Lahainaluna, HI, Football Team to be Honored at Super Bowl

Feb. 10, 2024
The team captains and coaches will participate in the coin toss Sunday.

Dave Reardon

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser


Jan. 31—The Lahainaluna High School football team finished just a bit short of playing for a state championship last fall.

But, now, the buzz around Maui is some of the Lunas are headed for the Super Bowl.

Team captains Bula Montgomery, Kaulana Tihada, Teva Loft and Kuola Watson and coaches Dean Rickard, Bobby Watson and Garret Tihada have been invited by the NFL to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for the Feb. 11 game between defending champion Kansas City and San Francisco.

And we're told they will be at the middle of the field to witness the pregame coin toss.

Who knows? Perhaps Patrick Mahomes, George Kittle or one of the other Chiefs or 49ers captains will ask the Lunas captains for advice on heads or tails.

The invitation is part of a continuous outpouring of support for the Lunas since the devastating Lahaina wildfires last August. Most of the school's student-athletes and coaches lost their homes to the flames, which means they also lost much of their athletic gear.

They never lost their spirit, though, and the football team's resilience was a key part of Lahaina's healing in the months immediately after the fire.

What better than high school football to bring back a sense of normalcy, even if just for a few hours a week?

Although the team was scattered around the island, with many grieving deaths of loved ones, the Lunas worked through the emotional pain for each other — and their family, school and community.

The Lunas weren't just a feel-good story for people in dire need of one. They were a play-good story, too.

Performing with their trademark efficiency and toughness, the Lunas went undefeated in a shortened, five-game league schedule. It was enough to win the Maui Interscholastic League championship.

When I want objective, clear-headed perspective on Hawaii sports history, my first call is to Paul Carvalho. The retired Star-Bulletin sports editor and longtime member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame selection committee is never biased — whether it be for the latest and greatest, or the good old days that maybe weren't as good as we'd like to imagine them.

So, around the the time of the Lunas' emotional homecoming game at their on-campus stadium, I asked Paul where the 2024 Lahainaluna football team's saga ranks among Hawaii sports human interest stories.

"I don't think we've ever seen anything like this," said Paul, a Damien and University of Hawaii graduate who was born and raised here. "I have always thought Radford's 1981 run to the Prep Bowl championship after (coach) John Velasco's death was the most compelling local sports story of its time. This is at a whole new level. Watching that community come together after what they have been through is so remarkable and inspiring."

That inspiration — and empathy for the Lunas — knows no boundaries.

Finn Ptashek is a hockey and lacrosse player who attends Riverdale Country School in New York. When Finn heard about what happened in Lahaina, it hit home for him because his mother grew up in Hawaii.

He asked the school administration if he could organize a fundraiser for Luna Strong, a conduit for donations to help Lahainaluna's sports programs.

Finn set up a walkathon that brought in $13,000. And the kids at K-12 Riverdale sent hundreds of handwritten notes of encouragement to Lahainaluna.

Keith Amemiya, chair of Gov. Josh Green's Sports Task Force, is a tireless driving force behind Luna Strong, facilitating donations with his strong connections in the Hawaii business and sports communities.

Some of the donations have been in the form of equipment from many of Hawaii's most famed sports stars, including Carissa Moore, Marcus Mariota, Shane Victorino, Ezekiel Lau and Jocelyn Alo.

"I'm so excited and happy for them," Amemiya said of the Lunas' trip to the Super Bowl. "For all that they've accomplished under unimaginable circumstances, no one deserves it more than them."

Donations to Luna Strong can be made via the Downtown Athletic Club of Hawaii at, with 100% of donations going directly to Lahainaluna High School's athletic department.


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