HONOLULU — This just doesn’t happen to the Lahainaluna High School football team very often. And, the Lunas certainly don’t want to ever experience it again.
Lahainaluna was trounced 38-0 by old nemesis Iolani in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I state championship game on Thursday afternoon at Farrington High School’s Skippa Diaz Stadium.
The last time the Lunas (7-1) were shut out was a 21-0 loss to Kapaa in a non-league game on Aug. 13, 2016 — they went on to win the first of their four straight Division II state titles that season and were 40-2 since 2017 with an 18-game winning streak going into their first D-I state title game appearance.
The Lunas’ 10-game win streak in state tournament games also came crashing to Earth on Thursday.
“Definitely heartbreaking, you know, first year in Division I moving up,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Dean Rickard said. “Happy for the seniors that we made it this far, but of course very, very disappointing with the outcome.
“But, again, all credit to Iolani. I mean, they were the best team on the field today by far and they showed it and they deserve it and it’s a testament to the kids and their coaching staff.”
The Lunas said tearful goodbyes to 12 seniors with Thursday’s game — slotback/defensive back Blare Sylva-Viela, wide receiver/linebacker Noah Arase, left guard Eelekupokeokeo Palakiko, right guard Koliniasi Latu, right tackle Dylan Kawaiaea, defensive lineman Sacrie Latu, linebackers Shaun Kana and Anatello Flores, and defensive back Christian Clarion were starters on Thursday.
“The good takeaway as heartbreaking and disappointing as it is for our seniors in their final year, I think it’s a great experience for many of our underclassmen,” Rickard said. “That’s something that we can look forward to next season and having them realize what it takes to get to this level and to be in this game. If they want to come back and try to get here next year, they are going to have to work hard in the offseason, commit and dedicate themselves.
“This is good for the younger kids to see what is involved in getting to this championship game.”
Clarion said his team had no reason to hang their heads.
“Oh yeah, great season,” he said. “I think we all did great, did our jobs, Iolani just came out harder and wanted it more. Disciplined and all that.”
Like Clarion, Sylva-Viela had five tackles. Lance Morikawa led the Lunas with seven tackles.
“Definitely proud, we gave it our all, the whole team,” Sylva-Viela said after also rushing five times for 22 yards. “There’s nothing left to say, the better team won, the better team won.”
After holding a 14-0 lead at halftime, the Raiders dealt two quick daggers to the Lunas with quick-strike scoring drives on their first two possessions of the second half.
Kualau Manuel hit Taniela Taliauli with a 29-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 21-0 less than two minutes into the second half. The touchdown capped a five-play, 55-yard drive that took just 1:49 off the clock.
Five minutes later, Keao Miyahira took a shovel pass from Manuel 41 yards around the right side to the end zone to make it 28-0 with 6:16 to go in the third quarter.
A 19-yard field goal by Allison Chang with 4 seconds left in the third quarter made it 31-0.
The final score came on a 6-yard run by Manuel with 5:54 to play.
The Raiders improved to 4-0 all-time versus Lahainaluna in state finals, to go along with Division II state crowns won over the Lunas in 2007, 2012 and 2014. The Lunas won their last matchup in the state tournament, 35-27 in the 2017 D-II state semifinals.
The Raiders took an early 7-0 lead after the Lunas fumbled on their opening possession of the game.
Lahainaluna’s defense forced a fourth-and-1 situation, but Iolani ran a reverse play that resulted in a 22-yard touchdown run by Tristan Martinez with 9:22 left in the first quarter.
The Raiders seemed to have a field-position advantage all day long, and they scored their second touchdown on a four-play, 50-yard drive that took just 1:47 off the clock. It was helped by a Lahainaluna face-mask penalty after a short catch by Martinez moved the ball to the Lunas’ 28-yard line and gave the Raiders their first first down in more than 14 minutes.
Two plays later, Iolani pushed the lead to 14-0 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Kai Preusser, who dropped an earlier would-be touchdown pass, with 6:07 to go in the first half.
