FIFTH IN A SERIES
(On the five Neighbor Island teams in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships)
In new-age terms, Lahainaluna is the “beast” in Division II football in Hawaii.
The Lunas (9-1) are three-time defending D-II champions in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football Championships. They’re positioned for a fourth.
To get that done, the Lunas need to win two more games. They play Roosevelt (10-2) at home on Nov. 23 in the semifinals. A victory there would put top-seeded Lahainaluna in the title game Nov. 29 at Aloha Stadium against the winner of the other Nov. 23 semifinal pitting Kaimuki (10-2) vs. Kapaa (7-1) at Vidinha Stadium.
“It’s always difficult to come in as a defending champion and keeping focus on the task at hand,” first-year co-head coach Dean Rickard said. “We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years to be able to play for the state championship, but that can give the kids a tendency to become complacent. We as coaches become worried about them staying focused and doing what we need to do. What prior teams gained is their accomplishment. Our kids need to do what they can to make sure to get to that goal of the championship. Don’t depend on the legacy. Create your own legacy. There’s always going to be a target on your back. The challenge to the kids is that they have to know they cannot lose focus. It takes a lot of work and that includes all of that offseason training. There are a lot of variables involved.”
Four-year varsity standout Joshua Tihada, a running back, receiver/defensive back Kai Bookman, and hyrbid linebacker/defensive back Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales carry the leadership torch as the team’s captains.
“They are good examples on and off the field,” Rickard said. “Very high action, leading by example — Kai epitomizes that. His work ethic is amazing. Nainoa is one of the smallest guys on our team, but he plays with one of the biggest hearts, a fireplug who brings it every day, and he’s been on the varsity for three years and a great example of what our program is about.”
Tihada, who wants to go out as a four-year state champ, also plays a linebacker/defensive back position.
An early season nonleague game against Damien — a 38-31 overtime loss at home — was a wake-up call to the squad, according to the coach.
“We scored three TDs early and then started wearing down,” he said. “We came back, but Damien ended up winning. But it sent a message for us. It let the kids know they all still have to do their part and get back to basics.”
The Lunas, who are ranked No. 10 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Top 10, have not played a game since Oct. 26, so when they step on their home field for the semifinals, it will have been 28 days in between.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Rickard said. “It’s nice to have time to recuperate, but too much idle time can result in complacency setting in. We did a lot of strength and conditioning the first two weeks. Limited contact, working on fundamentals and techniques, breaking down game films, mental preparation, concentrating on what we need to correct, and looking for tendencies and reads on our potential opponents. We started picking up the pace this week, with a little more contact. Another good thing is we can scout the Roosevelt vs. Kamehameha-Hawaii game.”
The Lunas are 14-12 overall in state tournament games. That breaks down to 1-2 in D-I and 13-10 in D-II.
In home state tournament games, Lahainaluna is 9-3.
2019 Lahainaluna Lunas (9-1)
>> Aug. 3: Damien 38 at Lahainaluna 31, OT
>> Aug. 17: At Lahainaluna 21, Kapaa 18
>> Aug. 24: Lahainaluna 46, at King Kekaulike 12
>> Aug. 31: At Lahainaluna 34, Baldwin 9
>> Sept. 7: At Lahainaluna 34, Kamehameha-Maui 0
>> Sept. 21: Lahainaluna 48, Maui 0, at War Memorial Stadium
>> Sept. 27: Lahainaluna 26, Baldwin 14, at War Memorial Stadium
>> Oct. 4: Lahainaluna 31, at Kamehameha-Maui 17
>> Oct. 19: At Lahainaluna 41, King Kekaulike 3
>> Oct. 26: At Lahainaluna 49, Maui 0
>> Nov. 23: Roosevelt/Kamehameha-Hawaii winner at Lahainaluna
All-time Division I and II state tournament appearances
>> D-I first round: Kahuku 57, Lahainaluna 14, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II first round: Lahainaluna 21, Hawaii Prep 14, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Aiea 24, Lahainaluna 14, at Kunuiakea Stadium
>> D-I first-round: Lahainaluna 41, Mililani 34, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-I semifinals: Kamehameha 21, Lahainaluna 6, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Lahainaluna 52, Kaimuki 20, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II championship game: ‘Iolani 28, Lahainaluna 21, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Radford 33, Lahainaluna 27, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II first round: At Aiea 20, Lahainaluna 12
>> D-II semifinals: Kaimuki 28, Lahainaluna 27, OT, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II first round: Lahainaluna 23, Konawaena 6, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: At Waipahu 29, Lahainaluna 14
>> D-II semifinals: Lahainaluna 28, Nanakuli 0, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II championship game: ‘Iolani 36, Lahainaluna 33, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Kaiser 20, Lahainaluna 9, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Lahainaluna 52, Kamehameha-Hawaii 7, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II championship game: ‘Iolani 31, Lahainaluna 14, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II first round: At Lahainaluna 7, Kaimuki 0
>> D-II semifinals: Kapaa 24, Lahainaluna 0, at Vidinha Stadium
>> D-II first-round: Lahainaluna 52, Waipahu 14, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Lahainaluna 28, at Konawaena 14
>> D-II championship game: Lahainaluna 21, Kapaa 14, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: Lahainaluna 35, ‘Iolani 27, at War Memorial Stadium
>> D-II championship game: Lahainaluna 75, Konawaena 69, 7 OT, at Aloha Stadium
>> D-II semifinals: At Lahainaluna 48, Roosevelt 10
>> D-II championship game: Lahainaluna 34, Kapaa 32, at Aloha Stadium