LAHAINA - This five-year plan will show distinctively different subplots tonight at Aloha Stadium.
In 2007, Lahainaluna High School's team bus arrived late for the First Hawaiian Bank Division II state championship football game against Iolani.
With many at Aloha Stadium wondering about the Lunas' whereabouts, they finally raced in, dressed in the stadium tunnel and took the field without a warm-up session. The game started at 5:19 p.m. - 14 minutes after it was supposed to kickoff in front of a statewide television audience. Iolani wound up winning 28-21.
Lahainaluna’s Tytus Lucas has eight interceptions this season, including five in the last two games. He will be counted on to help limit Iolani’s passing attack in today’s Division II?state championship final.
BEN JUAN photo
At 4 p.m. today, the Lunas (9-1) get another shot at the school's first state football crown - and only the second for the Maui Interscholastic League - while Iolani (8-3) will be going for its sixth straight, a string that started with that 2007 victory.
The buzz in West Maui has been large all week, even being the chosen conversation for many at the EA Sports Maui Invitational college basketball tournament Monday through Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
"With the advent of Facebook, you see a lot of well-wishing and stuff. Job, text, Facebook, emails," Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said prior to Tuesday's practice. "I'm thinking it would be (huge for the community). . . . We just have to say 'thank you' to the community for all the support. There have been a lot of well-wishes and we really, really appreciate it."
First Hawaiian Bank State Football
Today's championship games At Aloha Stadium
Punahou vs. Kahuku, 7 p.m.
Lahainaluna vs. Iolani, 4 p.m.
That 2007 game cannot be escaped, despite trying.
"You try not to look back because it is two different teams, but at the same time you try to look at whatever mistakes you made during that game, try to learn from it," Tihada said.
The Lunas will be led by sophomore quarterback Sione Filikitonga, making just his third start after being called up from the junior varsity a month ago. Filikitonga is 13-for-19 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Former starter Kiko Kohler-Fonohema, who finished second in the MIL in passing yards (546) and sixth in rushing yards (395), ran nine times for 26 yards in a 28-0 win over Nanakuli in last week's semifinals. He also just missed a diving catch.
"He does have the speed and the athletic ability as a wideout to do some damage," Tihada said. "We just haven't seen it yet. He was just inches away from making a spectacular catch last week."
Iolani's defense may not get the headlines that its offense does in averaging 349.7 yards per game, but it is stout, according to Tihada.
"They are just so fundamentally sound, well coached, that their weak spots are really, really hard to find," Tihada said.
Lunas defensive linemen Samiuela Filiai and Pousima Galoia are both "very doubtful" for the game because of lower leg injuries suffered against Nanakuli. Josh Coston and Connor Rosen-St. John are the likely replacements.
"Those two boys are going to have to really step up," Tihada said. "Iolani is not that big, but they are just really, really quick. When you watch them move, they move well together. We lose size with Pousima (6 foot 4, 340 pounds) and a lot of speed with Sam (6-2, 225)."
Tihada expects the Raiders to try to slow down the Luna rushing attack that averaged 211.1 yards per game. Semisi Filikitonga averaged 8.3 yards per carry, Kohler-Fonohema 5.2, Jared Rocha-Isalas 4.3, and Tytus Lucas 6.4. That foursome accounted for 19 touchdowns on the ground, while finishing fourth, sixth, ninth and 11th in the MIL in rushing yards, respectively.
"Knowing Iolani, they will come out and try to stop our run game, which may open up our pass," Tihada said.
Lucas is one of seven two-way starters for the Lunas - he has eight interceptions on the season, five in the last two games. Last week, he returned one for a touchdown, and the other came in the end zone. Jeffrey Ancog has four interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns. Semisi Filiktonga has three interceptions, including two returned for TDs, and has forced four fumbles, recovering two of them. Asi Fatongia also has three picks.
The pressure Hercules Mataafa and Connor Mowat have been able to put on quarterbacks, along with Galoia and Filiai, has been critical. Mataafa was unofficially credited with four sacks last week and the Golden Hawks didn't gain yardage on 14 of their 21 rushes, and finished with minus-7 yards in the Lunas' seventh shutout of the season.
"That is where it starts, on that D-line," Tihada said. "It makes it so much easier for the linebackers and defensive backs."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org