Maui Sports

Final Reflection: Lunas’ Tihada Needed Plan C

November 23, 2013, 6:00 PM HST
* Updated November 23, 6:51 PM
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Lahainaluna High School offensive coordinator and co-head coach Garret Tihada is flanked by defensive coordinator and co-head coach Bobby Watson against Baldwin in the first round earlier this year. File photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna High School offensive coordinator and co-head coach Garret Tihada is flanked by defensive coordinator and co-head coach Bobby Watson against Baldwin in the first round earlier this year. File photo by Rodney S. Yap.

By Rodney S. Yap

Maui Now caught up with Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada for a final season-ending, question-and-answer interview. Below is Tihada’s very candid responses. Tomorrow we will give you Lahainaluna co-head coach Bobby Watson’s reaction to the same questions.

Lahainaluna fell short of its goal of winning the Hawaii High School State Division II Football Championship. On Saturday, Nov. 16, against visiting Kaiser before a War Memorial Stadium crowd of about 9,000, the previously unbeaten Lunas fell to the Cougars, 20-9, in a semifinal contest.

The Cougars (12-1) meet Kauai in the D-II state championship game tonight at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. No. 3 Kauai defeated No. 2 Iolani, the six-time defending champion, 28-7 on Oahu last week.

Lahainaluna (10-1) had its 10-game win streak snapped by Kaiser and finished one game short of its third state championship game appearance.

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1. First of all, how’s the injured boys?

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“Everybody is fine, except our third-string quarterback Kawika Kinimaka had surgery, but is out now and doing well. He had knee problems in the past, but according to our trainer he’s only seen this kind of knee injury from horrific car accidents.

“Jared (Rocha-Islas) did not have a broken ankle, just torn ligaments, and the other two (Sione Makoa Filikitonga and Kiko Kolher-Fonohema) injuries turned out to be stingers, that’s the bottom line.”

 

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2. What does a coach do, after 11 straight wins and arguably the best season in school history, comes to a screeching halt — one game short of its goal to play for the Div. II state championship?

“Last week I was a little busy working my second job, so it wasn’t too bad. Wednesday was family time and Thursday we had the legends of Lahaina and a few of our coaches went to that so it was nice to see them. That was the first time we had a chance to get together a little bit and hang out. I think the thing we as coaches miss after the season is the camaraderie with the other coaches and the kids. I think that is the biggest adjustment, not necessarily the on-the-field stuff itself. It’s more about the relationships we’ve built throughout the years.”

 

The Lunas at halftime against Kaiser during last Saturday's Division II semifinal game at War Memorial Stadium before an estimated crowd of 9,000. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

The Lunas at halftime against Kaiser during last Saturday’s Division II semifinal game at War Memorial Stadium before an estimated crowd of 9,000. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

3. I’m sure there were several Lahainaluna football fans who book trips to Oahu this weekend and are there now. Do you go to the game or go shopping?

“I think after a few days have gone by, I would probably go to the game. I would be interested to see how we might have matched up against Kauai.”

 

4. How many times have you watched the game video from last Saturday?

“I got through only half of it. It’s hard to watch even though we still had the lead. What I watched was how physical they were with us. Even in plays that worked for us, they still manhandled us and that’s the part that is hard to watch. The fact that we were physically dominated, mostly on offense. On defense, I think we did a hell of a job stopping them and then at the end of the game we just ran out of gas. We had too many two-way players.”

 

5. Are there parts of the game that you feel a need to go back and check (replay) for clarity or peace of mind?

“More just to say for future reference. It is something that we have to talk about as a staff: ‘If we are getting physically dominated what is Plan C?’ We did a bunch of stuff that we don’t normally do. We don’t rush Sione (Makoa) as much during our regular season. He has maybe five or six carries a game, but he had a bunch and that was way too much. The question is: ‘What do you do when you are being physically dominated?’ And part of it is being able to throw the ball with confidence and being comfortable throwing the ball.”

 

Lahainaluna's Scott Isaac Medeiros-Tangtailoa (25) levels Kaiser running back Thomas Buntenbah-Leong after catching a flat pass. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna’s Scott Isaac Medeiros-Tangtailoa (25) levels Kaiser running back Thomas Buntenbah-Leong after catching a flat pass. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

6. In your opinion, what were the key turning points in the game?

“Not converting in the red zone in the first half was huge. It’s always huge, but in a really, really tight game like this it hurt. We got to the one (yard line) and couldn’t punch it in and then we missed a field goal. That was huge. We had a first-and-goal at the one, but they just manhandled us. We couldn’t go inside, we tried to take it outside, we tried a play-action pass and every time we were stopped. We just got buried. And earlier in the first quarter, we had a wide open slot receiver off play-action and we missed that, so that’s two scores right there that we should have gotten — the first 14 points of the game.”

