Kickers fuel classic overtime championship battle

Lahainaluna's sideline erupted after closing out Konawaena after a seven overtime battle. Dennis Oda / Star-Advertiser

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.”

COMMENTS

  1. 88 November 18, 2017 9:26 pm

    No defense watsoever. Who is the DC for both team. Fire both of them. If I was the DC the game would have ended in regulation. No way one team scores more than 10 against my boys.


  2. nohate November 19, 2017 12:55 am

    high school football(between neighbor island, no Oahu)…appreciate that this was all outer island, both teams beat Oahu schools to get here, I bet the guy that said fire both coaches from Oahu, lol….


  3. 88 November 19, 2017 1:32 am

    @ nohate, they beat the bottom of the barrel Oahu teams to get here. Not that impressive.

    RRFL


  4. nohate November 19, 2017 6:40 am

    they beat the bottom of the barrel where Oahu has like just about 50 teams(so 40 is bottom of barrel)…still more than neighbor islands combined….Oahu has probably 10 teams that can beat almost every outer island team, doesn’t make these 2 d2 teams as bad u think…sour cuz it wasn’t a Oahu team that won?…going against konawaena, Waipahu was a favorite, but they gave up how many points? fire their d coach too?


  5. 88 November 19, 2017 9:12 am

    @ no hate, if you have to feel good about being the worst teams on Oahu then fine. Anytime you wanna travel to the North Shore and play we spot you 50 and we give you the biggest whooping ever!

    RRFL


  6. Samoanbuckeye November 19, 2017 1:29 pm

    Hahahaha! Chheeehoooo! Great season for LAHAINA and Kona…hold your head up proud and smile both teams played awesome. I hope to see both teams next year. Coaches did a great job. Win with humility and lose with Grace.(these are the qualities of a winner) no matter if you spot someone 50 points or not!


  7. ProudLunas November 19, 2017 1:30 pm

    Why so much hate 88? No ones trying to compare our kids to yours. We know we cannot compete on that level that’s why we are in a different division. It’s really unforTunate to read that from a supporter of a school most of us in Lahaina have adopted as our D1 favorite! We are big supporters of Kahuku over here, our town and fan base admire what you guys have and we are building in the hopes to one day get there. Have a little respect for our not so big boys and appreciate what they accomplished even if it isn’t up to your north shore standards. Sheesh! Humility goes along way.


  8. Mauian5 November 19, 2017 1:53 pm

    Rolo needs to recruit that kicker from Kona. All his kick offs were deep in end zone, something UH kickers can’t do.


  9. nohate November 19, 2017 2:12 pm

    88 typical Oahu bias as usual coming from media coverage and from supporters of the big and elite football programs….say what u want about the kids from outer islands, guess u feel good about it by thrashing the programs, students and coaches…..I hope u don’t preach that to the kids u support or around you….88, I wish u all the best during the holiday season……ps, remember when it took a hail mary miracle play to beat Baldwin years back?…that I believe was supposed to be the first neighbor island champs if not that play….there will be another school from da NI one day that will give u a run like Baldwin did


  10. 96761 November 19, 2017 2:46 pm

    Wow! Such an ignorant human being to talk about kids this way. @88 I hope your offspring don’t grow up to be so hateful and ignorant as you are… or maybe ur old and alone, who knows, doesn’t matter anyway. To bash school football teams because they are from neighbor islands only explains the kind of person you are. #nexxxxxxxxxxt


  11. Lunamom4Life November 19, 2017 2:57 pm

    @88 Who you coach for? Madden? You still sour cause your team never make states? Give these athletes props cause they all played with everything they get. And you know what, come Monday morning you can best believe they going back in that weight room training for next season.
    Being on the field is a lot harder than holding a controller and pressing that X button for block.


  12. EMZ November 19, 2017 4:26 pm

    This 88 is the same hater RRFL wanna be. Yep his team neva make’em and gotta talk about outer island teams. Hate all you like! These kids showed heart and humility! All I know is no matter who this guy pretending to be, he still one loser! Kahuku lost, and his REAL team lost so…he a big loser! Sucks to be you buddy LOL


  13. anywaaaays!! November 19, 2017 8:08 pm

    nohate: let me know when outer island teams win the open division. Let me know when they win a state championship that has the heavy hitters, like Kahuku in there. Being the champs of the Cupcake League isn’t that impressive. RRFL!


  14. nohate November 19, 2017 10:32 pm

    I guess it proves that the Oahu keyboard warriors on forum sites like these, keep putting down NI kids…instead of just being nice, but no, they gotta say negative things, lol…pretty sad…I guess u can have football, but in other sports, u guys are bottom barrel…..anywaaaays, u guys can have open division, while NI going beat all the other Oahu bottom barrel, as u wanna call them, that’s good enough for us….88 and anywaaays showing true colors, hope u guys not 30’s plus year old adults, cuz if u are, its pretty sad, lol….ps, if u rrfl, read proudluna’s comment, they are also ur biggest supporters from the NI, do you support the Lunas as much? Proudluna, I’m a saber grad, but I always support the MIL when it comes to the states, but Lunas always do the MIL proud…thanks for being ur schools supporter and I see u guys always 100 percent behind the Luna boys!!


  15. RR4LIFE living the lie November 19, 2017 11:02 pm

    No listen to these Kahuku dummies. They grew up in the 80s and 90s losing to STL. They cry recruiting but they the biggest ones. The recruit internationally. You ever wonder why the don’t interview some of the star kids? Because they can barely speak English and would be exposed. There’s a difference between having Pride and being Arrogant. They might win in football but they lose in the game of life. Enjoy your Diabetes at age 40 RR4Life Losers. Does Kahuku even have books?


  16. Tim November 20, 2017 8:36 am

    Wow, I can’t believe the comments above. To all the outer island guys, please dont think all Kahuku guys are like 88. Im a Kahuku alum, but I always root for the outer island teams when they play here. You guys played hard. Awesome job this year, congrats.


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