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Lunas seeking move up to D-I

Four-time defending state D-II champions have won 25 straight MIL games

Lahainaluna High School quarterback Esekielu Storer throws a first-quarter pass during a game on Oct. 26. The four-time defending Division II state champion Lunas are formally seeking to move up to Division I for the upcoming season. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Lahainaluna High School, the four-time defending Division II state champion in football, has emailed a proposal to fellow Maui Interscholastic League schools seeking to move to Division I for the 2020 season.

Lunas co-head coach Dean Rickard confirmed the news on Wednesday evening — the proposal was emailed by Lahainaluna athletic director Scott Soldwisch on Tuesday to fellow MIL ADs. The move would have to be approved by the MIL Executive Board, which is made up of principals.

“It’s not the first time we’ve requested moving up … so we brought it to (Soldwisch’s) attention and he said he would bring it up to the MIL Executive Board for a decision on whether they are going to move up or not,” Rickard said.

Currently the MIL D-I ranks in football are made up of Baldwin and Maui high schools, which have the two largest student bodies in Maui County. The MIL D-II ranks currently include Lahainaluna, Kamehameha Maui and King Kekaulike.

The Lunas are No. 3 in school size in the MIL, which is now the only football league in the state that has D-I and D-II teams play each other. The MIL plays two full rounds in football for an eight-game regular season.

Members of the Lahainaluna football team celebrate with the championship trophy after winning their fourth consecutive D-II state title on Nov. 29 at Aloha Stadium. ANDREW LEE photo

Lahainaluna has won an MIL football-record 25 straight league games — dating to the final game of the 2016 season — and have won nine state tournament games in a row.

“When they went to Division I and Division II (state tournaments for football) they classified us according to student body size, which was fine, wherever they wanted to put us,” Rickard said. “But for us, I think as a league we showed that we can be competitive with the Oahu leagues.”

Rickard, the Lunas’ co-head coach with Bobby Watson, said the football staff is in favor of sending the MIL champion to the Division I state tournament and the MIL runner-up to the Division II state tournament, however Hawaii High School Athletic Association rules require teams to declare their division prior to the season.

While the idea of the Lunas moving up has been a topic of conversation, this is the first time a formal proposal has been made.

“I think the message that we’re trying to come across is that for Maui maybe this is where we should be,” Rickard said. “We have been talking about this for years and it has been discussed many times, saying that we just send our (top) two representatives and let that speak for itself, regardless of division.

Lahainaluna coaches, including co-head coach Dean Rickard (foreground), stand on the sideline during a game on Aug. 3. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“That’s been something that we have been trying to have the league stick to and push it with the state board, but it hasn’t been accepted, of course. That would be the most ideal scenario, just saying that, ‘Hey, we’ll just send our 1 and 2 to represent at the end of the season.’ “

The Lunas clearly feel that they are ready to move up.

“This year, we discussed and we said, ‘You know, we’ve been rather successful the last couple years,’ “ Rickard said. “We’re the only league, I think, in the state that plays cross divisions … Kauai went Division I a couple years ago to help get the Open Division going.

“It’s not something that we just decided we wanted to do this year. We’ve been pushing for Division I for some time now and I think it actually has a chance of getting approved this year.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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