Kahooilihala: Lunas are great, Rough Riders love a challenge

Roosevelt's Isaac Kaleikau ran for the sideline as Pac-Five linebacker Laitin Bradley (3) and defensive back Noah Johnson (20) closed in during an opening round game in the 2018 Division II state tournament. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser

Twelve is such a beautiful number for Rough Rider nation.

Roosevelt is an amazing 12-1 after a typical gut-check victory. A 20-7 decision over a gritty Pac-Five squad vaulted the Rough Riders into the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II State Championships.

“We knew it was going to be a hard, tough game for us. Pac-Five is a great team. They came to play,” Roosevelt coach Kui Kahooilihala said.

The home team in red answered with another stout defensive performance.

“Our coaches always emphasize, ‘Play with your heart’,” senior safety Marcus Hee said. “So I try to tell everyone out there, don’t hold back. Leave it all out there for your team.”

Roosevelt needed a field goal by Mason Murashige to win the first meeting three months ago. This time, Roosevelt’s coverage kept a lid on the Wolfpack, and despite a string of short-field opportunities, Pac-Five came up with just one score after halftime.

“Coach John (Kahooilihala) had his schemes, moving our guys around, our linebackers. We had to move our linebackers. Offensively, Pac-Five did a great job. We had to put pressure on them,” Coach Kui Kahooilihala said.

It was quintessential Roosevelt tempo. Grind away on the ground. Hit the occasional first-down pass. Repeat, repeat. Play smart defense. Don’t give up the big play. And wait for opportunities.

“Offensively, Pac-Five did a great job keeping us off balance, their formations, gave us different looks. Our defense, their work was cut out tonight. Pac-Five gave us fits,” Kahooilihala said.

A second-half takeaway by Josh Maikui was exactly that as he yanked the ball away from a Wolfpack receiver in a jump-ball situation near mid-field.

“Our defense kept us in the game, and in games the whole season. For us, tonight, that interception by Josh Maikui was a big one for us. He took the ball away. Tonight our defense played a great game, but again, Pac-Five is a great team,” the head coach said.

Maikui’s play, along with the constant pass rush led by Chayden Sasaki-Kalamau served as the springboard to success.

“Everyone’s spirits was down in the third quarter, but people stepped up,” Hee said. “Josh Maikui made a great play. Chayden got sacks. All we needed was a little spark.”

The head and tail winds of Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium hindered both teams. Offensive coordinator Matt Terukina was constantly balancing the difficulty of throwing the ball with the safer option of having shifty quarterback Sky Ogata limit his tosses and pitches.

“I don’t know if you guys notice, it blows hard this way (from Diamond Head) and sometimes it comes this way (from Ewa). Sky, we asked him,” Kahooilihala said.

Ogata told his coaches the wind wasn’t a big factor.

“But we kind of know it was. I don’t know about Pac-Five’s quarterback (Rocket Uechi). I think it did a little bit when he couldn’t reach his receivers,” Kahooilihala said.

With Pac-Five staying close, field position was in its favor as punter/lineman Leif Faitanu sent several booming punts deep into Roosevelt territory. In one Roosevelt series, a penalty backed the ball up inside the 5. Ogata then had difficulty with a snap, ran wide to the left and was corralled by two Wolfpack defenders. But out of the blue, he delivered a two-handed lateral to his left, where one of his running backs took the ball and races out of the end zone to avoid a safety.

“Sky does amazing things on his own. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Our pitch relationship with quarterbacks and running backs, they know where they’re supposed to be. Coach Arnold (Morgado) is always preaching landmarks, landmarks,” Kahooilihala said.

That’s the gist of it. A defense with consistent tenacity and intelligence and an offense that values the football has turned a budding program into a state-championship contender. Their coaching staff might be borderline obsessive, but they will prepare to no end. Pac-Five came into the game with a puncher’s chance and proved, even in defeat, that defense and special teams go a long way.

“I watched Pac-Five the first time and tonight, they came a lot better,” Kahooilihala said.

Lahainaluna, the defending state champion, had a bye this week along with No. 2 seed Kapaa. The Lunas are a longtime jewel in D-II.