 

7. What are the things you would have changed now that you can second-guess yourself?

“Really, just sitting down with our coaching staff before hand and figuring out Plan C.”

 

8. After the game, immediately or days after, what was the mood like among the players and coaching staff?

“I don’t know about the rest of the coaching staff, but I was still in shock a couple of days later. Every week, all we preach to the kids and the kids preach to us is being in Aloha Stadium for our last game. It’s still a shock that our season is over . . . the younger kids said, ‘let’s get back to work.’ And that helps a lot. This is the third straight year now that the younger kids are the ones who are saying, ‘Coach let’s get back at it.’ The seniors are sad and in shock, the underclassmen are ready to go.

“We apologized to the seniors for falling short and we thanked them for their hard work and leadership. To the rest of the team, it’s up to you guys what we do from this point on and like I said they have already decided to get to work.”

 

Lahainaluna quarterback Makoa Filikitonga (8) avoids the defensive pressure by Kaiser's Zeno Choi (9). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna quarterback Makoa Filikitonga (8) avoids the defensive pressure by Kaiser’s Zeno Choi (9). Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

9. What hurts the most?

“It’s the same thing every year and every team in the league goes through it. Only the Division I winner and the Division II winner are happy.”

 

10. How tough is it going to be to restart, renew the commitment for 2014, there is plenty of talent coming back?

“As far as the returnees it’s not going to be hard at all. The tough part will be getting the jayvee kids out, the younger kids who don’t understand what it took to get to this point the last two years. Our seniors and juniors really understood the value of hard work, and hard work equals success. The last two years have been the best two years of off-season training we’ve ever had here since ’97.”

 

Lahainaluna's Hercules Mata'afa (50) tries to create havoc in the Kaiser backfield. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Lahainaluna’s Hercules Mata’afa (50) tries to create havoc in the Kaiser backfield. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

11. What do you hope the players on this team remembers about the 2013 MIL football season?

“The thing that sticks out in my head is Kawika Kinimaka. I talked to him when he got out of the hospital. He’s our third-string quarterback. He didn’t play last year. He knew that he wasn’t going to get much playing time, but he just wanted to be on the team. So when he came out of the hospital, I asked him how he was doing and this is what he tells me: ‘Coach I didn’t lay on the ground. I remembered what you guys told us. ‘Other than a head, neck or back injury, get up,’ because that is what you’ve got to do in life — you got to get up because life is hard.”

“I was like, ‘wow’, somebody was actually listening. For me and the rest of our staff, that’s a thing that was taught to us when we played and it’s the thing that we teach our kids at home and the thing we teach the kids on the football field. But to hear it from one of the kids: ‘That’s all I thought about was when I went down, I gotta get up.’ We tell the parents from the beginning that we are going to be hard on their kids, because life is hard. If they can handle us, they can handle anything in life. This kid got it!”

 

Kaiser High School’s Fitou Fisiiahi reacts after scoring the second of two rushing touchdowns in the second half to help the Cougars defeat Lahainaluna. Against Kauai, Fisiiahi struggled with 10 carries for 8 yards. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

Kaiser High School’s Fitou Fisiiahi reacts after scoring the second of two rushing touchdowns in the second half to help the Cougars defeat Lahainaluna. Against Kauai, Fisiiahi struggled with 10 carries for 8 yards. Photo by Rodney S. Yap.

***

Kaiser beats Kauai 17-7 for state Division II title

Kaiser’s special teams broke a 7-7 tie on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Melvin Kahunanui recovered a block punt in the end zone to help the Cougars pull out a 17-7 win over Kauai in the first game of a doubleheader to decide Hawaii’s 2013 state football champions.

The fourth-seeded Cougars (13-1) earned their 13th straight victory and the school’s first Division II state football championship. Unseeded Kauai suffered its first loss of the season (10-1) after building a 7-0 lead at halftime.

The second game at Aloha Stadium between top-seeded Punahou and No. 2 Mililani is slated for around 7:30 p.m.

Turns out the Division II championship was a defensive battle as Kauai netted just 74 yards in total offense, 62 coming via the rush. Kaiser managed 122 yards, 92 passing as quarterback Kahoalii “Lii” Karratti was 8 for 15 and one touchdown, to Elima Haole from 9 yards out with 2 minutes to play in the third quarter.

 

 

 

 

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