CLOSING THE BOOK: 2019 ‘Iolani Raiders

'Iolani’s Cole Ichikawa (2) celebrated a touchdown he made with teammates Carter Kamana (21) and Noah Gaudi (12) during the first half against Aiea in a 2019 matchup. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

>> 10-3 overall, 6-2 ILH Division I

>> Wendell Look is 206-135-3 in 29 seasons with the Raiders.

>> WR/PK Wailoa Manuel, 5-10, 150, Jr.; DL Shayden Molina, 6-2, 245, Jr.; RB Brody Bantolina, 5-8, 150, So.; DB Stirling Sakashita, 5-11, 165, So.



The 2019 edition of ‘Iolani football will probably be remembered more for being on the wrong side of an incredible kick in the state championship loss to Hilo, but that doesn’t take away from the outstanding performances by the team to get that far.

The Raiders won 10 games in a season for the first time since the middle of Wendell Look‘s Division II dynasty in 2009 and have improved their number of victories for three straight years even though it didn’t spell an ILH or state title.

‘Iolani put up 32.8 points per game in 2019, averaging more than 30 for three straight years for the first time in program history. The defense dipped to 16.3 points allowed per game from 11.4 the previous year, and it added up to a point differential of 16.5, the same as other good teams that fell short like 2008 Campbell, 2006 Kaiser and 2004 Mililani.

Jonah Chong took the reigns at quarterback for the second straight year, but regressed a bit from his stellar junior season. Chong finished with 1,839 yards and 22 touchdowns after amassing 2,162 and 21 in two fewer games but 56 more attempts last season. Chong’s yardage total was the fewest for ‘Iolani’s leading passer since Austin Jim On threw for 1,837 in 2013, but Jim On played in one fewer game.

Chong finishes his career with 4,156 yards and 45 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, and it was taking care of the ball where he excelled this year despite his other numbers taking a dip. Chong threw only six interceptions this season, four in league play, to settle in behind only Damien’s Jake Holtz, who missed two games, as the division’s most careful quarterback.

Chong threw at least one touchdown pass in nine straight games before being shut out and held to 118 yards by Hilo in the state championship. He was at his best when he threw short and let his receivers do all of the work, like in the season opener at Kamehameha-Hawaii when he completed only five passes that went for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Chong did get to air it out against Leilehua in the regular season, going 22-for-37 for 256 yards and three touchdowns in a loss after ‘Iolani fell behind early. His consistency was admirable. Chong completed 53 percent of his passes in losses and 50 percent in victories despite the heavier workload in the losses. Sam Faumuina was efficient as Chong’s backup, getting into four games and compiling a 20-for-34 line for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Nothing is guaranteed, but the junior looks more than ready to join the impressive list of ‘Iolani quarterbacks. He would be the first to ascend to the starter position as a senior after two years as a backup since Ryan Dung in 2006.

With Chong being relegated to a game manager, Look leaned on his running game more than recent years. He dialed up passes 45% of the time compared to 53% in Chong’s first season as a starter. Curiously, the approach to the running game didn’t move the chains as much as ‘Iolani would have liked, the Raiders ran 51.9 plays per game after 60.3 the previous year.

‘Iolani went with a two-man crew to replace Kaua Nishigaya as the feature back, giving Brock Hedani 164 carries and Brody Bantolina 112 after Nishigaya earned 206 the previous year. The numbers suggest that Hedani was equipped to carry an even heavier load, especially at the end of the loss to Hilo when he didn’t receive a carry in the fourth quarter and Chong tried three passes to close the Vikings out. Hedani got only nine carries in that game after getting 62 in the previous three. He finished the season with 744 yards and 12 touchdowns, going over the century mark with a 102-yard effort against Damien in the regular season. Bantolina earned 575 yards and 10 touchdowns as Hedani’s sidekick, but his carries dwindled as the season went along and all 10 of his scores came in the first seven games. Chong finished the season in the positive behind the small offensive line, rushing for 104 yards on 58 carries (including sacks) and five touchdowns.

