LAHAINA — The smiles of Jacen Akahibida and LJ Morikawa at Sioux Cooley Stadium on Tuesday afternoon said a lot.
As the Lahaina Luna High School football team prepares for practice on Day 12, Akahi-Vida, one of the key offensive linemen, speaks outside the locker room as incumbent Maui Interscholastic League defensive I was talking to Morikawa, Player of the Year.
“It’s great to be back” said 5-foot-10, 210-pound Morikawa, a senior edge rusher. “I was out for a little while because I got hurt, but now I’m all recovered and I’m happy to be back on the team. team.”
Morikawa suffered second-degree burns to his leg at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas football camp in late June after his cleats melted in the heat.
“My leg was burned, I got two burns and big blisters on both sides, but now it’s all healed.” Morikawa said. “I feel great now.”
Morikawa gave up 6-1, 50 pounds to Akahibida, a 260-pound left tackle, but they fought each day in practice and each got better.
Battles like this happen across the field as the Lunaz streak a MIL-record 31 league wins in a season. They haven’t lost a game in his MIL since Baldwin won his 19-13 on Oct. 15, 2016.
“They’re really nice and tough competition, so that helps us.” Morikawa spoke about playing against his offensive line teammates. “When we go head-to-head every day, it’s best versus best. D-line, O-line head-to-head, we’re always getting better and working on new moves. Yeah, it’s just great.”
Akahibida, which is said to hold formal training in early August for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic, is special.
“It feels good. We’re racing each other every day. He’s not in the pads yet, but when he’s back in the pads we’re always racing. Keawe (Kane Keahi) is also racing.” Akahivida said. “All D-lines and O-lines, we are always striving day by day to improve ourselves. We make each other better.
“I would say our line of defense is very fast compared to other lines of defense we’ve been to, but it really helps us when those are the big challenges.”
Lahainaluna co-head coach Dean Ricardo grew a long beard after recently retiring from the Maui Police Department. He plans to play Santa Claus for his five grandchildren. His team said he was very focused after his 38-0 loss to Iolani. At the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I State Championship Game in December.
Last year, like other public schools in the state, Luna began practicing, but had to pause and resume after a six-week break mandated by the state Department of Education regarding COVID-19 protocols. .
“I think it will be better for everyone, for the kids and the coaches, to be free of that uncertainty. We can focus on the task at hand.” Ricardo said. “For the kids, they understand the season is coming, and it’s going to be a full season, not one season cut short.”
Lunas will play a preseason game for the first time since 2019 when he travels to Hilo to face the Vikings on August 13, 2019. Maui High School.
“Fortunately, they invited us in. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for putting together the pieces of the puzzle as a coach and as a player.” Ricardo said. “So big chance.
Rickard said he saw several large linemen at both Sabers and Na Ali’i.
“I’m not sure, but whatever water they have on the other side, they’ve got something special in there, so it’s definitely on both King K and Maui High School, so it’s on this side. will not be transported to Ricardo said. “It was a good scrimmage.”
Ricardo said 38-0 still stings. That loss ended his five-season run of 18-game overall wins and his 10-0 run in state tournaments, which included four consecutive Division II state titles.
“For many returnees, it’s kind of like an unfinished business.” Ricardo said. “That’s how we approach it and try to treat it as such.”
Former co-head coach Garrett Tijada is back as the team’s offensive coordinator after a three-year hiatus.
“I mean, in the last three years, he never skipped a beat when he took a little time off, so you can expect the same old stuff from what we’ve been doing anyway.” Ricardo said. “Now, all is well. He retired like I did, so he has time to work on football and the season. But yeah, we are really looking forward to the season.
“As far as 38-0, I don’t think we need to get too hung up on it. I think it’s a good check against Iolani after years of rivalry.”
Rickard said his message to a team full of young returnees after being eliminated at the state championship was simple.
“It weighs heavily on their minds, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Hey, to get to that level, you can do that job in the offseason and be focused enough to make sure you get to that level.'” Ricardo said.
Junior quarterback Noah Gordon passed 42-25 for 601 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in MIL play last season.
Ian-Jay Cabanilla (55 carries, 566 yards, 4 TDs) and Kaulana Tihada (83-411, 8 TDs) will each return after finishing 1-2 on the MIL rushing list last season.
The national team will have 45 to 47 players, and the junior national team will have 20 to 25 players, Ricardo said.
Linebacker Kahi Magno, edge rusher Maualina Montgomery and defensive lineman Kawika Kairi are all returning as sophomores after making significant contributions as freshmen last year.
“I think a lot of the underclassmen who came back this year understand what it takes.” Ricardo said. “It’s our job as coaches to make sure we stay on that path. …These kids are ready, they’re hungry.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
MIL football preseason game
Friday, August 12th
Maui High School vs. Nanakuli at War Memorial Stadium, 7pm
Saturday, August 13th
Kamehameha Hawaii, Kamehameha Maui, 6 PM
Kekaulike King Waimea, 7pm
Lahainaluna vs. Hilo Wong Stadium, 6:00 PM
Baldwin on Kauai, time TBC