The Lunas should thank their lucky stars – and the defense, for the most part – for pulling out a 14-13 win against the 1-6 Na Alii of King Kekaulike that wasn’t decided until literally the last play of the game with seconds left.
With starting quarterback Kiko Fonohema out for the season and recovering from surgery to his broken jaw suffered in the last game against the Kamehameha Schools of Maui Warriors, the Lunas’ offense was largely ineffective. Aside from a long 59 yard run by Chanse Uyeda on their first offensive play of the game, the offense was not good. JR Kenolio-Dusenberry was overthrowing his receivers badly.
The first half defense for the Lunas was pretty poor, too. The team as a whole was playing uninspired, unfocused football. Perhaps it was the loss of Fonohema – a popular and vocal leader on offense – or the addition of players from JV, the loss of some players to injury or quitting, one could tell that the Lunas were in a funk. And despite major yelling (encouragement?) from the coaches, the team stayed in a funk for the entire first half.
On the other hand, it was looking to be the Na Alii’s night. After both teams struggled through a 0-0 score through the entire first half, the Na Alii struck with a 20 yard touchdown pass to Michael Teves with just 33 seconds left.
I expected the Lunas to come out on fire and inspired for the second half. But I saw neither fire nor inspiration. Instead, the Na Alii struck again with a 24 yard touchdown pass to Teves in the corner of the endzone. The extra point attempt failed, but suddenly the Na Alii was up 13-0 – their biggest lead for the whole season!
It was not looking good when the Na Alii got the ball back on their own 40 yard line. I noticed that Felicilda’s position was now being manned by Mark Alamon. I figured the Na Alii would try to go right back to where Felicilda would have been playing. Sure enough, the Na Alii attempted a quick pass to the sideline. Mark Alamon played it perfect, stepping into the passing lane and making the interception. He ran it back 59 yards before being tackled by Na Alii quarterback Lopes on the 1 yard line. Fortunately, it was not much farther to go and the Lunas’ offense was able to punch it in with Tytus Lucas going in for the score from the Wildcat formation.
Suddenly, momentum had swung to Lahainaluna’s favor. On the very next series, linebacker Chanse Uyeda stripped the ball from the Na Alii running back, causing a fumble that was recovered by Semisi Filikitonga on the Na Alii 35 yard line. The offense pulled through this time, scoring 4 plays later on a 7 yard run by quarterback Kenolio-Dusenberry. The kick was good and in a matter of just over 2 mintues, the Lunas went from being down 0-13 to up 14-13.
The offense continued to struggle, however. But the defense kept the Lunas in the game and the Na Alii out of the end zone. Chanse Uyeda came up with another huge stop on Na Alii’s top athlete Luat-Hueu on a 4th and 2. Also playing huge defensively were the linemen and linebackers – Bronsen Kaina, Brandon Kaina, Hercules Mataafa and Feleti Taufa.
Still with just minutes left in the game, the Na Alii had a golden chance to pull off the upset. The Lunas turned the ball over on offense, with Kenolio-Dusenberry throwing an interception in Na Alii territory that was run back 22 yards to the Na Alii 43. The Na Alii running back made a couple of great runs to get them into the red zone. The Na Alii attempted another long pass to Teves for the touchdown. This time, Kaena Felicilda had some back up as either he or John Mishima tipped the ball, which was caught and intercepted by Kenolio-Dusenberry in the end zone.
After the offense struggled to run out the clock and went 3 and out, the Na Alii drove again. This time, there was another long pass to Teves that got them into Lunas territory. They tried going to Teves again, but this time, he was hit hard as he went up for the pass and flipped awkwardly in the air, landing on his head and upper body. He was out of the game.
Still another Na Alii wide receiver stepped up and made a miraculous catch with Lunas’ defenders all over him on a 36 yard pass play that got the Na Alii down to the Lunas’ 4 yard line with just under a minute to play.
Down only one point 13-14, the Na Alii could have lined up for a game-winning field goal. But their kicker, Teves, had been knocked out of the game just plays earlier. So the Na Alii tried to punch it in. They went to the air instead. Mark Alamon dropped a surefire interception that he would have easily returned for a touchdown.
I hate it when you give a team chances to win. Then on the next play, the Na Alii tried a pass down the middle, but Tytus Lucas leaped up and intercepted it, preserving the victory for the Lunas.
We’ll take a win any way we can, but this one was too close for comfort. Offense is continuing to struggle and there does not seem to be any signs of improvement over the course of the season. The defense continues to be strong, but the big pass plays given up by Felicilda may have exposed a weakness that could be exploited by other teams in the future.
For the Maui News article on the game, click here.
For stats of the game, click here.
For more of my photos, click here.