Even with Carter Kamana limited by injury, Chong had more than enough weapons to get the job done. Kamana missed five games in the middle of the season to cost him the honor of being the team’s leading receiver for the second straight year. He finished with 492 yards and three touchdowns on 34 catches after exploding for an 87-959-8 line in 2018. Kamana went over the century mark only once, on three catches against Damien, allowing Wailoa Manuel to take the honor of being the top target with 57 catches for 838 yards and four scores. Manuel put on a show with two catches for 121 yards, both for touchdowns, against Waipahu and later caught 10 passes for 119 yards against Leilehua. He grabbed only six passes in two state tournament games and four in the ILH play-in game against Damien.

True to their ‘One Team’ philosophy, the Raiders have had a different leading receiver in each of the six years. Cole Ichikawa was a reliable third option with seven touchdowns, matched by Hedani (who did it on only nine catches) out of the backfield for the team lead in that category. Ichikawa’s top game was 101 yards against Aiea, but he was limited to two or fewer catches in each of the last seven contests. Noah Gaudi contributed two touchdown receptions in limited time and Bantolina provided one despite only two catches.

Look loses a slew of seniors in Hedani, Chong, Kamana and Lanakila Pei next year, leaving it to Manuel to step up into a leadership role along with Shayden Molina and Gaudi. Bantolina is a sophomore and has a chance to be ‘Iolani’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Hall of Honor member KJ Pascua in 2014. Faumuina is the only quarterback left on the roster, but he has had a front seat to the Chong show for the past two years.

‘Iolani’s Jonah Chong (11) looked to pass during the Division I state title game against Hilo. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


Jonah Chong13140-272-61,83922
Sam Faumuina520-34-12633
Brock Hedani1316474412
Brody Bantolina1311257510
Jonah Chong13581045
Jake Lee313590
Cole Ichikawa136330
Sam Faumuina58230
Lanakila Pei13230
Wailoa Manuel13578384
Carter Kamana8344923
Cole Ichikawa13243317
Brock Hedani13151937
Noah Gaudi7131502
Ryan Sunada610680
Rexton Suzuki33180
Brody Bantolina132151
David Kondo1150
Michael Noda11-60
‘Iolani defensive lineman Lima Harbottle (98) came up with an interception on a batted pass against Waipahu. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani wide receiver Carter Kamana (21), middle, scored on a 99-yard TD pass against Damien. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani wide receiver Wailoa Manuel (6) leaped to make a catch over Leilehua cornerback Selau Aiava (11). Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani quarterback Jonah Chong (11) stretched for yards while being tackled by Moanalua defensive backs Christian Sison (3) and Jesus Lopez Jr. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani slotback Cole Ichikawa (2) ran for a touchdown against Moanalua. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani’s Lanakila Pei (23) escaped an attempted tackle by Moanalua’s Rashod Tanner (13) during a game in the state tournament. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani running back Brock Hedani (1) cut between Damien defensive end Jayce “Jboy” Jay-Pedro (44), right, and linebacker Fosi Ulima (1) during a game at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.


  1. RainbowWarriorFootball December 9, 2019 10:16 pm

    Rolo what are you waiting for? That defense could really use a playmaker like Pei. Crazy how this kid hasn’t been offered yet. Easily one of the best players in the state.

  2. Ope December 9, 2019 10:36 pm

    Sucks to see all of ‘Iolani’s defensive backs leave the field next season in Pei, Camat, Kan, and Shikada. It’s gonna be hard to replace those four as they were the core to that defense.

  3. Lose Money December 10, 2019 10:07 am

    Ope, what also sucks, da fact Dat Iolani when miss da chance to win one D1 state title. No 2nd half Off & Def adjustments, humbug. Too much pride in da coach. Da last 1 min of game, not handled correctly, NO way Hilo should get ball back, NO Can! Run da clock out, give da boys one chance in Ova time. But in da first place, should neva come down to Dat wid one 17 PT lead. Lose Money!

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