Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MIL Football: LAHAINALUNA 22, KING KEKAULIKE 0 - August 27, 2011

Now the games really matter.

After going 1-1 during the preseason, the Lahainaluna Lunas faced the Na Alii of King Kekaulike in their MIL opener on Lahainaluna's home turf at The Imu. Despite what I sensed to be some sluggishness during the pre-game warm-ups, the Lunas came away with a solid 22-0 win.

It was another beautiful day for football in Lahaina. Too bad there are no more home games at the IMU for the
remainder of the 2011 MIL season. Remaining games are to be played at War Memorial Stadium and at King Kekaulike.
The Lunas' win was punctuated by big plays on offense and defense. In the middle of many of the key plays was Kaena Felicilda, a senior wide receiver and defensive back. In the last game against Keaau, he returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown. In this game against the Na Alii, he came down with 5 catches for 149 yards, including a beautiful catch down the sideline for a touchdown just before the half that gave the Lunas a 14-0 cushion. Felicilda also had an interception and nice return in the 4th quarter to help seal the win.

Interesting trivia question: When was the last time a Lahainaluna receiver had over 100 yards in a game?

Maybe it was because it was the third game in a row at the hot-as-hell Imu. Or it was the loss of players to injury or grades. Or the predominance of underclassman on an already small team (6 freshman). But I'm sorry - that alma mater sung by the team was not inspiring at all. I hope they get their energy and singing voices back in time for their next game against Baldwin. Nah, I'll take a win instead.
Even the coaching staff did not seem amused by the lackluster rendition of the Alma Mater. 

Fortunately when the whistle blew and the game started, the Lunas were back in business. Hitting 'em hard and causing a fumble. The Lunas took advantage after the turnover when the Lunas' Chanse Uyeda took a little dump pass and turned upfield for a 41-yard gain.

In the red zone, Chanse Uyeda tried valiantly to stretch for the touchdown but fell short.

The Lunas' eventually cashed in, with freshman running back Jared Rocha punching it in from 2 yards out for the game's, and his, first touchdown.

PAT's and field goals have long been an Achilles heel for the Lunas. After two games this season, the Lunas failed to convert a single PAT. After trying Tytus Lucas and Kiko Fonohema, the Lunas turned to Jared Rocha. The freshman calmly booted the kick for the extra point. Lunas 7, Na Alii 0.

The Lunas' came out again with a harassing defense and quickly forced a punt.

But an interception thrown by the Lunas #11 Kiko Fonohema gave the ball back to the Na Alii on the Lunas' side of mid-field. The Na Alii responded, driving deep into Lahainaluna territory. On 1st and goal, #44 Keallan Dowels was stopped at around the 3 yard line.

On 2nd and goal, the Lunas #55 Freddy Taufa denied Dowells from getting to the end zone.

Bending but not breaking, the Lunas' defense gathered themselves for 3rd and goal from about the 2 yard line.

Again, the Na Alii was stuffed up the middle for a loss of 1 yard. Lunas #50 with the tackle down low while fellow sophomore #44 Bronson Kaina drove the runner back over the top.

On 4th and goal, the Na Alii decided to go for it, but the swarming defense of Lahainaluna snuffed out the end run, stopping the runner at the 5 yard line. Lunas take over on downs.

Deep in their own territory, the Lunas tried to run but Na Alii was doing a good job of limiting the yards.  Fonohema then went to the air, connecting with #32 Tytus Lucas for a short gain.

Then on 3rd and very long, Fonohema dropped back and completed a long pass to Kaena Felicilda, who made a spectacular catch.

The Lunas continued to try to move the ball. Unfortunately, the Na Alii was geared to defend against the running game and untimely penalties and mistakes prevented the Lunas from sustaining another scoring drive.

Fortunately, Lahainaluna's defense was roughing up the Na Alii offense, causing numerous fumbles and turnovers.

The Lunas got the ball back with about 3 minutes left in the half after the Na Alii snapped the ball over the head of their quarterback for a huge loss. On the first play from scrimmage, Kiko Fonohema unleashed a perfect bomb to Kaena Felicilda streaking down the sideline for a touchdown. With another successful PAT by Jared Rocha, the Lunas had a nice 14-0 cushion going into halftime.

