HHSAA Football
Lunas rally past Warriors for third D2 title


   



Sat, Nov 24, 2018 @ Aloha Stadium [ 1:30 pm ]


Final 1 2 3 4 OT
KAPA (7-3-0) 13 13 0 6 - 32
LAH (11-0-0) 7 0 7 20 - 34
Pass: N. Irish (LAH) 132 yd 1 TD  Rush: R. Banasihan (KAPA) 197 yd 0 TD  Rec: J. Alapai (KAPA) 52 yd 1 TD

HALAWA — No. 7 Lahainaluna rallied from a 19-point halftime deficit to turn back No. 15 Kapaa, 34-32, in a thriller for the Lunas' third consecutive First Hawaiian Bank Division II state football championship at Aloha Stadium.

"This one feels amazing for our team," said Lunas' junior back Joshua Tihada, who scored three second-half touchdowns and rushed for 152 yards. "It just feels amazing. I'm lost for words."

The Lunas (11-0) extended their win streak to 21 games dating to last year, when it lost to Kamehameha-Kapalama, 34-10, on Aug. 12. They are the first Neighbor Island team to finish unbeaten and untied since Maui finished 9-0 after winning the old Neighbor Island Championship Series. This is the first Lunas team to finish unbeaten and untied since 1944 (7-0).

The Warriors (7-3) lost in the title game for the third time in the last four years, leaving the Kauai Interscholastic Federation still without a crown. Lahainaluna is the first D2 champion to finish undefeated since Radford went 13-0 in 2015.

The Warriors made it a nail-biter for Lahainaluna when they threatened to tie the game after scoring with two minutes, 17 seconds left to pull to 34-32, but a 2-point conversion pass went off the receiver's finger tips to preserve the Lunas' lead.

Lahainaluna entered the game having allowed 39 points but watched the Warriors put up 26 in the first half. It was the first time the Lunas surrendered more than one TD in a game all season.

But the turning point came early in the third period. Kaiola Lingaton's interception off of Nainoa Irish was returned 23 yards to the Lunas 7. But on the second play from scrimmage, Ryno Banasihan fumbled at the Lunas 1. The Lunas drove 99 yards with Tihada scoring from the 1 for the first of his three rushing TDs. He also had a TD catch.

"I don't know if we would have put 'em away," Kapaa coach Philip Rapozo said. "You saw the resilience of that team. It sure would've helped us. Stuff happens, man. Fourteen-point swing right there."

Banasihan rushed for a game-high 197 yards — 153 coming in the first half.

Place kicker Chysen Lagunes-Rapozo booted a state tournament record 55-yard field goal, breaking the previous best of 53 by Punahou's Jet Toner in the 2014 semifinals against Kahuku in Division I and the D2 mark of 49 set by Aiea's Brandon Plunkett in 2003 against Lahainaluna in the semifinals.

"I felt confident doing it," Lagunes-Rapozo said. "I just did what I had to do. I wasn't thinking anything. Routine for me."

Routine indeed.

Lagunes-Rapozo also kicked a 45-yard field goal in the game, matching his regular-season long.

"He's good," Kapaa coach Philip Rapozo said. "He's been steady at practice. He can kick from 60 (yards)."

The longest field goal in state history is 58 yards by Konawaena's Harry Hill against Waiakea on Sept. 23, 2017.

In non-league play to open the season, the Lunas beat the Warriors, 30-10, at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue.

It appeared that the Lunas were headed in that direction at the outset. The Lunas received the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 10 plays with Irish hitting a wide-open Tihada on the left hashmark for a 28-yard catch-and-run TD Kaihulali Casco's PAT gave the Lunas a 7-0 lead four minutes, eight seconds into the game.

It would be the last time Lahainaluna would score in the first half. On their next four series, the Lunas lost the ball on downs, punted twice and turned over the ball on Jai Alapai's interception that was recycled into a field goal before the half to increase Kapaa's lead to 26-7.

The second half was all Lahainaluna, showing why it is a perennial champion. After losing the ball on its first series of the second half on Lingaton's interception, the Lunas got the ball back after Banasihan's fumble. The Lunas would scored on their four series. Tihada scored on runs of 1, 2 and 4 yards — the last one putting the Lunas up, 27-26, with 7:02 left after Tihada was stopped on a 2-point conversion attempt.

After an interception by Kamalei Watson, the Lunas separated themselves from the Warriors on their fifth series of the half when Derek Perez scored from 23 yards on a slotback counter. Casco's PAT made it 34-26.

Lahainaluna did not do anything different from the first half, as far as schemes. The Lunas just played better offensively and defensively.

"No adjustments whatsoever," Lunas co-coach Garret Tihada said. "We just had to come out, go back to fundamentals: block and tackle. We blocked in the second half. We tackled in the second half. And that's the name of the game. You take care of that, you should be able to be successful."

Added Kamalei Watson, grandson of co-coach Robert Watson: "During halftime, coach Watson really gave us a good speech in the locker room to get our momentum up and keep us in that game."


In the other locker room, the Warriors were not taking their lead for granted.

"The game is zero-zero," coach Rapozo said. "It's a new game."

But the Warriors continued to fight. They scored on a 1-yard TD pass from Kahanu Davis on a rollout left to Tyson Tranilla with 2:17 left in the game to pull to 34-32. The Warriors went for the 2-point conversion, but Davis' pass was just off the finger tips of Lanakila Pagtolingan in the right side of the end zone to deny Kapaa from tying the game.

After falling behind to the Lunas, the Warriors scored 26 unanswered points in the first half. Davis threw TD passes of 3 yards to Pagtolingan and 52 yards to Alapai. Davis scored on a 5-yard keeper to make it 20-7 before Lagunes-Rapozo's field goals of 55 and 45 made it 26-7.

"I thought we were all right," coach Rapozo said. "You have to give those guys credit because are a great team."



Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at [email protected].


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