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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveNovember 24, 2019, 7:40am
Sat, Nov 23, 2019 @ Lahainaluna [ 7:00 pm ]
LAHAINA, Maui — Lahainaluna will get its chance at a four-peat.
With their defense leading the way, the seventh-ranked Lunas pulled away from visiting Roosevelt 35-0 in a semifinal game of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II State Championships at Sue Cooley Stadium Saturday night.
Esekielu Storer passed for 202 yards and four touchdowns — two of them to Kai Bookland — to lift the top-seeded Lunas (10-1) past the Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up Rough Riders (10-3) and into Friday's state final, where they will meet second-seeded Kapaa for the second consecutive year.
The very first play from scrimmage — a lost Roosevelt fumble on a Mitchel Camacho run — proved to be a foretelling one.
The Rough Riders turned it over six times in all, including five first-half fumbles that the Lunas were able to recycle into 21 points.
"The defense kept us in the game, no doubt, and the turnover ratio was in our favor thanks to the defense and we were able to capitalize, of course, but I mean, we concentrate on making sure everything centers around our defense," Lunas co-head coach Dean Rickard said.
The game's first score was set-up off Roosevelt's second lost fumble. Ekolu Mathias jarred the ball loose after a short pass completion and Matthew Rabinno recovered the pigskin. Seven plays later, Joshua Tihada found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run off right tackle with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
The Lunas' 7-0 lead held until the final two minutes of the first half — when the turnover bug bit the Rough Riders yet again.
Four plays after Brysen Rickard forced a fumble that was recovered by Matai Mataafa, Storer tossed a deep pass over the top of the defense to Bookland, who had a step on the defensive back and pulled down the catch in stride en route to a 52-yard touchdown.
"(Storer) actually audibled into a different pattern and he knew the safety was playing farther on the left side so he knew I was going to be able to run a slant-and-go and I was going to be able to beat the linebacker and our line did a great job of blocking, (Storer) made a great throw and everything just kind of worked out," said Bookland, a senior wide receiver/defensive back.
The ensuing kickoff was fielded by Roosevelt's Shepherd Kekahuna, but resulted in its fifth fumble of the first half — which was forced by Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales and recovered by Tysyn Estrella — and on the very next play, Storer and Bookland hooked up for a 28-yard TD pass when the latter beat one-on-one coverage along the right sideline.
"From watching film we knew that if there was going to be one-on-one (coverage), the corner was going press on our side, so we knew that if we had that opportunity our coaches and our quarterback both believed that we could beat them one-on-one and (Storer) made another great throw, the line did another great job of blocking, great job of play-calling and everything clicked again," said Bookland, who finished with five catches for 105 yards.
The sequence resulted in 14 points in 13 seconds for the Lunas, who took a 21-0 lead into halftime.
"It was a close game up until that point and I mean, it was a battle and to be able to go up 21-0 at halftime gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half that we were able to carry through," Bookland said.
Lahainaluna extended its lead to 28-0 after capping a 11-play, 83-yard drive with Storer's 18-yard TD pass to Brian Sandoval off of a play-action fake to Tihada, who kept the drive alive with two third-down conversions.
Following a Roosevelt three-and-out, the Lunas needed just one play to find the end zone another time. The scoring play — a 59-yard TD pass from Storer to Devon Sa-Chisolm — came off a similar play-action fake to Tihada.
Tihada carried 27 times for 162 yards. His effectiveness in the run game played a key factor in the play-action passing game, Rickard said.
"Like anything else, if you got an offensive player such as (Tihada), they'll be keying on him — just like we were keying on Kekahuna and Ogata — they were keying on him and he did get his yards, but that also created some opportunities for us to work other plays with other players having the opportunity to carry the ball, too."
Roosevelt drove all the way to the Lahainaluna 3-yard line on its next possession, but was denied on a goal line stand when Kekahuna was dropped for a five-yard loss on fourth-and-goal.
The Rough Riders were 3 of 9 on third downs and 0 of 2 on fourth downs and finished with 188 yards of total offense, nearly half its per-game average of 347.6 yards entering the contest.
It was the first time they were shut out all season.
"Defense did a great job of getting that ball for us multiple times, them and special teams did a great job of getting those fumbles. We worked on that a lot over the last four weeks on forcing fumbles and getting fumble recoveries and they did a great job of coming out and executing on that," Bookland said.
The Lunas racked up 455 total yards, including 253 rushing on 49 total carries (5.2 yards per rush).
After missing on his first four passes, Storer completed his final nine throws. He did not throw an interception. Rickard said that shoulder fatigue forced the junior quarterback to miss a few days of practice last week.
"He was out for a while and we didn't play him during the first quarter because he missed practice, but at the same time we were off for a whole month and there was a little bit of rust so we wanted to give him some little short routes," Rickard said. "Throw some short routes to make him feel comfortable and with the help of his offensive line and his receivers, we were fortunate to get open and he made the connections and he did a good job in the end."
Camacho finished with nine carries for 83 yards and Mykah Kukahiwa added seven rushes for 51 yards for Roosevelt, which was coming off of a 31-7 win at Kamehameha-Hawaii in last week's opening round.
Ogata completed just 4 of his 17 pass attempts for 47 yards with one interception in the loss.
"We've been working hard these past four weeks," Tihada said. "We didn't take this team for granted, they're a great team, they work very hard, they practice and play just like the film shows and they're a pitch-perfect team and I just feel like it was a great game for us."
The game was a rematch of a 2018 state semifinal won by Lahainaluna, 48-10.
The Lunas now set their sights on Kapaa for what will be the third meeting between the teams in the D2 state championship game in four seasons, including last year's 34-32 win over the Warriors for their third straight state crown.
Lahainaluna also defeated Kapaa, 21-18, in a non-league game that was played at Cooley Stadium back on Aug. 17 of this year.
"We know them really well. We have a good relationship with their coaching staff and it's funny because at the end of the game we said, ‘Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could both get back into the championship,' and that's going to happen again," Rickard said. "We're very familiar with each other, so whoever makes the least mistakes, commits the least turnovers, that's going to be the advantage for that game."
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