Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
No. 8 Lahainaluna upends No. 11 Konawaena


Fri, Dec 17, 2021 @ Farrington [ 3:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
KONA(6-1-0) 7 0 0 07
LAH(7-1-0) 14 6 0 1030

KALIHI — When it rains, it pours.

Lahainaluna forced 10 turnovers and scored 23 unanswered points to rout Konawaena, 30-7, Friday afternoon in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank Division I Football State Championships at Edward 'Skippa' Diaz Stadium at Kusunoki Field.

The Lunas, the top-seeded team in the four-team tournament, improved to 7-0 and will face Iolani next Thursday in a 4 p.m. state final.

Seven of the Lunas' 10 takeaways came off of interceptions, but it was a fumble recovery on the Wildcats' second series of the game that was the most costly. Lance Morikawa recovered a high Konawaena snap at the Wildcats' 1-yard line and Blare Sylva-Viela punched it in on the very next play to give Lahainaluna a 14-7 lead that would only grow as the game progressed.
Sylva-Viela was the leading offensive threat for the Lunas with 100 yards rushing on 17 carries. He also recorded eight total tackles and had the first Lahainaluna interception in the second half while playing at cornerback.

Ian-Jay Cabanilla was also another key two-way player for Lahainaluna with the first and last interception for the Lunas' defense. His first pick led to a 19-yard field goal by Anatello Flores to start the second quarter and his second interception led to his 10-yard touchdown run with 1:54 remaining in regulation.

"The last couple of weeks we prepped hard on Konawaena's film, watching all their games and having our scout (offense) run their offense so our starting defense can get used to what they run," said Cabanilla, who also rushed for 44 yards.

Christian Clarion, Kahi Magno, Kuola Watson and Flores also had interceptions and Sacrie Latu and Lehia Tihada had fumble recoveries for the Lunas as the Wildcats (6-1) were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.

"The defense kept us in the game no doubt," said Lahainaluna co-coach Dean Rickard. "We bended defensively, but they held their ground. Anytime you can stop an offense like this from getting into the end zone and holding them to seven points, that's a succesful game on defense."

Despite the turnovers, Konawaena held their own and was competitive for most of the game. The Wildcats' red zone defense stood tall and forced Lahainaluna to line up in field goal formation six times and they converted on fourth down to extend drives on their first two possessions.

"It's a tribute to this group, that's what they've been all year," said Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto. "They've just been fighters and I wanted to go out fighting."

While a bad Konawaena snap led to the Lunas' go-ahead score, a bad Lahainaluna snap ended up in the victor's favor.

After stalling at the Konawaena 20-yard line on their opening drive, the Lunas lined up for a 36-yard field goal. Watson, the holder, bobbled a low snap on the attempt, but was able to gather the ball and sprint around the left end untouched for the Lunas' first TD.

"He just made something happen," said Rickard. "It helped us a little bit getting back some momentum. We're always happy when something like that happens, we're just happy that something like that happened to us."

With Konawaena running back Kawelu Kaiawe (19 carries, 78 yards, TD) dealing with cramps and a knee injury sustained in the first half, Lahainaluna dialed up the pressure against Konawaena quarterback Keoki Alani.

"We actually changed up our blitzing," said Sylva-Viela. "Usually we blitz with our razor-lasers."

Razor what?

"Our outside linebackers," said Sylva-Viela, defining razor-lasers.

"This game we were blitzing with the middle linebackers and razor-lasers to flush the quarterback out of the pocket so has less time to throw."

Alani was sacked just twice, but was forced into a number of throws that Lahainaluna's secondary was able to step in front of.

Rickard said it's a credit to co-coach Bobby Watson's gameplanning. Coach Watson coordinates the defense and is in his 32nd season with the Lunas.

"Coach Watson probably spends hours and hours of reviewing film and focusing on the opponent's tendencies. We're not really physically huge, but we try to depend a lot on our quickness."

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].

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