Lunas blank Rough Riders, to play for 4th straight state title
Lahainaluna forces five turnovers, gets big games from Storer, Tihada in 35-0 win
LAHAINA — This class of 19 seniors for the Lahainaluna High School football team has reached its final destination.
On Friday at 1 p.m. at Aloha Stadium, the Lunas will play for their fourth straight Division II state title against Kapaa.
The Lunas (10-1) got there with a methodical 35-0 win over Roosevelt (10-3) on Saturday night at Sue Cooley Stadium in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA state semifinals.
These Lunas did it in an impressive fashion: Junior quarterback Esekielu Storer misfired on his first four passes before connecting on his last nine for 202 yards and four scores; Joshua Tihada ran 27 times for 162 yards and a touchdown, the 64th of his impressive career; and the defense and special teams had five takeaways.
“We knew the kind of team they were, they were explosive, they’re very physical, they’re very well-coached and disciplined, and they gave us everything we expected,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Dean Rickard said. “Fortunately, we were able to make the necessary adjustments and come out on the winning side of it.”
Lahainaluna took total control in a three-play span that took just 13 seconds off the clock in the final minute of the first half.
Clinging to a 7-0 lead, the Lunas’ Brysen Rickard forced a fumble by Roosevelt running back Mitchel Camacho at the Lahainaluna 22-yard line. Three straight complete passes by Storer — his first three of the game — moved the ball to the Lahainaluna 48.
Then, the three-play lightning strike virtually put the game out of reach.
Storer hit Kai Bookland in stride down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-0 with 59 seconds left in the half.
Lahainaluna’s Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales forced a fumble by Shepherd Kekahuna on the ensuing kickoff, and the Lunas’ Tysyn Estrella recovered on the Roosevelt 28.
Storer hit Bookland on the next play to push the lead to 21-0 with 46 seconds left in the half.
“Never, never done that in my life,” Bookland said of his two scoring receptions in 13 seconds. “That was crazy.”
The Lunas’ 5-0 advantage in the turnover battle was an absolute key to the easy win.
“Man, our defense and special teams played great,” said Bookland, who had two fumble recoveries. “I know the last four weeks we’ve been working on stripping drills and fumble recovery and stuff like that, and tonight we came in the first half and showed them for sure.”
The Lunas pushed the lead to 28-0 on an 18-yard pass from Storer to Brian Sandoval for a touchdown with 7:49 to go in the third quarter. That capped an 11-play, 83-yard drive that featured five Tihada runs for 37 yards.
“Very emotional and, like, sad,” Tihada said when asked about playing the final home game of his storied career. “You know, we just have to keep moving on to the next, just like every other week. We have to work hard, stay focused, act like we’ve been here before.”
The Lunas turned on the mercy-rule running clock with 6:26 to go in the third quarter when Storer completed his ninth straight pass, a 59-yarder to Devon Sa-Chisolm for a touchdown.
The Lunas took a 7-0 lead with 3:11 left in the first quarter when Tihada dove into the end zone from 1 yard out. That capped a nine-play, 65-yard drive that featured seven carries by Tihada for 46 yards.
The play before the score was a 15-yard run by Derek Perez to the 1, where he fumbled — the ball was recovered there by Bookland.
The drive started when Perez smacked Roosevelt receiver Kekahuna. Perez’s hit forced a fumble that was recovered by Matthew Rabino at the Lunas’ 35-yard line.
Storer was limited to taking the field to start the second quarter because of what coach Rickard said was shoulder fatigue.
“I kind of got my mindset like somewhere else, so after those four throws that I missed, I put my mindset straight to those throws and I completed them,” Storer said.
Bookland had five catches for 105 yards and the two key scores.
“There’s pretty much nobody like him in the state,” Storer said of Bookland. “I love that guy, like I love all my receivers and my O-line.”
The Lunas dominated in the final statistics: They had a 22-11 advantage in first downs, a 446-188 advantage in total yards, and of course, the key 5-0 advantage in turnovers.
“Oh man, they’re good, they’re an awesome team,” Roosevelt coach Kui Kahooilihala said of the Lunas. “That’s why they’re No. 1, man, in our division. They’re a great team and they’re well-coached, too.”
With 10:55 left in the third quarter, umpire Rod Alama collapsed on the field between plays and had to be removed by ambulance. Medical crew on the scene said he suffered an apparent heart attack, but his prognosis was good.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roosevelt 0 0 0 0– 0
Lahainaluna 7 14 14 0–35
LL–Joshua Tihada 1 run (Brian Sandoval kick), 3:11.
LL–Kai Bookland 52 pass from Esekielu Storer (Sandoval kick), 0:59.
LL–Bookland 28 pass from Storer (Kaihulali Casco kick), 0:46.
LL–Sandoval 18 pass from Storer (Casco kick), 7:49.
LL–Devon Sa-Chisolm 59 pass from Storer (Casco kick), 6:26.
First downs 11 22
Rushes-yards 29-141 49-244
Passing yards 47 202
Total offense 188 446
Return yards 32 0
Comp-Att-Int 4-17-1 9-14-0
Fumbles-lost 4-4 2-0
Penalties-yards 1-5 6-55
Punts-avg 3-37.0 1-44.0
RUSHING–Roosevelt, Mitchel Camacho 9-83, Mika Kukahiwa 7-51, Sky Ogata 11-11, Shephered Kekahuna 2-(minus 4); Lahainaluna, Tihada 27-162, Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales 7-53, Derek Perez 4-15, Blare Sylva-Viela 5-12, Sky Smith 1-6, Shauna Kana 1-0, Christian Clarion 1-0, team 3-(minus 4).
PASSING–Roosevelt, Ogata 4-17-1–47; Lahainaluna, Storer 9-13-0–202, Nainoa Irish 0-1-0–0.
RECEIVING–Roosevelt, Scott Chung 1-25, Camacho 1-16, Devin Naihe 1-10, Kekahuna 1-(minus 4); Lahainaluna, Bookland 5-105, Sandoval 3-38, Sa-Chisolm 1-59.
MISSED FIELD GOALS–Lahainaluna, Sandoval 34 (WL).