The Lunas finally gained their second first down of the game on the ensuing possession with 5 minutes to go in the first half — their initial first down came on their opening possession of the game that ended with a fumble.
The Lunas fumbled again two plays after their second first down, and the Raiders took over at their own 43 after Brayden Morioka recovered the miscue, but the Raiders were not able to move the chains.
The Raiders gained 99 yards in the defensive first half, 33 more than the Lunas. Iolani had a 5-2 advantage in first downs in the first 24 minutes.
Each team had eight possessions in the first half — the Lunas’ average drive start was their own 19-yard line, while the Raiders’ average drive start was the Lahainaluna 47.
For the game, Iolani had 14 possessions and the Raiders’ average drive start was Lahainaluna’s 49-yard line. Lahainaluna had 13 possessions with an average start at its own 23-yard line.
Iolani outgained the Lunas 313 yards to 132.
Noa Gordon, a sophomore who was the Lunas’ starting quarterback all season, was ready to start offseason workouts as soon as possible. He finished 4-for-9 passing for just 29 yards and was sacked twice.
He tipped his cap to the Raiders — the Lunas had not trailed by more than seven points all season and blew out Konawaena last week 30-7 in the state semifinals.
“They were a really strong defense,” Gordon said. “They had like a great offense, too. They knew what we were doing, you could tell they studied, watched our film and everything. After every move you could tell they were adjusting and we just couldn’t make the adjustments.
“I don’t want this feeling ever again.”
Iolani coach Wendell Look and Rickard shared a long talk after the game. The matchup featured two teams that had captured 12 of the last 15 Division II state crowns before both moving up — the Raiders (11-0) are now the first team in Hawaii history to win D-I and D-II state titles.
“I have no words to describe it. That’s a credit to these kids,” Look said. “These kids have been so resilient and they persevered and they never lost focus. They were purposeful every single day. I can’t say enough about them.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Iolani 7 7 17 7–38
Lahainaluna 0 0 0 0– 0
IOL–Tristan Martinez 22 run (Allison Chang kick), 9:22.
IOL–Kai Preusser 28 pass from Kualau Manuel (Chang kick), 6:07.
IOL–Taniela Taliauli 29 pass from Manuel (Chang kick), 10:06.
IOL–Keao Miyahira 41 pass from Manuel (Chang kick), 6:16.
IOL–FG Chang 19, 0:04.
IOL–Manuel 6 run (Chang kick), 5:54.
First downs 14 5
Rushes-yards 38-139 34-103
Passing yards 174 29
Total offense 313 132
Return yards 88 44
Comp-Att-Int 13-16-0 5-18-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-62 2-26
Punts-avg 5-41.6 9-28.1
RUSHING–Iolani, Brody Bantolina 23-87, Miyahira 6-22, Martinez 1-22, Cainen Torres 3-18; Lahainaluna, Kaulana Tihada 9-41, Ian-Jay Cabanilla 10-23, Blare Sylva-Viela 5-22, Noa Gordon 10-17.
PASSING–Iolani, Kualau Manuel 13-16-0–174; Lahainaluna, Gordon 4-9-0–29, Lyrik Kahala 1-9-0–0.
RECEIVING–Iolani, Miyahira 4-63, Preusser 4-42, Martinez 3-31, Taliauli 1-29; Lahainaluna, Sylva-Viela 3-19, Noah Arase 1-7, Tihada 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS–none.
First Hawaiian Bank
State Football Championships
All games at Farrington
Thursday’s Result • Championship
No. 2 Iolani 38, No. 1 Lahainaluna 0
Wednesday’s Results • Semifinals
No. 1 Kapaa 51, No. 4 Hawaii Prep 0
No. 3 Kamehameha Maui 48, No. 2 Kaiser 24
Thursday, Dec. 30 • Championship
No. 1 Kapaa vs. No. 3 Kamehameha Maui, 7 p.m.
Thursday’s Result • Championship
No. 1 Kahuku 49, No. 2 Saint Louis 14