The decision came after more than a month of trying to work out a plan to allow him to remain as a coach.

“I wouldn’t have to step away completely, but I just don’t think that’s fair to our players and our coaches, being a part-time coach,” Tihada said.

Dean Rickard, a longtime assistant coach for the Lunas, will step into the co-head coach, offensive coordinator and team spokesman roles for the team, Tihada said.

Garret Tihada

Tihada said his decision was “not too hard at all, actually. Obviously, I am going to miss the kids and I am going to miss the coaches, but at the same time I will still see a lot of them around. I am still going to be involved with the team, we don’t really know what ways, (perhaps) fundraising.”

Tihada will still keep his hand in the offense that he has helped develop.

“I may be in the box upstairs during the games,” Tihada said. “I definitely will stop off at practice once in a while. I just won’t be on the field.”

Tihada laughed when asked how long he has been coaching the Lunas’ program. He started doing so soon after his 1987 graduation from the school.

“Too long, just what, 30, 31 years,” Tihada said. “Since just a little while after I graduated.”

Lahainaluna High School football co-head coach Garret Tihada (foreground) announced Friday that he is stepping away from the program after 31 years as a coach. Tihada has been the offensive coordinator for three state championship teams. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

He leaves the program that has won every Maui Interscholastic League Division II title since 2007 and has run through the league with 8-0 records each of the last two seasons.

The ascension to the top of the MIL has not come by accident, according to Tihada.

“As soon as Coach (Bobby) Watson implemented pretty much year-round weight room and then we got the Big Boys program going, we got speed and quickness, once we got all of that in place it was limitless, basically, what the team could do,” Tihada said. “Coach Watson did a great job of getting all of that in place.”

The $9.2 million on-campus Sue Cooley Stadium that was completed just a few years ago now stands as one of the best high school football facilities in the nation.

“It’s awesome to have that stadium,” Tihada said.

Tihada said his relationships with coaches around the league will be something he will miss.

“I will miss it a lot, but I will see them a lot, too,” Tihada said of his Lunas’ colleagues. “I want to say this, too: I don’t know if you’re just talking about the Lahainaluna coaches, but even the MIL coaches.

“I just appreciate over the years the type of camaraderie that the MIL has. We’re all willing to help each other’s kids and even in our meetings, everybody’s cordial, we all get along. It’s a great, great situation right now that we have in the MIL as far as how the coaches get along.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.