Grit and guts by Roosevelt in nonconference loss to ‘Iolani

Roosevelt quarterback Kamuela Kaaihue attempted a pass against 'Iolani on Friday. Kaaihue, a starting linebacker and long snapper, stepped in at quarterback with eight Rough Rider starters unavailable to play. George F. Lee / Star-Advertiser.

Some teams chose to keep their bye weeks.

Roosevelt wanted to play one of the best in Division I. In the aftermath of a 40-7 loss to No. 6 ‘Iolani, one that doesn’t count in the OIA Division I standings, Rough Riders coach Kui Kahooilihala lamented the defeat. Roosevelt lined up without eight starters on Friday. One of them, highly-recruited linebacker Kaeo Akana, was on a recruiting trip on Friday. Yet, the Rough Riders defense was steady in the first half, containing ‘Iolani running back Brody Bantolina.

The senior rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns, but his first-half carries drew plenty of attention: 3 yards, 6, 3, 1, 3, 5 (TD), 4, 5, 4. That’s 34 hard-earned yards on nine attempts, or 3.8 yards per carry.

“Roosevelt is a good team right there, missing people. I’d hate to see them when they’re at full strength,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said.

With their starting quarterback among those unavailable to play, Kahooilihala and his staff utilized linebacker Kamuela Kaaihue. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior played both ways and was their long snapper to the end. He was 9-for-20 for 103 passing yards with no turnovers.

The eye test showed much more. Though he had to scrape and scramble for 18 net rushing yards on 17 attempts, many of Kaaihue’s runs were beastly as he broke multiple tackle attempts. He delivered several stunning throws on the dead run as the Raiders gave chase, and also took five sacks as he scrambled.

“He played quarterback for us on our JV. Him and our other QB kind of took turns. When he came to the varsity, he just wanted to play one side of the ball, and that was linebacker. He did get a few touches at QB. He can throw, run the zone option. He knew at certain times, he’ll be backing up (our starter), so he’s familiar with the offense,” Kahooilihala said.

Roosevelt coach Kui Kahooilihala’s team still has a shot at reaching the OIA Division I playoffs. The Rough Riders were a D-II powerhouse in the OIA until being promoted. George F. Lee/Star-Advertiser.

With a bye, Kaaihue had two weeks to prepare.

“I think he’s done a great job. That guy’s a winner. He wants the ball in his hands and he doesn’t want to come off the field. Our offensive coordinator, coach Ant (Anthony Monteilh), said, we’re going with the guy.’ Our coaches know what he can do. Coach Jon (Kahooilihala) kind of limited his play on the defensive side because he knew he was going to take all the snaps on offense,” Kahooilihala said.

Roosevelt made enough plays to compete, even win against a lot of teams. The Rough Riders happened to be playing the highest-ranked D-I team in the state.

“ ‘Iolani is a great team. They don’t turn the ball over. Ball control. Ball security. Defense. They do everything right on defense. They come up with the big plays. They’re very disciplined, offense and defense,” Kahooilihala said. “You’re not going to win games when you turn the ball over. We all know that. For us, we need to hang on to the ball.”

‘Iolani drive results, time of possession
First half
FG, 2:12
Turnover on downs, 1:10
TD, 1:15
Punt, :47
Punt, 1:34
TD, 1:42
Interception, :44
Second half
Turnover on downs, 4:17
TD, :45
TD, 4:03
TD, 2:54
Turnover on downs, 2:17

The second half was a tough stretch for Roosevelt’s defense. The actual total time of possession for ‘Iolani was 23 minutes, 40 seconds, virtually even with Roosevelt. But the Raiders’ no-huddle, sometimes hurry-up pace was a factor. They also ran the ball 29 times plus 32 pass attempts for 61 total offensive plays. Roosevelt ran the ball 31 times with 21 pass attempts for 52 offensive plays.

Scheduling an interleague game in 2021 means it is an exhibition. Though interleague games never counted in the standings for OIA teams during recent seasons, they did count in the ILH standings. In OIA Division I, fewer regular-season games means more opportunities to play ILH opponents. Pac-Five met and defeated Pearl City soon after the ILH regular season. Damien, with lower-than-usual numbers, opted to not play exhibition games.

‘Iolani went maximum mode and has played Kailua and Castle in addition to Roosevelt. In two weeks, the Raiders will play Radford, which is in the thick of the playoff chase.

The Rough Riders face Moanalua (4-1, 3-1 OIA Division I) next Friday, followed by a regular-season finale against first-place Waipahu (2-0, 2-0). At 1-2 in league play (1-3 overall), Roosevelt still has a shot to nab one of the two playoff berths.

The Rough Riders will need help to reach the playoffs, which is a two-team format this season. One championship game and OIA play is done. Roosevelt needs to beat the frontrunners, Moanalua and Waipahu, and hope that third-place Aiea (2-1, 2-1) loses its games against Waipahu and Kailua. Aiea has the tiebreaker edge on Roosevelt by virtue of a 14-13 win over the Rough Riders on Oct. 29.

Much of it will depend on production as students.

“It comes down to academics. Over here, I’m all in with school work and the kids know that. Hopefully, we can all be on board as far as school’s concerned. I think they should be good,” Kahooilihala said. “It’s grades and team rules. Everybody knows. F’s come into play. That’s why these guys are out. We’re not trying to give excuses, right? It happens.

“That’s why we say student-athletes. You have to be a great student first, then a great athlete. You’ve got to put effort in the classroom the same way you do it on the field. Come in and work hard.”


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