HHSAA Football
Lahainaluna rides Tihada to win fourth straight D2 state crown


Fri, Nov 29, 2019 @ Aloha Stadium [ 1:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
KAPA(8-2-0) 7 3 0 010
LAH(11-1-0) 7 7 0 721
Joshua Tihada 310 yd 3 TD
Baba Na-O 108 yd 1 TD

HALAWA — Four-year varsity player Joshua Tihada ended his prep football career with an exclamation mark.

The senior running back ran for 310 yards — a new state tournament single-game record — and three touchdowns to propel Lahainaluna to its fourth straight Division II state title with a 21-10 win over Kapaa in the First Hawaiian Bank Football State Championships at Aloha Stadium Friday afternoon.

"It feels amazing. No words can explain how much work we put in to be in this very moment. I'm just very thankful," said Tihada.

As for his own individual performance, Tihada was quick to give credit to his blockers up front.

Lahainaluna co-coach Dean Rickard wouldn't have it any other way.

"That's the type of players that we like to raise," Rickard said of Tihada. "You're always going to have good individual performances no doubt, but it's always accomplished through team effort."

Tihada accounted for 310 yards of the Lunas' total 339 yards of offense on 36 carries, but couldn't have been successful without other players opening up holes for him.

Juniors TJ Galoia and Hookipa Sakalia are the anchors on the offensive line for Lahainaluna (11-1) while Rylend Nobriga, Kaeo Pedroza-Kanemitsu and Dylan Kawaiaea round out the starting linemen. Fullbacks Tysyn Estrella, Neil Agbayani and Treven Tihada, a cousin of the senior RB, were also key.

Wing backs Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales and Derek Perez, another four-year varsity player, combined for 27 yards on a handful of counter plays that kept the Kapaa defense honest. The Lunas never bothered with the passing game after two consecutive incompletions in the second quarter and did all their damage on the ground.

Fullbacks Tysyn Estrella (45) and Neil Agbayani (19) helps Derek Perez (28) run for a first down in the first quarter. CJ Caraang | SL    Purchase image

Lahainaluna also did a good job defensively against the Warriors (8-2) with a shutout performance in the second half.

"The second half it was just about who wanted it more, who was more hungry," said defensive lineman Tuipolotu Lai, who had a hand in eight total tackles. "We wanted it more than anybody out there so we just fought and fought as a team."

It was a tough loss for the Warriors, who were looking to bring home the first-ever state title to Kauai. They have also lost five consecutive games to the Lunas, which included a 21-18 non-league contest to start the season and state championship losses in 2016 and 2018.

"Hats off to the Lunas, they got the job done again," said Kapaa coach Philip Rapozo. "We're blessed to have an opportunity, we couldn't take advantage of it, but our team played our hearts out all year and they didn't give up till the last play. I'm proud of them. Proud to be a Kapaa Warriors right now."

One Kapaa player that certainly left everything on the field was senior quarterback Kahanu Davis, who also played on special teams as a returner and on defense as a cornerback.

But fatigue ultimately reared his head as the game went on. Davis' mobility started to decrease and he even had to leave the game briefly in the fourth quarter on Kapaa's penultimate drive, which ended when backup Cody Relacion was picked off by Tre Rickard at the Lunas' 18.

"Definitely he ran out of some gas, but you know what, he wouldn't have it any other way," Rapozo said of Davis. "We tried to take him out a few times, but he said 'no coach, this is it, we got to do this.' I respect him for that. I'm proud of him. He's a great leader. I'm just blessed to have coached him for four seasons. I'm going to miss that guy and all the seniors."

Kapaa's Baba Na-O, who ran the ball five straight times on the opening drive, led the Warriors in the loss with 108 yards on 20 carries.

After Kapaa was forced to punt on its first possession of the game, Lahainaluna drove all the way from its own 11-yard line to the end zone thanks to a 55-yard run by Tihada and a fourth-down conversion by Nainoa Kulukulualani-Sales to set up Tihada's 4-yard TD run with 5:13 showing on the first-quarter scoreboard.

The Warriors started to mix it up on the following possession and picked up five first downs by four different players before Na-O punched it in from one yard out to tie the game, 7-7, with 35 ticks left in the opening period.

The two teams traded punts before Lahainaluna got the ball back on its own 20 with 7:21 left in the first half. The Lunas ran Tihada four straight times before back-to-back Kapaa penalties put the ball at the Warriors' 35. Tihada then ran it two more times before scoring on a 22-yard run on his 15th carry to make it a 14-7 game with 4:03 remaining in the second quarter.

Kapaa nearly responded on its next series, but the drive sputtered inside the Lunas' 10 and the Warriors had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Laa Gonsalves just before the end of the first half to make it a 14-10 game at the break.

The start of the second half was a punting showcase, but Lahainaluna eventually settled down to extend its lead with an 11-play, 92-yard drive that ended with Tihada's 40-yard TD run to bring the game to its final point total with 8:16 in the fourth quarter.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].

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