WAILUKU - Excuse the Lahainaluna High School football team for getting defensive. On Saturday night in front of about 800 fans at War Memorial Stadium, it worked.
The Lunas forced eight turnovers - seven of them interceptions - and beat Konawaena 23-6 in a First Hawaiian Bank Division II state tournament quarterfinal.
The Lunas' other takeaway was a fumble returned 61 yards for a touchdown by Mark Alamon - and they added a safety to beat the Big Island champions with just 94 yards of offense without completing a pass.
Lahainaluna High School quarterback J.R. Kenolio-Dusenberry throws a pass during the first quarter of the Lunas’ 23-6 victory over Konawaena in a First Hawaiian Bank Division II state tournament quarterfinal Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Three of the interceptions were by Kaena Felicilda and two by Scott Medeiros-Tangatailoa. Semisi Filikitonga and Tytus Lucas each had one.
The Lunas (7-4) will face second-seeded Waipahu on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Marauders' field.
Earlier in the day, MIL D-I champion Baldwin will play Punahou at Aloha Stadium, with kickoff set for 4 p.m.
The Wildcats' season ends at 11-2, one season after they went 3-9.
"All year we depended on our defense and tonight was no different," Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said.
When asked if the offense struggled, Tihada smiled and said, "A lot. That has been the case the whole year."
In the third quarter, Bronson Kaina caught quarterback Kahoalii Karratti in the end zone to push Lahainaluna's lead to 10 points, and in the final minute of the game, Jared Rocha scored on fourth down from the 4-yard line after one of Karratti's interceptions.
"They did a good job reading this quarterback's eyes, getting to the passing lanes," Tihada said of his defensive backs.
Now, the Lunas have a trip to Oahu to plan.
"Waipahu, big school, big OIA (Oahu Interscholastic Association) program," Tihada said. "Pretty consistent year after year. Typical OIA team."
He knows the offense will have to play a lot better than it did on Saturday to have a chance on the Marauders' home field.
"Besides everything?" Tihada said when asked what his offense needs to work on. "Yeah, we need to work on everything. We are still not putting together drives, still not sustaining our blocks, we can only depend on our defense so long."
A first half dominated by defense ended with the Lunas clinging to a 14-6 lead.
They went up 7-0 on Alamon's fumble return 30 seconds into the second quarter. Ernest Fatongia hit Karratti and the ball rolled directly in front of Alamon, who scooped it up and ran untouched to the end zone.
On the third play of the next possession, Filikitonga intercepted Karratti and went 56 yards to the end zone, but the touchdown was called back on a block in the back during the return - three plays later, however, Rocha scored on a 12-yard run. On the first two plays of the drive, J.R. Kenolio-Dusenberry ran for 24 and seven yards.
The Wildcats responded with a seven-play, 65-yard drive that was culminated by a 12-yard touchdown pass to Austin Denis with 7:47 to go in the half.
The Lunas punted on their next three possessions, but their defense finished the first half with five takeaways and forced another change of possession when they flushed punter Viliamu Uulopa and his run was short of a first down.
Lahainaluna had just 16 yards of offense at halftime, thanks in large part to the devastating presence of Konawaena defensive lineman Michael Andrade. On the Lunas' next-to-last possession of the first half - a three-and-out - Andrade had a sack for a loss of nine yards and then stuffed back-to-back running plays for losses of four and five yards. He finished the night with six tackles for loss.
Karratti, who was victimized by several drops, finished 9-for-33 passing for 111 yards. The Wildcats finished with 147 total yards.
Of the Lunas' 28 plays from scrimmage in the first half, 16 went for zero or negative yardage. They were forced to punt eight times.
The teams combined for 22 penalties for 148 yards. Lahainaluna committed 10 for 67 yards.
Perhaps the frustrating night was epitomized on the opening kickoff of the second half, when the Wildcats tried an onside kick that went only three yards before rolling out of bounds.
"Their defense played exceptionally well tonight," Konawaena coach Cliff Walters said. "So did ours, our defense just hung in there, gave us every opportunity that we needed to win this game, but their defense hung in as well. Our offense couldn't get it going tonight and that was the difference."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
LL-Mark Alamon 61 fumble return (Amateo Flores kick), 11:30.
LL-Jared Rocha 12 run (Flores kick), 9:42.
K-Austin Denis 12 pass from Kahoalii Karratti (run failed), 7:47.
LL-Safety, Kahoalii Karratti tackled by Bronson Kaina in end zone, 6:22.
LL-Jared Rocha 4 run (Flores kick), 0:45.
STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Quarterfinal-Kapaa 7, Pearl City 0
Quarterfinal-Lahainaluna 23, Konawaena 6
Semifinal-Lahainaluna at Waipahu, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 19
Semifinal-Kapaa at Iolani, 2 p.m.
Semifinal-Baldwin vs. Punahou at Aloha Stadium, 4 p.m. (OC16)
Semifinal-Kahuku vs. Leilehua at Aloha Stadium, 7 p.m. (OC16)