Down 8-0 in the opening minutes, the ‘Iolani Raiders faced an uphill battle against the upstart Kamehameha I-AA Warriors.
Sterling Sakashita made sure of it. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior was everywhere defensively with double-digit tackles against a balanced Kamehameha offensive attack. With the Raider defense swarming on Warriors quarterback Noah Spencer and running back Moe Passi, No. 7 ‘Iolani rallied for a 35-20 victory at Aloha Stadium.
‘Iolani improved to 3-0 with its toughest battle so far in the ILH schedule.
“It wasn’t our best game for sure. We’ve got a lot to work on. When you play good teams, you can’t be playing bad like this. Their running back, wooh! Being back in Aloha Stadium, two years ago, I was underneath that goal post when I watched the ball go over my head,” Sakashita said.
That was in the 2019 Division I state final, when Hilo’s Keanu Keolanui drilled a 55-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 win over the Raiders.
“Just being back, seeing the field, the locker rooms, brings back all the memories, you know. I want to redeem that loss coming back this year,” Sakashita said.
Kamehameha had some brilliant plays offensively, including an 8-yard touchdown run and dive to the pylon by Spencer. The sophomore also hurled a perfect dart to Ty Perkins on a fourth-down snap for a 58-yard touchdown.
Still, ‘Iolani’s defense was resilient. Jacob Gaudi wound up with two key interceptions, including one near the sideline to thwart a Warriors drive with the game still up for grabs at 28-20 with 5:35 remaining. Like Sakashita, Gaudi is labeled a “HYBRID” on the Raiders’ roster.
“I have my reads and I was just going through my reads. We work on that at practice. All I had to do was work out there and I caught it. My coaches told me to work out to the ‘1’,” Gaudi said. “Sterling was working really hard. He’s the middle of our defense and he’s just a workhorse. He racks up the tackles and he’s always the first one to the ball, so we can come and gang tackle.”
It was another case of a smaller defense grinding out key stops against a formidable, young offense.
“Coach Del (Tengan, defensive coordinator) does an amazing job. We watch the film, he lets us know what formation to look out for, what to key on and that helps us out a lot,” Sakashita said.