Wendell Look has been around the championship block a few times.
He’s had great and memorable teams at ‘Iolani, but this most recent version of the Raiders was one of the most satisfying for the veteran coach.
After beating Lahainaluna 31-14 in the state Division II final last week, Look was asked if it was his toughest coaching job. The question came in light of the fact that ‘Iolani did not make the state final in 2013, thus ending a streak of six straight titles.
“No, not at all,” Look said, with certainty. “This was the easiest.”
Look went on to say the Raiders players were “hungry and embarrassed” that they were responsible for the end of the string. And because of this, the commitment and bonds were stronger, easing Look’s job.
“We had three things we all agreed on wanting to do this year and we accomplished them,” the coach said. “We wanted to play with passion, trust in each other and selflessness.
“We did all of that and added a few more — care and love. We became like a family and played like it, where we were all accountable to each other.”
Quarterback Austin Jim On, who completed 21 of 24 passes with three touchdowns in the state title game, spoke about that same subject in a separate interview.
“As a quarterback, in many instances I was able to step back and look at the whole team like a coach does,” he said. “And what I saw was that every single person on this team got better and that was because we came together as a family and everybody learned from each other.”
The Raiders (8-3), who have now won eight of the last 10 D-II state titles, took apart the highly-regarded and top-seeded Lunas (10-1) with an efficient short passing game helped along by the hard running of KJ Pascua and Storm Lotomau.
Christian Naeole and Wyatt Ma‘a had fumble recoveries in the finale for ‘Iolani, and Helam Baldomero was also a big sparkplug on defense.
Keoni Kordell-Makekau, aside from kicking a 42-yard field goal, caught seven passes for 105 of Jim On’s 239 passing yards.
Next season, the Raiders could be going for nine, but that number is not important to Look, who says championships are secondary to his primary reason for coaching.
“My purpose at ‘Iolani is to perpetuate what Father Bray and Coach Hamada built, to carry on their legacy and pass it on to the younger kids,” he said.