Wednesday, December 7, 2011

HHSAA Division II Football Semifinal: LAHAINALUNA 14, Waipahu 19 - November 18, 2011

I guess no return trip to Oahu for Black Friday. Lahainaluna came up short in its HHSAA Division II Football semifinal matchup with Waipahu, losing 19-14 at Waipahu High School's home field. It would've been nice to get shots of the Lunas on the field at Aloha Stadium.

The stands was packed with fans - Lunas on one half and the Waipahu fans on the other. The Waipahu band sounded really good, too. Only problem was they kept playing Baldwin's fight song. Irritating! It was almost going to be a civil war of sorts, as some players actually had relatives playing on the other team!

Of note, Lahainaluna senior Kaena Felicilda, a playmaker all season from both his wide receiver and safety positions, was on crutches at the airport. He injured his ankle during practice that week. During warm-ups, he was out there trying to make a go of it, but he was obviously hampered by his injury. Without him, others had to step up.

The Lunas started off well. Chanse Uyeda blocked a punt and Hercules Mataafa returned it into Waipahu territory.

On the first offensive play from scrimmage, the normally sure-handed Jared Rocha took the hand-off and inexplicably fumbled the ball. At the time, shooting through my lens, I didn't see any defender knock it out. It was as if he just lost the grip on it and it fell out.

Then on the ensuing play, Waipahu's running back Gregory Alip ran to the right, broke some tackles and was suddenly gone for a long 74 yard touchdown run. Just like that, Waipahu was up 7-0.

The Lunas bounced right back and scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead. The first on a nice 6 yard run up the middle by BJ Pagdilao-Bala after some nice runs by Semisi Filikitonga and JR Kenolio-Dusenberry.

The second TD came after a brilliant run by Lunas quarterback JR Kenolio-Dusenberry that I swear, he broke the plane, touched the pylon and should've been a touchdown. But the sideline ref said he stepped out of bounds at the 2 yard line.

Regardless, Mr. Touchdown Jared Rocha eventually found the end zone with a 2-yard run.

The Lunas continued to be strong on defense.

Still, Waipahu was able to answer with a touchdown of its own. Waipahu's Mataio Fualema caught a beautiful 17 yard pass in the back of the far end zone in full stride for a touchdown, running straight into the inflatable helmet at that end of the field.

Questionable whether he was actually inbounds - fellow Luna photographer Denton Johnson later said that he only had one foot inbounds and the other foot came down out of bounds. This was later verified by me, watching the highlights on the news. But I'm not sure whether high school rules are different in that only one foot needs to be in-bounds to be a valid reception. Either way, Waipahu scored but missed the extra point. Lunas up 14-13

Waipahu again threatened to score just before halftime, but John Mishima made a brilliant interception in the endzone to preserve the lead.

Lahainaluna's offense continued to struggle after halftime. For the most part, Waipahu's offense was struggling as well. Unfortunately, they managed to put on a sustained drive that culminated in another touchdown by Gregory Alip. The 2-point conversion failed. Waipahu up 19-14.

Despite the offensive struggle, the Lunas had opportunities to in Waipahu territory. Unfortunately, the Lunas were unable to convert a 4th down play to continue the drive. Then on a later drive, the Lunas fumbled the ball yet again deep in Waipahu territory. On that drive, Lunas called time out. JR was apparently hurt on the previous play and took himself out. In the huddle, it appeared that there was no quarterback so they had to call in Tytus Lucas, who was still suffering from the knee injury he sustained in the first half. Rushed back in after the time out, he fumbled the ball and Waipahu recovered.

Still, the Lunas never gave up. They fought to the end. Even after a huge run by Waipahu brought them to within the Lunas' 5 yard line, the defense battled to the end as Joshua Coston recovered a fumble, giving the Lunas one last opportunity for a miracle.

In came John Mishima and Kaena Felicilda as wideouts. Seniors playing the last minute of their high school careers.

Senior QB JR Kenolio-Dusenberry, trying so hard and giving it all he got that at one point, he started throwing up on the sideline (I should've taken photos of this, but a part of me at the time not to because maybe it wasn't appropriate - still, it did show how much these players, most of them two-way players who play every minute of the game - was giving it their maximum effort to the end).

Senior linemen Feleti Taufa and Osaiasi Tautuiaki, battling in the trenches all game, fighting to delay the realization that their high school careers were coming to an end. And in the end, time simply ran out on the Lunas'.

In the end, the Lunas' received a well-deserved standing ovation from their fans.

For the Maui News article regarding the game, click here.

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