In the midst of Lahainaluna’s 75-69 instant classic thriller that went seven overtimes against Konawaena, Lunas coach Garret Tihada admits that his eyes were glued to his watch as much as they were on the field.
“We had a bus at 7 and we had to get on that plane back home. I didn’t know how it was gonna work out for us,” Tihada said of the win that gave Lahainaluna its second consecutive HHSAA Division II state title.
With both teams tied at 31 at the end of regulation, both coaches were steadfast in their overtime philosophies: don’t go for two. And with no state tournament rules enforcing it, both sides were willing to let the night play out, even if it took 4 hours, 10 minutes.
“Back in the early to mid-2000’s we went for two a few times. It hasn’t worked out. I don’t want to put out kids in that situation,” Tihada said. “Let’s just keep playing and playing, and hopefully we either wear them out or they make a mistake. If we go for two and we don’t make it, it’s over. We’ll just keep playing.”
Almost every kickoff went for a touchback, because in Konawaena’s Harry Hill and Lahainaluna’s Pablo Rico, this particular matchup provided two of the most powerful legs in the state, regardless of island.
And after the marathon of a championship game, perhaps the two most clutch.
Neither team budged as the Wildcats and Lunas exchanged touchdowns – and extra points – consistently in the first five overtimes. In the sixth overtime, Rico’s 27-yard field goal barely cleared the uprights but it put the Lunas up 69-66. Hill responded with a 32-yard field goal that brought the game to a seventh overtime.
The game ended perhaps fittingly, as it didn’t come down to neither Hill nor Rico. After the Wildcats fumbled on Laihainaluna’s 1-yard line, Lunas running back Joshua Tihada punched in the game’s winning score from four yards out.
“We worked hard. We tried our best and just came out on the short end,” Hill said. “It was a little bit of pressure but we kept doing it over and over that it got easier throughout the game.”
Hill has quietly made his claim as one of the top kicking prospects in the state despite being just a junior on a neighbor island. His big year includes knocking a 58-yard field goal through the uprights. Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto knows what he has in Hill.
“That’s exactly why (there were no two-point attempts). I mean, he’s almost automatic so we’re going to take the points every single time,” Uemoto said.
Rico, who is also a defensive end with the frame to match, doesn’t seem to have the same effortless stroke that Hill has. But he matched him kick-for-kick in accuracy and distance.
As a soccer player in the eighth grade, Rico’s teammates told him that there was a kicker needed for the team. He’s worked on his craft ever since, and Saturday night proved to be the payoff.
“I felt the pressure, yeah. I was a little bit nervous every time I looked up,” Rico said. “But I believe in myself and trust myself. It feels really great. We worked really hard for this and as a team, we dreamed about this since last year.
“We wanted to do this again. We woke up in the morning to do our thing, just did our jobs and look at us right now. Doing what we do best.”
With each converted extra point and field goal came another overtime period. Afterward, both teams were understandably drained.
“I think they were just running on emotion and fumes, and at that point it is what it is. It was just a matter of who was going to make the first mistake and we did. That’s what it came down to,” Uemoto said. “I’m proud of them and how they fought back and we battled down the stretch, we can’t say anything bad. I shoulder the blame for that last call where we fumbled it, that’s on me.”
Tihada, who says he’s still “numb,” was just as focused on getting his boys to the airport as he was celebrating the win.
“I’m still baffled after seven overtimes,” he said. “It’ll sink in tomorrow.”