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Tihada leads Lunas to victory over Warriors

Lahainaluna overcomes turnovers to improve to 6-0, 2-0 in second round

Lahainaluna High School’s Joshua Tihada is forced out of bounds in the first quarter by Kamehameha Maui’s (from left) Dayven Tonu, Cruz Braun and Tiliti Adams during the Lunas’ 31-17 win Friday night at Kanaiaupuni Stadium. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

PUKALANI — When the going gets tough for the Lahainaluna High School football, it’s time for Joshua Tihada to get going.

The Lunas’ venerable senior running back rumbled for 292 yards on 37 carries — both career highs — to go along with three rushing touchdowns and his first career touchdown pass to lead the Lunas past Kamehameha Maui 31-17 on Friday night at Kanaiaupuni Stadium.

Tihada also had two costly lost fumbles on the night Kamehameha Maui celebrated homecoming in front of a packed house. The result left the Lunas at 6-0 in Maui Interscholastic League play, 2-0 in the Division II second-round race. Kamehameha Maui fell to 3-3, 1-1.

“They came to play,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Dean Rickard said of the Warriors. “It was their homecoming, they showed it, never gave up, their coaching staff prepared them very, very well. They’re ballers, plain and simple. They have a lot of athletic kids out there and actually it’s good to get this type of competition at this point in the season.”

The Warriors scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter to tie the score at 17-17.

Lunas quarterback Esekielu Storer throws a pass.

“Our kids played well, they fought back and (the Lunas) have a good ground game and the idea is to just wear the other guys’ defense down and we got worn out a little bit,” Kamehameha Maui coach Ulima Afoa said. “I was proud that our offense came out and scored some points. It’s just a matter of time.”

The first score came on a 61-yard pass play from Tiliti Adams to Karsyn Pupunu on the second play from scrimmage of the second half.

The Warriors’ defense then rose up to give the ball back to their offense when Ilikea Mossman-Smith recovered a fumble by Tihada that was forced by Adams.

Kamehameha Maui tied the score on a six-play, 64-yard drive that was culminated by a tough 14-yard run up the middle by Teancum Aiwohi with 4:44 to go in the third quarter.

Tihada put the Lunas back ahead 24-17 on a 40-yard jaunt out of wildcat formation with 2:06 to go in the third quarter. That capped a six-play, 67-yard drive that featured five runs by Tihada for a total of 61 yards.

Lahainaluna’s Derek Perez rushes in the first quarter.

The Warriors reached the Lunas’ 7-yard line on the next possession, but Hao Awai missed a 24-yard field-goal try with 11:13 to play.

Tihada’s final touchdown was a 1-yard plunge with 3:41 remaining — the scoring play was the sixth straight time he carried the ball, covering the final 26 yards of an 80-yard, 15-play drive that took 7:32 off the clock. Tihada had 11 carries on the drive for 57 yards.

The Lunas have next week off with a bye. The three-time defending D-II state champions can clinch their 13th straight state tournament berth with a win over King Kekaulike in their next game on Oct. 19 when they celebrate homecoming at Sue Cooley Stadium.

“It’s no secret, ball security will be one of the things we will be working on the next two weeks,” Rickard said. “I’m glad that we have the break coming up so we can concentrate on fixing all the mistakes that we saw tonight.”

Despite fumbling away prime scoring opportunities on their first two possessions, the Lunas took a 17-3 lead into the locker rooms at halftime.

Kamehameha Maui quarterback Tiliti Adams releases a pass on the run.

Brian Sandoval broke the scoring ice with a 39-yard field goal to put Lahainaluna on top 3-0 with 17 seconds left in the first quarter.

Then, Tihada went to work from the wildcat formation. He broke free up the middle after taking the direct snap and rumbled 65 yards for a touchdown to break a 3-3 tie with 6:29 to go in the half.

That was the first play from scrimmage following a 33-yard field goal by Awai with 6:46 to go in the second quarter.

Tihada then threw the first touchdown pass of his storied career, a 16-yard strike to Kai Bookland over the middle to push the Lunas’ lead to 17-3 with 32 seconds left.

The two teams traded interceptions in the last 30 seconds of the half, one by Lahainaluna’s Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales and then moments later another by Kamehameha Maui’s Kapena Gushiken.

Gushiken’s 33-yard return and a 15-yard penalty on the Lunas allowed a 48-yard field-goal try by Awai with 5 seconds left in the half, but it came up short.

On the first possession of the game, the Lunas reached the Kamehameha Maui 3-yard line before Esekielu Storer fumbled at the 1 and the Warriors’ Slade Teshima recovered.

After forcing a punt after one Kamehameha Maui first down, the Lunas started their next drive at the Warriors’ 40. Tihada fumbled into the end zone seven plays later and the ball was recovered by Mossman-Smith.

“We all know, second half, homecoming, excitement,” Rickard said. “It’s a good contest for our kids, a good eye-opener for them. Josh ran extra hard, they shut down our … passing game.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Lahainaluna 3 14 7 7–31

KS Maui 0 3 14 0–17

First Quarter

LL–FG Brian Sandoval 39, 0:17.

Second Quarter

KSM–FG Hao Awai 33, 6:46.

LL–Joshua Tihada 65 run (Kaihulali Casco kick), 6:29.

LL–Kai Bookland 16 pass from Tihada (Casco kick), 0:32.

Third Quarter

KSM–Karsyn Pupunu 61 pass from Tiliti Adams (Awai kick), 11:08.

KSM–Teancum Aiwohi 14 run (Awai kick), 4:44.

LL–Tihada 40 run (Casco kick), 2:06.

Fourth Quarter

LL–Tihada 1 run (Casco kick), 3:41.

Junior varsity–Lahainaluna 17, Kamehameha Maui 0.

MIL Standings

SECOND ROUND

(Overall MIL records in parentheses)

DIVISION I

W L Pct PF PA

x-Baldwin (3-2) 0 1 .000 14 26

Maui High (0-5) 0 1 .000 13 24

DIVISION II

W L Pct PF PA

x-Lahainaluna (6-0) 2 0 1.000 57 31

KS Maui (3-3) 1 1 .500 41 44

King Kekaulike (1-3) 0 0 .000 0 0

x-won first round

Friday’s Result

Lahainaluna 31, Kamehameha Maui 17

Today’s Game

Maui High at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 11

King Kekaulike at Kamehameha Maui, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 12

Maui High vs. Baldwin at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.