Fourth time’s the charm for the Lahainaluna football team.
After losing in the 2007, ’12 and ’14 HHSAA Division II state championship games, the Lunas finally got over the hump with a 21-14 win over Kapaa on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
“Man, it feels great. Our team has worked so hard,” senior defensive lineman Hoaka Phillips said. “We struggled in the beginning but we improved so much. It just feels amazing.”
Lahainaluna is just the second non-Oahu team to win a state championship, the first being King Kekaulike in 2006.
“I’m just so happy for these kids. It’s been such a long journey for them,” co-head coach Garret Tihada said. “They just worked so hard every single day, just a bunch of players that kind of did the impossible. We weren’t like the teams that we were in the past by far. They just played so hard together, it’s amazing.”
Tihada was with all four teams that went to the state final, each trip preparing his program for this moment.
“We’ve played here around seven times in the past 15 years and every time you come, you learn something more about traveling — when to eat, when to rest,” he said. “For us, it’s been huge.”
For others, it was their first time away from Maui.
“It’s the first time (on Oahu) for most of us. It’s amazing to come to Oahu, especially when we can come home with the win,” said defensive back Bailey Honda, who returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown. “We just had to ball out. You cannot be negative, just be strong.”
The post-game frenzy included multiple teary-eyed Lunas and their even more emotional family members soaking in the moment.
There’s no mistaking who they did this for.
“We have such great support in Lahaina. Just incredible,” Tihada said. “The sendoff they gave us last night by lining Lahainaluna road with signs and banners— year after year, you have that kind of support. This win is for our kids, this win is for our community. We’re just blown away every year by the amount of support we get.”
“I bet they’re screaming their heads off right now. I hope they’re proud of us. We couldn’t have done it without them. They’re our No. 1 supporters. Every single one of them,” Phillips said. “I think we just needed to have more heart and we needed to go all the way and that’s what we did. We just had to push through it. It was hard but we got it.
“We finally got it. We made history.”