Lahainaluna’s Joshua Tihada already has a career’s worth of accomplishments during his time playing high school football.
Three straight state titles. Thirteen rushing touchdowns in HHSAA tournament games, a state record. Heading into his senior year, Tihada is poised to add to both.
But not before some big changes for the Lunas, who open the season ranked No. 8 in the Star-Advertiser preseason poll and were featured in today’s Star-Advertiser, which you can read here. Garret Tihada, Joshua’s uncle, resigned from his position as co-head coach, team spokesman and offensive coordinator due to personal reasons earlier this month. Dean Rickard, who has been on Lahainaluna’s coaching staff since 1987 as an offensive line coach, will take over Tihada’s duties.
“I was actually shocked but things happen the way they do and it is what it is,” Joshua Tihada said. “Things have been going really, really good. Coach Rickard has been there just as long as all the other coaches so we have a good bond with him and things have been going good.”
Rickard has been equally optimistic about the transition, noting that co-head coach Bobby Watson has been the “foundation” of the program for decades.
“The staff feeds on each other basically,” he said. “We work well together and as far as me transitioning into the offensive coordinator, I learned a lot from (Garret Tihada) in what he sees and what he does in preparation for games, and we were all involved in that aspect.
“I think it’s a lot of pressure for sure, but I think it’s something that through the years we all learned that as long as we can depend on each other, we can move forward in a positive direction and ensure that we’re able to accomplish what we need to accomplish and prepare our kids the way we should prepare them.”
Every year, Rickard says the success of the team hinges on its senior leadership. Having Joshua Tihada in the backfield his first year at the helm will be a big help.
“Anytime you have an athlete like that, as coaches you already know that teams are going to prepare for him,” Rickard said. “For us, it is a blessing to have an athlete of that talent level and skill, and he gives us a lot of opportunities to do different things.”
Rickard also mentioned receiver Kai Bookland, returning starting quarterback Nainoa Irish and defensive lineman Tuipulotu Lai as players alongside Tihada who will take on increased leadership roles this season.
The Lunas, whose 22-game winning streak is the second longest active streak behind Saint Louis’ 26 in a row, open their season on Aug. 3 when they host Damien. Then on Aug. 17, they host Kapaa in a rematch of last season’s classic HHSAA Division II final, a 34-32 win for Lahainaluna. The quest for four straight is set to begin soon, but the Lunas aren’t approaching it from that standpoint.
“I honestly think it would be a great feeling but we’re focused on this season and this season only,” Joshua Tihada said. “We’re putting the last few seasons behind us because it doesn’t really matter because all you’ll remember is the one you lost, not the other three you won. We’re putting the past behind us and looking at ourselves as a winless team.
“We’re just going to push to be the best team we can. That’s the mentality we want to have, not get big-headed and think it’s going to be easy because it’s really not going to be.”