Garret Tihada said it last year and Dean Rickard repeated it Thursday.
When fans criticize the Lahainaluna Lunas for not moving up from Division II to Division I, those coaches have an answer.
Rickard, a co-head coach of the four-time defending D-II state football champion Lunas along with Bobby Watson this year, confirmed that the team’s stance has not changed.
“We as coaches all agree that if the MIL sent an overall champion to the D-I state tournament and the runner-up to D-II, we would be all for it,” Rickard said via cell phone. “But we don’t have control over it. The league and the administrators decide what divisions teams are in. They do it according to student body and we fit in D-II under that.
“Yeah, we would play in D-I if that was the format, like Garret said last year. A lot of people don’t know we were D-I at one time and beat a really solid Mililani team in the quarterfinals one yaar (41-34 in 2004).”
In order for Lahainaluna’s suggested format to be instituted, league and state rules would need to be altered.
Tihada, who was still a part of the Lunas’ staff this year, relinquished his co-head coaching role after last season to Rickard in order to, as he says, be a “soccer mom,” carting his kids to their practices.
If Lahainaluna’s proposed system for sending teams to states had been in effect this year, the Lunas would have participated in D-I. The team that went to D-I states, Baldwin, may not have been successful enough to get to D-II states. The Bears (5-3) had the same record as Kamehameha-Maui (a D-II classified school) in the league and they were 1-1 head to head, so a playoff game would have been necessary.
“A league’s best teams should go to states,” Rickard said. “We think teams like Kamehameha-Maui should be considered to be rewarded for having a successful season.”
As it worked out this year, the Warriors lost to Lahainaluna twice and finished three games behind the Lunas in the MIL D-II standings.
Lahainaluna, which finished at No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10, wrapped up its 11-1 season with a 21-10 victory over Kapaa in the D-II state title game on Nov. 29 at Aloha Stadium.
Tihada, the soccer mom, may eventually take on an increased role, according to both him and Rickard — such as offensive coordinator or a return to being co-head coach.
“It depends on his availability,” Rickard said.
Note: This story has been edited to reflct that in order for Lahainaluna to have its preferred format implemented, then league and state rules would first half to change.