There was a time when the Lahainaluna football program couldn’t win the big game. Before the 2016 season, the Lunas were 0-3 in HHSAA championship games.
Four years later, now they’re the program that refuses to lose it. After a 21-10 win over Kapaa at Aloha Stadium on Friday afternoon, the Lunas now have four consecutive Division II state titles.
Senior running back Joshua Tihada ran for an astounding 310 yards on 36 carries against the Warriors, setting a state record for rushing yards in a game. He also scored all three touchdowns for the Lunas.
Tihada is part of a departing senior class that has no idea what it’s like to end the prep season on a loss. To first-year co-head coach Dean Rickard, his 19 seniors left a legendary legacy that also set the bar ridiculously high for the future classes that follow.
“A legacy that’s hard to live up to. Not too often do you have a chance to win two or a three-peat. But to have a four-peat, coming from a small community such as ours, it’s definitely going to be talked about for years to come and how they approach the game, how successful the past four teams were,” Rickard said.
“It’s going to set the standard for every other team. As long as the program remains strong and the younger players continue to buy into the program, I think we’ll be competitive going forward.”
Tihada etched his name in the record books in more ways than one on Friday. He also has the state record for touchdowns (19), rushing yards (1,087) and carries (176) in HHSAA tournament game.
Tihada, the unquestioned leader for the Lunas, has also been their lead back since he was a freshman. As he stepped off the field in a Lahainaluna jersey one last time, he did so knowing he accomplished just as much as a player could in a high school career.
“I did feel like I left it all on the field,” Tihada said. “I’d just like to thank the O-line, period. From my freshman year to this very moment now.
“They pushed me to where I am today, from buying into the system and working hard in practice, scout team pushing during practice, I’d like to give it all to them.”
Rickard took over co-head coaching duties this season from Garret Tihada, Joshua’s uncle, who stepped down prior to the 2019 season. Despite Garret’s departure, there was already a solid foundation in place. Most importantly, Rickard knew he still had Joshua in the backfield for one more season.
For Rickard, seeing Tihada deliver one last time solidified the star back as one of the most decorated running backs in Hawaii prep football history.
“One of the best? Yes. He’s definitely one of the best. Definitely undersized but at the same time his mentality, the way he approaches the game, the way he prepares himself for the game and his commitment,” Rickard said. “If Josh wants to do whatever Josh wants to do and he sets his mind to it, he’ll be successful at the next level.”
With Tihada’s prep career now over, he said after the game that he’s unsure of where he’ll play his college ball since he has no offers. He vowed that whoever gets him last year will get the same relentless effort that made him an HHSAA legend.
“Honestly, it just required a lot of hard work and dedication,” he said. “If you really want it, you should go get it. For anything in life, if you really want it, go work for it.”