HONOLULU - So close.
The Lahainaluna High School football team was a play away from sealing its first state football title, but lost 36-33 to Iolani in the First Hawaiian Bank Division II Championship final Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
It appeared the Lunas had the result they wanted when Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa intercepted a pass by Iolani's Reece Foy with 1 minute, 59 seconds to play. Receiver Tanner Nishioka swooped in and forced a fumble after Medeiros-Tangatailoa took a couple of steps, however, and offensive lineman Kamu Borden recovered for a first down on Lahainaluna's 26-yard line.
Lahainaluna High School’s Sione Filikitonga heads upfield during the Lunas’ 36-33 loss to Iolani on Friday in the First Hawaiian Bank Division II State Football Championship title game at Aloha Stadium.
SEAN NAKAMURA / ScoringLive photo
On the next play, Foy hit Nishioka over the middle for a touchdown that gave the Raiders their final lead of the night.
Iolani won its sixth straight D-II state title, a streak that began with a 28-21 win over Lahainaluna in 2007 - those are the only two state finals the Lunas have ever reached.
King Kekaulike's 2006 D-II state crown remains the Maui Interscholastic League's only state football title.
FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK STATE FOOTBALL
Friday's championship games
At Aloha Stadium
Kahuku 42, Punahou 20
Iolani 36, Lahainaluna 33
"You can see now why they are the six-time defending champions," said Lunas co-head coach Garret Tihada. "I mean, they are awesome."
Lahainaluna got to the Iolani 32 on its final possession, but J.T. Los Banos grabbed his third interception of the night with 27 seconds left.
"All we had to do was get in field-goal range," Tihada said. "It's not like we had to score a touchdown. We thought we would be able to do the job. These kids never give up. It's a tribute to their upbringing, their parents. We have got some tough kids, I'm proud of them."
Iolani coach Wendell Look watched the double-turnover play and shook his head.
"That's where champion-ships are won, on plays like that," he said. "The Lunas were everything I expected. I have been telling everybody all week that I have a very close relationship with them. I have the utmost respect for them. I told everyone that we are going to face one of the toughest teams we have seen all year. You saw it out there tonight, that is a hell of a team that deserves to win a state championship also."
The Lunas fell behind 15-0, then shaved the deficit to one point on a 21-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Sione Filikitonga and 26-yard scoring pass from Filikitonga to Medeiros-Tanagatailoa with 32 seconds left before halftime.
Then came a potential back-breaker - the Raiders marched 65 yards in five plays, taking a 22-14 lead with three seconds left in the half when Chad Hanaoka caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Foy. The big play was a 47-yard catch by Yuuya Kato to the 2.
The Raiders upped the lead to 29-20 on Hanaoka's third scoring catch of the night, an 18-yarder with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.
The Lunas responded by showing what they have been about all season.
Filikitonga's 19-yard touchdown pass to Tytus Lucas cut the deficit to 29-26 with 3:35 to go in the third.
Lahainaluna forced a punt on the next possession and took over on its own 16.
Jared Rocha-Isalas, one of three Lunas to finish with more than 100 rushing yards, ran twice for 24 yards total. Christian Whitehead, who had gained 39 yards on nine carries in the MIL season, broke off a 25-yarder that put him over 100 on the night, and two plays later Filikitonga ran for 25 yards to the 4 to go over the century mark himself.
Kiko Kohler-Fonohema, the regular quarterback for the first eight games of the season, took over in the shotgun formation and scored three plays later to give the Lunas a 33-29 lead with 7:21 to play.
"We knew what we could do and our defense got going after we settled down," Tihada said. "That's all I think we could ask because they are so precise at what they do. They are a really, really well-coached team and we knew that they were going to score some points."
Rocha-Isalas finished with 106 yards on 11 carries, Filikitonga had 103 and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Whitehead finished with 101 on 11 carries.
The Lunas gained 441 of their 518 yards of total offense on the ground.
"We are not a passing team so we just wanted to come in and do what we do best," Tihada said. "If they stopped us then we would have to adjust, but we did a decent job running the ball against them."
Iolani could manage only one first down on its next possession, but the Lunas were forced to punt with 4:00 left and the Raiders took over on their own 44. They reached the Lahainaluna 19 before Borden's fumble recovery.
Iolani finished with 414 yards. Foy passed for 299.
Tihada said that work on next year "starts very soon."
The team will lose key seniors Lucas, Semisi Filikitonga, Pousima Galoia and Samiuela Filiai, but a large number of contributors return.
Lahainaluna junior Hercules Mataafa had a team-high eight tackles, two for a losses.
"We played hard every whistle," Mataafa said. "I'm proud of my teammates. That's all we can ask for, a close game. We came back from 15-0 and made it a game at the end. I'm proud of my boys."
Semisi Filikitonga had six tackles, ran four times for 23 yards, caught a pass for 13 yards and returned two kickoffs for 51 yards.
He was emotional after the team saluted its fans with the alma mater and a prayer following the game.
"I'm just thankful for my O-line, without them, I couldn't run or nothing," he said. "And I couldn't make tackles without my D-line. I'm just thankful for this team and these coaches who have my back. Pushing forward, even though we don't have the win, we have the spirit."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lahainaluna ..... 0 ..... 14 ..... 13 ..... 6-33
Iolani ................ 7 ..... 15 ....... 7 ..... 7-36
I- Chad Hanaoka 7 pass from Reece Foy (Jordan Genovia kick), 0:55.
I-Tanner Nishioka 26 pass from For (Max Look run), 11:16.
L-Sione Filikitonga 21 run (Kiko Kohler-Fonohema kick), 3:39.
L-Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa 26 pass from Filikitonga (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 0:32.
I-Hanaoka 2 pass from Foy (Genovia kick), 0:03.
L-Filikitonga 7 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 8:54.
I-Hanaoka 18 pass from For (Genovia kick), 3:35.
L-Tytus Lucas 19 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick), 0:41.
L-Kohler-Fonohema 2 run (Kohler-Fonohema kick failed), 7:21.
I-Nishioka 26 pass from Foy (Genovia kick), 1:53.
RUSHING-L, Jared Rocha-Isalas 11-106, Filikitonga 14-103, Christian Whitehead 11-101, Lucas 8-69, Jeffrey Ancog 1-27, Semisi Filikitonga 4-23, Kohler-Fonohema 4-12. I-Yuuya Kato 19-103, Hanaoka 1-7, Foy 7-7, Nishioka 2-0, Team 1-(minus-2)
PASSING-L, Sione Filikitonga 5-14-3-77. I, Foy 22-36-2-299.
Receiving-L, Medeiros-Tangatailoa 1-26, Lucas 1-17, Semisi Filikitonga 1-13, Rocha-Isalas 1-13, Kohler-Fonohema 1-8. I, Nishioka 8-134, Hanaoka 6-50, Kato 4-76, Chase Kanekuni 3-36, Austin Ohira 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-None.