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Lunas look poised for another run at a state crown
November 26, 2012 - Robert Collias
It was a fun ride with the Lahainaluna football team to the state title game, albeit a busy one amidst the EA Sports Maui Invitational and turkey week, but rest assured, this Luna unit is in solid position to make another run at a state crown.
The Lunas watched 13 seniors play their final high school football game in the 36-33 heartbreaking loss to Iolani, but seven players who started the state final return on offense, and seven return on defense — and that does not include 6-4, 340-pound two-way line force Pousima Galoia, who missed the game with a lower leg injury.
Tytus Lucas, Semisi Filikitonga, Mark Alamon, and Asi Fatongia will all be missed, significantly, on both sides of the ball. Lovai Hong and Samiuela Filiai will be missed on the offensive and defensive lines, respectively. Spot contributors John Lacuesta and Joshua Coston will also be hard to replace, but the cupboard is hardly bare.
Junior Christian Whitehead is an interesting returnee — he rushed nine times for 39 yards in MIL play while battling injuries before having 101 yards on 11 carries in the state title game. Quarterback Sione Filikitonga had 103 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 14 carries against Iolani, and running back Jared Rocha-Isalas had a game-106 yards on 11 carries — both are sophomores.
Next season's senior class will be led by honors candidate Hercules Mataafa, who had 13 tackles, more than half of them in the backfield, in two state games, and Kiko Kohler-Fonohema, who was the second-ranked quarterback in the MIL before he gave way to Filikitonga in the final three games. That allowed Kohler-Fonohema to play safety, receiver, and spot wildcat QB duty — his potential looks large at all of those spots.
On the O-line, Connor Mowat, Connor Rosen-St. John, Justin Hong, and Jordan Thomas Valmoja-Kaleikini all come back with starts in the state final under their belts. Mowat and Mataafa will return on the D-line, in front of linebackers Brandon Kaina and Bronson Kaina. Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa and Jared Purdy return with Jeffrey Ancog, a solid backup QB who had four interceptions (two of them pick sixes) on defense, and Kohler-Fonohema in the defensive secondary.
With quarterback Reece Foy, running back Yuuya Kato and receiver Tanner Nishioka gone, the Raiders lose 402 of their 414 net offensive yards, and two of their five receiving touchdowns from the title game. As six-time defending D-II state champions, it is still hard to count Iolani out of the state picture next season.
These Lunas were focused — co-head coach Garret Tihada pointed all year to the offseason work they did as being large in getting them this far — and it appears that senior leadership has rubbed off on the underclassmen.
Mataafa told me in the tunnel to the locker room after the loss that they would be in the weight room at 5 a.m. this morning.
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