“Lahainaluna’s a great team. We’ve seen tapes and the kids that they have, the challenge is always they want to go after them again,” Kahooilihala said. “It’s always proving thing to guys out there. For us, our community, we’re thankful that they’re coming out and supporting us, but at the same time, this game against Lahainaluna, they come out with formations. Some similar stuff to what we do, but boy, they’ve got athletes.”

It has been a remarkable season for the red and gold, but the underdog mentality still prevails.

“We won this game,” Hee said. “We’ll enjoy it for tonight, but come tomorrow and Monday, we’ll be back to the grind. Lahainaluna is not a joke. They’re two-time state champions for a reason.

Kahooilihala sets the tone. Nothing lights his fire more than being the underdog.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” he said, “but our kids love a challenge.”


  1. Lahaina, Maui November 11, 2018 1:23 pm

    Roughriders no more chance against us. I like go D1 already. They ain’t stopping us. #Lahainagrown

  2. Cannot hang November 11, 2018 2:10 pm

    We’ll see. You should’ve moved up years ago but you scared. #alltalk

  3. Wake up November 11, 2018 4:54 pm

    D1? Might as well go Open and watch you guys get smashed. Your team never belonged in the D2. Sandbagging scrubs

  4. Watson C November 11, 2018 5:00 pm

    Wake up
    That negativty will be your downfall one day. Have some damn respect of us. I can imagine what others think of you making hate comments.

  5. John November 11, 2018 5:31 pm

    Lunas would get killed in D-1 talking all that trash.hope Roosevelt shut u guys up.

  6. PLEASE! November 11, 2018 6:19 pm

    Lunas belong up bully on the playground, why they never went up is beyond me! Then they have the nerve to brag how they going pound one true Division 2 team, you sound like an idiot! So shame! Go hide your face sheesh Roosevelt got nothing to lose! Go Rough Riders go get this! When you feel growing up we in the open an D1 want to give you a warm welcome!

  7. Wake up November 11, 2018 6:33 pm

    Tell me you guys not Sandbaggers. When a D2 team is beating the D1 teams from the same island what is that called? Sandbagging. Who cares if you win the D2. That’s the baby Koa trophy. Come play with the big boys then run your mouth. Roosevelt used to play all the powerhouse teams and took a beating. Props to them. Lahainaluna would rather beat up on the little teams then move up and prove the any good. We all know they can’t hang with STL, Kahuku, and Mililani. They would get smashed. Move up or shut up dude

  8. Ikaika V November 11, 2018 9:03 pm

    Wins aren’t a given. The person from Lahaina who commented that is embarrassing us. We are about hard work and never underestimating our opponent. That person doesn’t know what Lahainaluna football is about. We work hard for everything we have.

  9. Ikaika V November 11, 2018 9:10 pm

    And to the people that say we should move up to D1, our coaches have been pushing for a system where the #1 ranked on Maui plays in D1 playoffs and #2 plays in the D2 playoffs. Furthermore, our coaches have been attempting to move to D1, but the decision does not solely lie in our coaches choice.

  10. Chris November 11, 2018 9:33 pm

    Wonder why only Oahu teams are in the open

  11. Apakasi November 11, 2018 11:09 pm

    It’s doesn’t not Matter if you D1 or D2. What does Matter is that we will have fun in the field. So plz no more who is better and all that stuff. That is some kids talking. But both team play hard and give everything in there. We are just people playing football, looking for a better future. So lets have fun. Can’t wait to play you guys. #lahainaluna #45

  12. Apakasi November 11, 2018 11:10 pm

    Much love to all of you out there. No need drama when we can have fun in the field 😊.

  13. Watson C November 11, 2018 11:54 pm

    Wake up & Lahaina, Maui
    I hope y’all listening here. Ikaika here raised a great point here.

  14. Truth November 12, 2018 12:52 am

    Maui’s D1 and D2 is based off of school enrollment. Lahaina doesn’t have big enrollment numbers, that’s why they are considered D2. Maui High and Baldwin have the largest enrollment on island ,so they are our D1 schools.

