HONOLULU - As it has all season, the Lahainaluna High School football team relied on its surrender-nothing defense to advance to the second state championship game in school history Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
After a 27-yard loss on a bad snap, Tytus Lucas grabbed the first of his two interceptions in the game and returned it 34 yards for the backbreaking touchdown in the third quarter of a 28-0 victory over Nanakuli in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Championship.
The defense added the final score as well, when Samiuela Filiai recovered a fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Lahainaluna High School’s Sione Filikitonga scrambles during the Lunas’ 28-0 win over Nanakuli on Saturday in a First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Football Championship semifinal at Aloha Stadium.
SEAN NAKAMURA / ScoringLive photo
It was the seventh shutout of the season for the Lunas (9-1), who will play for the title Friday against five-time defending champion Iolani, which beat Radford 43-0 in the second semifinal.
"I don't think you ever think about doing stuff like that," Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said. "We just want to do what we do best and come out with a win."
What the Lunas do best is play defense.
FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK STATE FOOTBALL
At Aloha Stadium
Punahou 49, Mililani 19
Kahuku 47, Farrington 14
Friday, Nov. 23
Punahou vs. Kahuku, 7 p.m.
Lahainaluna 28, Nanakuli 0
Iolani 43, Radford 0
Friday, Nov. 23
Lahainaluna vs. Iolani, 4 p.m.
Defensive tackle Hercules Mataafa was credited with one sack - though he appeared to have four - and three tackles for losses altogether, with a forced fumble. Lahainaluna had five players with at least four tackles.
"X amount of points scored or not scored, that is not what we focus on," Tihada said. "Huge, the defense played awesome. Offensively we didn't do too much, especially in the second half, but if your defense can do that, you have a chance of winning every game."
Just when it looked like the Golden Hawks (7-5) might deny the Lunas another shutout, after a 45-yard pass from Chazz Troutman to Lansen Liki and a 7-yard completion to Brandon Felisi moved the ball to the 10-yard line, the defense went to work once again.
Following an incompletion, Mataafa tackled Khade Paris in the backfield almost before he could take the handoff for a 2-yard loss, and Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa knocked away a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Lahainaluna then went on an 11-play drive, highlighted by a 21-yard run by Lucas on fourth-and-7 out of punt formation, that chewed up more than seven minutes. The Lunas eventually punted, but Troutman was sacked again by Mataafa and fumbled - Filiai recovered in the end zone with 7:32 left.
Lucas intercepted a pass in the end zone - his eighth pick of the season and fifth in the last two games - with 6:26 to play to thwart Nanakuli's last chance to break the shutout.
Sophomore quarterback Sione Filikitonga started his second straight game after being called up from the Lahainaluna junior varsity.
Tihada said the decision to start Filikitonga was made in August. Using Filikitonga at quarterback meant that Kiko Kohler-Fonohema, a junior and the second-leading passer in the Maui Interscholastic League, could play receiver and safety, with a few snaps at quarterback.
"We knew that when (Filikitonga) came up he would probably end up being the starter," Tihada said. "He works hard, he is very talented, and we have always wanted to use Kiko in different spots."
Filikitonga completed his first four passes and finished 6-for-10 for 126 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He said he found out two weeks ago he would be the starter.
"This was my first time in Oahu, playing this game," Filiktonga said. "I was very happy, excited, kind of nervous, but I pulled it off. My team helped me out. They backed me up, I backed them up, that's why we came here - to win."
Semisi Filikitonga, a senior linebacker and running back, had five tackles, including one for a loss of 27 yards, and caught a 19-yard pass from his younger cousin.
"To me it is a really big step up for him because he is so young," Semisi Filikitonga said. "I just told him, 'Keep your head up, if anything happens just keep moving forward.' "
Jared Rocha-Isalas was not supposed to play because of an ankle injury, but finished with 76 gritty yards, mostly up the middle, on nine carries. Lucas ran three times for 64 yards as the Lunas piled up 164 yards on the ground.
Lahainaluna was stopped on downs the first time it had the ball, after gaining a pair of first downs, but immediately forced a fumble that linebacker Bronson Kaina recovered at the Nanakuli 42. After the Lunas lost yardage on a bad snap, Lucas broke off a 42-yard run, and Mark Alamon scored from the 1 two plays later.
Filikitonga hit a wide-open Medeiros-Tangatailoa for a 68-yard touchdown pass with 11:09 left in the first half.
Lahainaluna finished with 290 yards of offense while allowing 132. The Lunas limited Nanakuli to minus-7 yards rushing on 21 carries.
With 6:08 left in the first half, the Lunas got a break when an inadvertent whistle wiped out a fumble by Lucas on a punt that was recovered by the Golden Hawks at the Lunas' 30-yard line.
The state final is the third for the MIL, all in D-II - King Kekaulike won the 2006 crown, and Lahainaluna lost to Iolani a year later.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nanakuli ........... 0 ..... 0 ..... 0 ...... 0-0
Lahainaluna ..... 7 ..... 7 ..... 7 ..... 7-28
LL-Mark Alamon 1 run (Kiko Kohler-Fonohema kick), 3:50.
LL-Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa 68 pass from Sione Filikitonga (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 11:09.
LL-Tytus Lucas 34 interception return (Kohler-Fonohema kick)m 7:58.
LL-Samieula Filiai fumble recovery in end zone (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 7:32.
RUSHING-N, Brandon Felisi 4-13, Nyenoa Ulangca-Kauweloa 4-2, Khade Paris 4-1, Nathan Kipi 2-1, Chazz Troutman 7-(-24). L, Jared Rocha-Islas 9-76, Lucas 3-64, Kohler-Fonohema 9-26, Semisi Filikitonga 10-13, Alamon 1-1, Team 1-(-3), Sione Filikitonga 9-(-13).
PASSING-N, Troutman 11-20-2-139, Felisi 0-1-0-0. L, Sione Filikitonga 6-10-0-126.
RECEIVING-N, Felisi 3-30, Charles Garcia 3-2, Lansen Liki 2-52, Ulangca-Kauweloa 2-46, Joseph Shelton 1-9. L, Christian Whitehead 2-22, Medeiros?Tangatailoa 1-68, Ernest Fatongia 1-19, Rocha-Islas 1-10, Jeffrey Ancog 1-7.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-None.