COUNTDOWN: Big shoes to fill on offense for No. 10 ‘Iolani

'Iolani has to replace four key playmakers on offense, including running back Kaua Nishigaya, who accounted for 91 percent of 'Iolani's rushing offense and 32 percent of its total offense in 2018. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

New receivers.

New running backs.

New offensive linemen.

The ‘Iolani Raiders, ranked No. 10 in the preseason Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 and featured in today’s newspaper, which you can read here, have some solid returnees on both sides of the ball. However, “transition” is the word as new faces fill in as first-year starters, particularly on offense.

Last year’s team had relied on stellar defense and an offensive attack that ran the ball nearly 50 percent of the time. This season will be an exercise in patience as young, first-year starters mesh with proven seniors. The receiving corps is led by senior Carter Kamana, but finding able and productive replacements for Jonah Miyazawa (51, 557, six TDs) and Rayden Kaneshiro (35, 438, four) is easier said than done.

“It’s on everyone to execute their part. That’s why we’re here working the best we can. Carter is one of the biggest competitors we have. He’s really aggressive and fearless out there,” quarterback Jonah Chong said. “He’s not afraid of anything. He’ll come across the middle, catch the ball and get whacked, but he’ll get right back up and play for that first-down marker. Him being here, his third year, being the top guy of our group, he can help and lead the younger guys and get everyone on the same page. That’s the biggest thing.”

This preseason, with so many unproven new starters in the mix, it is a bit of a mystery for opponents.

“That’s what any offense wants, to not turn over the ball as much as possible,” said Chong, who passed for 2,162 yards and 21 TDs with just 11 interceptions in his first year as the starter as a junior.

Chong has been a pocket passer much of the time.

“This offseason I’ve worked pretty hard to get a little faster, be a little more mobile in situations where I can extend a play or pick up a first down,” he said.

In the state tourney, Waipahu responded to ‘Iolani’s balanced attack by sometimes sitting eight defenders in coverage, coming through with a 20-19 win.

“When we played Waipahu last year, they had eight guys in coverage for the majority of the game. For the quarterback to help get yards when everyone is covered, that can open up the passing and running, as well,” Chong added.

In 2018, ‘Iolani went 8-3 overall and racked up a steady 3,391 yards of total offense. Defense was key, willing to bend without breaking often. The offense, with five returning starters, is all about timing and discipline, which means replacing running back Kaua Nishigaya and the trio of pass catchers — who all graduated in June — is a big challenge.

A big question is, will the Raiders be able to produce out of the backfield now that Nishigaya has graduated. Nishigaya rumbled for 983 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground last season. He also caught 15 passes for 98 yards and two more TDs. In total, Nishigaya accounted for 1,081 yards from scrimmage.

His contributions added up to 32 percent of the total offense. His rushing total amounted to 91 percent of ‘Iolani’s ground game.

‘Iolani warmed up ahead of a practice last week. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

This is crucial stuff for the Raiders, who have run the four-wide offense successfully for decades. Even with the wide-open look, the Raiders are perfectly happy to take whatever a defense gives. The rushed the ball 311 times and passed it 353 times in 2018.

For now, returnee Jake Lee, Brody Bantolino and converted linebacker Brock Hedani are battling for playing time. Lee had 17 carries for 74 yards last year.

Bantolino, who has a long, lean frame, reminds coach Wendell Look of former standout Ray Stowers.

“He’s got some shakes,” Look said, adding that Stowers got stronger by his senior year.

The front five features center Micah Anduha, left tackle Kilo Scanlan and right tackle Brandon Chin, all returnees.

“They are probably the most undersized, underrated and under-appreciated group on the team,” Look said. “But I love ‘em. Without them, our team has no success.”

Wendell Look begins his 29th season as ‘Iolani football coach four wins shy of 200. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.


  1. Mahatma Gandhi July 24, 2019 1:31 pm

    Used to be the Iolani Red Raiders. Now they the Iolani Black Raiders. Black is their dominant color now. Red has been relegated to a minor color.
    High point of Iolani football: destroying Waianae in the 1980 Prep Bowl. The record will show the game ended in a 7-7 tie. But don’t anyone be fooled. Iolani pushed Waianae around all game long, both sides of the lines of scrimmage. Iolani had 2 length of the field drives in the 4th quarter, but no points to show for it. Kicker missed a chip shot field goal at the end of the game that would have won it. Waianae so lucky there no OT back then. Too bad for Eddie Hamada, settling for a tie when his team was clearly better. Had like 32,000 people at the game, still the all-time record. I was there.

  2. Jayme Wight July 24, 2019 1:59 pm

    Mahatma, who cares about your idiotic recollections of the 70s?

  3. Jayme Wight July 24, 2019 2:00 pm

    Mahatma, stop going all Asperger’s about the 1980 Prep Bowl! You obsess over that the way most guys obsess over a hot chick!

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