The Lahainaluna band and cheerleaders provided some entertainment at halftime.

Second half the Lunas continued to move the ball.

But the Lunas couldn't put the ball in the end zone and a field goal attempt was no good.

The Na Alii continued to lose their handle on the ball

The playmaking combination of Fonohema and Felicilda continued to make a good connection.

The Lunas were finally able to seal the game early in the fourth quarter when the Lunas #44 Bronson Kaina sacked Na Alii's Keenan Dowells, causing a fumble which was scooped up by Lunas' D-Lineman #71 Joshua Coston, who rambled untouched for a 20 yard touchdown.

In his exhuberance, he spiked the ball which led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, some ribbing from his teammates and a brief talk from Coach Tihada.

Now up 22-0 after a successful 2-point conversion by Kiko Fonohema, the Lunas began to ground and pound to run down the clock.

There was one more attempt at a Fonohema-Felicilda connection, but the pass was just a bit long.

On the next possession, Felicilda got the ball right back on a nice interception past mid-field, running it back into Na Alii territory.

With back-up quarterback Jacob Kenolio-Dusenberry still out with a broken arm, the Lunas put in #32 Tytus Lucas to take some snaps with the game winding down. On 3rd and long, he had a nice play rolling to his right and tossed the ball to Mark Alamon in the end zone for an apparent touchdown. Unfortunately it was called back because freshman offensive lineman #73 Justin Hong was apparently illegally downfield as a lineman. That sucked.

Despite the penalty nullifying the touchdown, on 4th Down the Lunas came back with the same play, this time Lucas found Semisi Filikitonga with a nice pass that netted a first down just before the goal line. Nevertheless, this allowed the Lunas to retain possession and run out the clock. In a show of good sportsmanship, the Lunas took a knee near the goal line rather than try to score in the final seconds.

My Two Cents

Overall good to see some progress for the varsity team as the players start to learn their roles. Injuries continue to plague this team, which already lacks depth, but hopefully some of the players will be returning soon -  players such as: John Mishima, John Lacuesta, Jacob Kenolio-Dusenberry, Pousima Galoia, Calvin Tadeo, Jarrin Pasco-Cabanilla and Reece Sinenci to name a few.

The combination of Fonohema-Felicilda will be exciting to watch as the MIL season continues. Felicilda is proving to be a big playmaker, including on defense.

The running game looks promising, with the speedsters Filikitonga, Lucas and Pagdilao-Bala providing some speed and quickness on the outside, while Rocha, Kaina and Uyeda pounding it up the middle for short yardage situations. Still, their yards per carry need to improve although it is tough to compare them to the depth and talent of last year’s senior backs.

Special teams are much improved, with Jared Rocha hitting 2 extra point attempts, but missing on a field goal attempt.

The team still needs to cut down on unforced errors and penalties. Bad snaps, snaps over the head of Fonohema disrupt the rhythm of the offense – which is vital in an offense that relies on a lot of timing and misdirection plays. Penalties also hurt on some of the drives, killing momentum. Still, errors and penalties are somewhat to be expected with a team this young and inexperienced at the varsity level. The main thing is that the team shows improvement over the course of the year.

It is a short week this week as the Lunas will travel for the first time this season all the way to Wailuku and the newly renovated War Memorial Stadium to meet the defending MIL Division I champions Baldwin Bears. Hopefully, the players can get healthy for this one and have a good fight against Baldwin. Gotta believe!

It was a very long day at the Imu, with the Junior Varsity game starting at 11am and then the varsity game at 1:30pm. Needless to say, I was quite cooked at the end of the afternoon. Literally.

Not sure what to call this look. Oreo? Big Island chocolate dipped cookies? The Micro look? Whatever it is, it ain’t pretty! Still, I didn’t mind because it was a beautiful day at the Imu to take pictures of a football game. Clear blue skies (I could see the white sandy beaches on the north/east shores of Lanai from the stadium) made for great shots of the action. This was the last game at the Imu for this season. I’m gonna miss it. But I made sure I got lots of shots – 2183 shots of the varsity game and 1942 shots of the junior varsity game. I’m doubtful I’ll take that much shots per game in the future, as War Memorial is a tough place to shoot at night. We shall see.

Click here for the Maui News recap and stats for the game.

Click here for more game photos.