When Brody Bantolina last had a season of football, he was a sophomore with the 2019 ILH Division I ‘Iolani Raiders.
That squad went 10-3, losing a heartbreaker to Hilo in the state tournament title game. Bantolina rushed for 575 yards and 10 touchdowns on 112 carries as the 1b running back to talented Brock Hedani.
This fall, the senior playmaker is relishing the primary role. Bantolina has rushed for 631 yards and 15 TDs on 99 attempts as No. 7 ‘Iolani completed ILH D-I/D-II play with a square 6-0 record. He has also caught five passes for 46 yards. Most of his production has come in the first half of games.
He had his biggest scoring output on Friday afternoon against a talented, physical Saint Louis I-AA defensive unit. His five-TD performance on a sweltering hot afternoon at Eddie Hamada Field.
“I don’t believe it was a big game for me. The touchdowns were about the defense making big plays, getting the takeaways,” Bantolina said.
‘Iolani’s defense came up with four interceptions after halftime, sealing a 52-28 win. The Raiders scored 28 unanswered points after trailing 28-24 in the third quarter.
“(Saint Louis I-AA) is big for a JV team. Our run game has been pretty solid and our linemen are blocking good. We tried some new stuff and we passed well. Micah (Hoomanawanui) played big, took some hits and stepped up in a big game,” Bantolina said. “In practice, he’s making reads and he came through today.”
Kai Preusser and Tristan Martinez led ‘Iolani’s receiving corps, but Taniela Taliauli continued his touchdown rampage. The sophomore now has a team-high four TDs in five games, 13 receptions for 177 yards in all.
“I think it’s his first year in football. He’s from Hilo and he’s a big basketball player. It’s all new to him,” Bantolina said.
Up front, the offensive line has been consistent and disciplined with nary a false start.
“With such an inexperienced team and a new quarterback, I think we had to rely on our running game because we are still testing the waters with our passing game,” senior center Raynne Passi said. “Also, having two veteran O-linemen, I think we had to step up our run game since we didn’t have experienced skill players. I’m not surprised our run game worked very well because every day in practice, we would work hard on learning our run plays and crafting them. We also want to run the ball because that’s the most fun. After the trenches, it’s all Brody. As an O-lineman, you want that guy running behind you.”
A six-game ILH season is a bit of a minor miracle consider all that has transpired statewide in high school sports since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. ILH teams are in the process of scheduling games, even scrimmages, with OIA football programs.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen. We have to trust that coach (Wendell Look) will do that. I trust his experience after 30 years (of coaching),” Bantolina said. “They tell us we have states and I believe that right now.”
The state tournament is scheduled for late December and early January. If the timing and the calendar hold up, that’s a wait of 13 weeks between games.
“We’ll focus more on academics. We have a regular practice on Monday,” Bantolina said. “I wouldn’t be mad about any extra games. It may be a long season, but it’s my last year. Whatever it takes to win a championship.”