Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
No. 7 Lahainaluna pulls away from Roosevelt


Sat, Nov 17, 2018 @ Lahainaluna [ 4:30 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
ROOS (12-2-0) 3 7 0 010
LAH (11-0-0) 14 13 7 1448
Pass: Nainoa Irish (LAH) 92 yd 1 TD
Rush: Joshua Tihada (LAH) 63 yd 1 TD
Rec: Kaihulali Casco (LAH) 120 yd 2 TD

LAHAINA, Maui — Lahainaluna's special teams were just that Saturday night.

The Lunas rode three touchdowns from their special teams' units to pull away from visiting Roosevelt, 48-10, in a semifinal game of the First Hawaiian Bank Division II Football State Championships before a crowd of about 2,500 fans at Sue D. Cooley Stadium.

Lahainaluna, the No. 7 team in the ScoringLive/Hawaiian Electric Power Rankings and the top seed in the tournament, improved to 10-0 on the season and will try for a third consecutive state crown when it faces second-seeded Kapaa in a rematch of the 2016 title game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

The fourth-seeded Rough Riders saw their three-game win streak snapped and ended their season with an 12-2 record.

The Lunas got an 86-yard kickoff return by Kamalei Watson to answer an early Roosevelt field goal and also benefitted from a pair of second-half punt returns for touchdowns of 48 and 54 yards by Tre Rickard.

"Our defense and then our special teams just blew the game wide open tonight," Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said.

Defensively, the Lunas limited the Rough Riders to 181 yards of total offense and pitched a second-half shut out.

Devon Sa-Chisolm and Sheldon Frias posted seven tackles apiece to lead the unit. Kaihulali Casco added 5 1/2 tackles and Apakasi Felemi added five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the win.

Casco also recorded a pair of touchdown receptions — one in each half — on offense and finished with three receptions for 120 yards.

"He's a big target and he's got really good speed, so he's a good target to throw to," Tihada said of the 6-foot, 180-pound Casco.

Casco's first touchdown reception was a 72-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Nainoa Irish that gave Lahainaluna a 21-3 lead with 7:58 left in the first half.

"Well, that play I was supposed to run a four, which is a stop, but then I saw the quarterback running out and just the communication — I could just see it in his eyes that he wanted me to go deep — so I just told him ‘throw it up and just trust me,' and he trusted me with the ball and I made something with it," Casco said.

After a Roosevelt three-and-out on its ensuing drive, the Lunas needed just two plays to score. Joshua Tihada went untouched on a 46-yard TD run, but the PAT was no good and the score remained 27-3 until the 1:14 mark in the second quarter, when Roosevelt quarterback Sky Ogata scored on a 16-yard TD run. The scoring play was set-up by a Lahainaluna fumble four plays prior.

It was one of three first-half fumbles by the Lunas — the first led to Mason Morishige's 25-yard field goal that gave the Rough Riders a 3-0 lead with 9:21 left in the first quarter.

"We were very, very sloppy, but our defense played lights out again. They pretty much made up for those three fumbles in the first half," Tihada said. "In fact, if it wasn't for those fumbles, I don't know if (Roosevelt) would have had those 10 points up there."

After the Ogata TD run, Morishige tacked on the extra point to cut the Lunas' lead to 27-10, which was the score at halftime.

The score held until late in the third quarter, when Casco hauled in a 39-yard TD pass from Esekielu Storer. The same pair hooked up for a 9-yard completion four plays prior to convert a third-and-long. On the scoring play, Storer aired a pass along the right sideline, that Casco went up for and snagged away from the defensive back before running away from the rest of the defense.

"That was just another ‘just throw it up to me and trust me and I'll do something with it,' " Casco said.

Following the PAT by Pablo Rico, Lahainaluna led 34-10. It added to that lead two plays into the fourth quarter, when Rickard took back a Kawai Tully-Sabog punt along the left sideline for a 48-yard touchdown. He followed that up after another Roosevelt three-and-out with a 54-yard return — also down the left sideline — to close out the scoring with 9:11 left to play.

"It was good. It was something that we've been practicing for our past three weeks of our bye, so we had to perfect it," Watson said of the special teams' scores.

Watson's 86-yard kickoff return to the house immediately answered Roosevelt's early score and quickly erased a 3-0 deficit.

"I just did what we usually do," Watson said of the return. "We sustained all our blocks, I took it up the middle and as I was going, I found that it was open so I took the chance."

Later in the opening quarter, Tully-Sabog has his punt blocked by Lahainaluna's Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales and three plays later Derek Perez scored on a 3-yard run. Casco's extra point gave his team a 14-3 lead with 3:59 left in the period.

"Our team just has this workman-like attitude. Regardless of the score, they just come out and do their thing and that's what they did tonight," Tihada said. "The score didn't phase them one way or another. They just came out and executed what they know how to do."

The Lunas finished with 251 yards of total offense, 174 of which came through the air. Irish was the leading passer with 92 yards on 3-of-4 passing, Esekielu Storer was 4 of 5 for 68 yards and Etuati Storer completing the only pass he attempted for 14 yards.

Ogata, who left the game for a period of time after sustaining a massive hit as he unleashed a pass early in the second half, finished 7-of-14 passing for 44 yards with two intercepted. He also rushed 19 times for 56 yards — both team-high marks.

"That kid has been tough and played hard every game, every game this year for us and he's a key guy, man. He's the guy that drives this offense down the field every game," Roosevelt coach Kui Kahooilihala said of Ogata, a junior quarterback.

The Rough Riders, who were coming off a 20-7 win over PAC-5 in last week's first round of the tournament, fell to 1-2 all-time in state tournament games. The Oahu Interscholastic Association champions were seeking their first state finals appearance.

"Man, I'm proud of the kids," Kahooilihala said. "I'm proud for what they've done and we took this journey together from February — our offseason, the workouts and even our coaches — they all did a hell of a job and they sacrificed a lot this year with each other, so they came in and put in work and this year has been a great, great year for our guys."

Roosevelt played without junior running back Mitchell Camacho, who sustained an injury against the Wolfpack last week. It lost another running back Saturday night when Keneke Gusman left the game with an apparent injury midway through the first quarter and did not return.

Lahainaluna, the Maui Interscholastic League champion, was playing its first game since Oct. 27. After an opening-round bye last weekend, it will be making its fifth state finals appearance in the last seven seasons and its sixth overall appearance in a title game.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].




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