LAHAINA - What a difference a week makes.
A week after being shut out, the Lahainaluna High School football team rebounded with a decisive 26-6 win over Keaau from the Big Island on Saturday at "The Imu."
The Lunas opened the prep football season on Maui with a 14-0 home loss to Pac-Five on Aug. 13.
B.J. Pagdilao-Bala of Lahainaluna High School runs ahead of Keaau’s Roger Carlos (24) and Matthew Winters on the way to a touchdown in the first quarter of the Lunas’ 26-6 win over the Cougars on Saturday at “The Imu.”
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
For the Lunas, it was all a matter of getting back to the basics.
"Fundamentals," co-head coach Garret Tihada said of the team's marked improvement. "That's all we ask of the kids - that every game we have to improve on our blocking and tackling. We got a little better this week on our blocking and tackling, and we just have to keep taking those little steps."
The Lunas' offense fired away early, scoring touchdowns on its first two drives, which racked up a total of 137 yards. Lahainaluna's first touchdown drive covered 65 yards in nine plays - eight of which were rushes. The lone pass, a 4-yarder from Kiko Kohler-Fonohema to Bronson Kaina, put the ball on the Cougars' 9-yard line, and Semisi Filikitonga scored from 2 yards out with 8 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
The point-after kick sailed left of the uprights - a theme that would plague the Lunas throughout the game. They had three failed attempts, one of them on a run for a 2-point try.
On the following drive, Lahainaluna's Chanse Uyeda came up with a third-down sack that stunted Keaau at its own 32-yard line.
The Lunas would take just four plays to strike again, on a 13-yard touchdown run by B.J. Pagdilao-Bala.
The Lunas totaled 277 yards of offense. Kohler-Fonohema completed three of six passes for 42 yards and rushed for 25 yards on eight carries.
The Lahainaluna defense did its part, too, denying Keaau a first down until the first play of the second quarter.
"Our defense did really well today," Tihada said. "They gang tackled, which is something that we preach a lot, everybody gets to a ball. Last week we didn't do a very good job of tackling. This week was a little better. We still have to work on that, but it's a little better."
The Cougars gained 168 total yards. Last week, the Lunas gave up just 154.
A bad Lahainaluna snap late in the first quarter, recovered by Keaau's Matthew Winters, positioned the Cougars on the Lunas' 32-yard line, kick-starting a drive that would end with Keaau's only score of the game, on a 2-yard touchdown pass from George Lucas-Tadeo to Johnny Vance with 10:15 to go in the second quarter.
With 3:37 to go before halftime, Kaena Felicilda intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Filikitonga then tacked on a 2-point run for a 20-6 lead.
Filikitonga earned his second touchdown by running around the right end for a 3-yard score with 5:57 left in the game.
Lahainaluna, which went without 11 players against Pac-Five due to academic difficulties, welcomed nine of those players back this week.
The added depth proved to be a "big difference," according to Tihada.
"Like everybody else in the league, too, if your probation kids are not eligible, it's going to hurt your team," he said.
The Lunas improved to 13-2 on their home field since resuming games there after a 57-year absence in 2004.
"Every year, they're always good. We expect no different from Lahainaluna and today they did good," said
Keaau coach Michael Nonies. "You have to give them credit - they're just quick, they're athletic."
Lahainaluna will face King Kekaulike in the first Maui Interscholastic League game of the season next Saturday.
"We have to watch this film, break it down a little bit more and find out our weaknesses and our strengths," Tihada said. "We're heading into the league now, so we're definitely going to work on some of those things."
* Lehia Apana is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keaau ................ 0 ..... 6 ..... 0 ....... 0-6
Lahainaluna ..... 12 ..... 8 ..... 0 ..... 6-26
LL-Semisi Filikitonga 2 run (kick failed), 8:24.
LL-B.J. Pagdilao-Bala 13 run (run failed), 3:58.
K-Jesse Huihui 2 pass from George Lucas-Tadeo (kick failed), 10:15.
LL-Kaena Felicilda 30 interception return (Filikitonga run), 3:37.
LL-Filikitonga 3 run (kick failed), 5:57.
RUSHING-K, Johnny Vance 3-28, Lucas-Tadeo 10-26, Huihui 6-12, Kau Eggers 4-8, Matthew Winters 2-1, Bryson Samson 1-0; LL, Jared Rocha 7-40, Bronson Kaina 5-39, Semisi Filikitonga 8-38, Tytus Lucas 4-34, B.J. Pagdilao-Bala 4-28, Chanse Uyeda 4-26, Kiko Kohler-Fonohema 8-25, Ansen Cabanilla 3-19, Mark Alamon 2-4, Team 1-(minus 18).
PASSING-K, Lucas-Tadeo 13-17-1-82, Eggers 1-6-1-11; LL, Kohler-Fonohema 3-6-0-42.
RECEIVING-K, Damien Packer 5-30, Vance 3-28, Huihui 3-16, Jonathan Segovia 1-9, Makana Fraser 1-7, Winters 1-3; LL, Lucas 1-20, Pagdilao-Bala 1-18, Kaina 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-none.
Lahainaluna 26, Keaau 6
Waiakea 21, Maui High 7
Kauai 27, King Kekaulike 0
Edison (Calif.) vs. Baldwin at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 27
King Kekaulike at Lahainaluna, 1:30 p.m.
Maui High vs. Kamehameha Maui at War Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.