  15. The system is flawed November 12, 2018 9:16 am

    Lahainaluna should have represented the M.I.L. Div 1. Is it their fault that they participate in the State D2 tournament? Not entirely. It goes beyond Lahainaluna’s D1/D2 issue. Should Punahou be allowed an Open Div tournament berth? I think so. How about if all teams rosters were scrutinized at the beginning of the season, St. Francis may have had a chance to compete for the D2 title.
    As always, the post season/state tournament exposes issues many have talked about within Hawaii’s highschool football system and the inconsistencies between leagues. The HHSAA, Leagues, Athletic directors and coaches need to get on the same page.

  16. Mr.T November 12, 2018 9:18 am

    The Lunas are ballers,they give most teams cracks,and I’m a Kahuku guy and needless to say try play them in the “IMU PIT”…you might squeak out a win.They play tough everytime.Any team any time…it’s all heart,that’s why you play the game.D1,D2…just play everybody like old times…up or down don’t matter it’s only a consolation prize in reality,until you play with the big dogs in the open.

  17. Wake up November 12, 2018 8:14 pm

    M the only guys Lahaina is beating is D2 teams. Stop sandbagging and come play with the big boys. As far as enrollment goes, Kahuku has the same number enrolled but they play with the big boys. What’s your excuse?

  18. Watson C November 12, 2018 11:25 pm

    Wake up
    Ouch dude. Ouch.

  19. The system is flawed November 13, 2018 6:15 am


  20. Joseph Vitale November 13, 2018 6:02 pm

    Shoooooooooooole…bah Sacred Hearts would smash Lahainaluna any day…aaawwwrrriii

  21. Apakasi November 13, 2018 9:06 pm

    You guys saying that you are playing with the big boys huh? Well guess what you not. You just lucky to be in so shut up. It’s just a game bro😂 you need to chill!!

  22. Lahaina November 14, 2018 9:02 am

    Lunas play for their community and families. Going to D1 is not a coach’s choice. Their senior class barely makes it to 150 students. They are a small school. Other then schools like Maui High that has more students than their gym can fit. And it’s not like we haven’t played the four D1 teams that made it to states. They have played them and still made it a good game. Any team they play, they will try their best and play their best. These boys could careless about trophies and wins, they just want to make lahaina known and play for their community. “Come to open division and you’ll get smashed.” They never said they would dominate in open division. They have respect for bigger teams. They just want to play with no drama or controversy. These boys play to make their community proud. They are from a small community and play for them.

  23. phILHarmonic November 14, 2018 10:53 am

    Whats happening at Baldwin??

    I can only remember Baldwin blowing out everyone up there and now its the Luna’s.

    coaching change? Baldwin kids going to Lahainaluna??

  24. D'z November 14, 2018 8:17 pm

    @Philharmonic, Im glad you noticed and asked that question. I’ll be glad to answer that. See, on Maui there is only 5 teams that play each other and its not every year that you’ll have a “DOMINANT” team, fortunately Lahainaluna been the team to beat these past 2 years. Its inconsistent here and thats why D1 or D2 don’t make any sense to us. The 1st place team should go to D1 and 2nd place represent D2 but that is in the hands (control) of the MIL. Some years Lahaina would probably have a roster of 30?..and not just a small roster but small in size of the players as well. Don’t believe what the roster on scoringlive say, those are not accurate!! Yes, Baldwin coaches did change and “NO” Baldwin kids don’t transfer here! were 98% LAHAINA GROWN! 2% is borders.

    CONGRATULATIONS ROOSEVELT!! It will be an exciting game, you guys have a lot off talent on the team and your coaching staff have you guys in the right direction. SEE YOU GUYS ON SATURDAY!!

  25. Rory Cambra November 16, 2018 5:42 am

    Lahainaluna is a small school with a small enrollment. That’s why they are in Division 2. The fact that they can play and beat some Division 1 teams are a tribute to the coaches and players. The Divisions are based on scholl enrollment and can be found across the nation. Some of these comments by both sides are dissapointing!

  26. Mauitruth November 16, 2018 11:28 pm

    Kihei kids go Maui High mostly. Few do go Baldwin like Chayce Akaka did. Most of the Poly kids go to Maui High last few years instead of Baldwin. Lahainaluna has been pretty much the best team on Maui since 2012. Lunas are very hardworking team and play with heart and passion. This year they passed the ball more than ever too. Defense was stout too.

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