Lunas Cap First Round With Rout of Maui High
By Rodney S. Yap
Champions don’t take days off.
That’s perhaps why the Lahainaluna High School football team rarely has off days or bad games.
The Lunas put forth another stellar performance Friday night, building a 23-0 lead at halftime en route to a lopsided 37-7 victory over Maui High.
A War Memorial Stadium crowd of about 3,100 watched third-year varsity starter Jared Rocha-Islas score three touchdowns and rush for a career-high 170 yards on nine carries. The win improved the Lunas’ unbeaten record to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Maui Interscholastic League, clinching the Division II first-round title.
Lahainaluna is currently No. 9 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s state top 10 poll and the only Division II team to be ranked.
For all of the Lunas’ first-round success, having outscored their opponents 156-21 and posting nine shutouts in their last 16 games, the team will practice half-pack instead of full-pack on Monday entering their bye week after six weeks and six wins.
“We’re pleased with the way things have gone,” said Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada. “We got through the first round good, but now everybody is back to having a clean slate and everybody is even again. I mean we have a slight advantage because we won the first round, so at least we have a spot in the playoffs if there is any.”
Again, Lahainaluna dominated on both sides of the ball, rolling up 409 yards rushing as Rocha-Islas scored on runs of 30, 35, 32 yards, respectively.
The 5-foot, 9-inch, 205-pound junior running back is now the team’s leading rusher and No. 2 in the MIL with 399 yards on 34 carries. He has a league-best average of 11.7 yards per carry and tops the MIL in scoring with 65 points from his seven touchdowns and 23 extra-point kicks.
“I give a lot of the credit to our offensive line, they have been great all year and is a huge part of our success,” said Rocha-Islas, who came into the season with career totals of 566 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 112 carries (5.1).
“They are a great team. They are well-coached and they have so many running threats it’s hard to just key on one player,” said Maui High cornerback Andre Pierman, who had his second interception in as many games and his league-leading fifth on the season. “I think they are one of the toughest (Division II) teams in the state. I think its between Lahainaluna and Kaiser and I think the Lunas are better.”
Lahainaluna quarterback Makoa Filikitonga finished with 115 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while senior running back Christian Whitehead had 112 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
“It comes down to our offensive line,” said Tihada of his team’s three 100-plus-yard rushers. “As a general rule, I don’t look to see who’s in the backfield. Once in a while . . . if it’s a really, really crucial down, we know that certain kids may run certain things better than other kids. Maybe some guys are a little better up the middle and some guys are little better on the outside.”
Rocha-Islas said he doesn’t have a favorite play.
“It doesn’t matter to me if the play is up the middle or wide, as long as I get the call.”
Once he gets the football from Filikitonga he says: “I go hard and react. Sometimes I’ll break to the sidelines, sometimes I’ll take it upfield. It doesn’t matter, I’m just looking for the end zone.”
Although he plays cornerback on defense, too, it is running the ball that he enjoys most.
“I love it, I crave it,” he said. “I try to go hard every play and execute and score so we can get the subs in the game.”
While the offense has caught up with the team’s stellar defense, Rocha-Islas says, “we still can be better and more consistent.”
Tihada said all of the team’s success and motivation are generated by the players’ commitment to the weight room — during the offseason and its current morning sessions three times a week.
“They’ve put in the work during the offseason,” Tihada explained. “But if they didn’t work hard over the offseason than we would constantly have to motivate them and constantly have to change things up. We have good leaders who have set the tone in practice and in the weight room.”
With all of his experience, Rocha-Islas has proven to be one of the leaders. He is loyal to Lahainaluna football and practices its core values daily.
“The experience I have gained from playing varsity as a freshman makes me feel comfortable when I’m out there. I just love Lahainaluna football — going hard until the whistle blows and being humble at the same time. And of course, the work we put in lifting is the blueprint to our success, and I learned that at an early age.”
Friday’s MIL Game Summary
Maui High 0 0 7 0—7
Lahainaluna 16 7 14 0—37
LH—Safety, bad punt snap, ball kicked out of end zone, 10:04.
LH—Jared Rocha-Islas 30 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 4:00.
LH—Makoa Filikitonga 53 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 1:14.
LH—Christian Whitehead 30 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 10:05.
LH—Rocha-Islas 35 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 10:00.
MH—Onosai Emelio 1 run (Jared Kaipsi kick), 3:42.
LH—Rocha-Islas 32 run (Rocha-Islas kick), 2:20.
Junior varsity-Maui High 7, Lahainaluna 6.