This Father Bray Memorial Classic was unlike most of its 54 predecessors.
A 55th annual celebration honoring the ‘Iolani football patriarch carried added importance for the Raiders, who opened their Division I regular-season schedule with a 55-14 rout of No. 9 Waipahu at Kozuki Stadium.
“Usually there’s a celebratory atmosphere,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “(But) we have to focus in and win the game.
“We focused in on playing ‘Iolani football and making the past players, which there were a lot of today, proud of that they saw today.”
The alumni who returned watched the ‘Iolani defense spark the Raiders with three first-quarter turnovers and Look passed Waianae great Larry Ginoza with his 190th career win, good for second behind Saint Louis’ Cal Lee.
Junior Lanakila Pei came up with all three takeaways, returning a fumble 58 yards to set up ‘Iolani’s first touchdown and scoring on his own with a 12-yard interception return,” His second pick of the period led to ‘Iolani’s fourth TD of the quarter and the Raiders took a 48-0 lead into halftime.
“He’s going to be one of our playmakers, him and Kyler Mento,” Look said. “We rely on them heavily, we expect them to make plays and they do.”
Sophomore Shayden Molina forced two fumbles in the first half and Mento returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter 95 yards for the Raiders’ final score of the afternoon.
Waipahu entered the Star-Advertiser rankings with a 34-13 win over Waianae last week. But where the Marauders held up against the Seariders’ power in the opener, ‘Iolani’s speed proved overwhelming for much of Saturday afternoon.
With close to half the Waipahu roster still out due to academic probation, “our guys were just exhausted,” Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho said after a steamy afternoon on Eddie Hamada Field. “A lot of guys were going two ways and the heat got to a lot of guys.”
‘Iolani quarterback Jonah Chong, coming off an 8-for-8 performance in a 63-0 win over Kalani last week, lost a fumble on ‘Iolani’s opening possession but recovered to complete 18 of 24 pass attempts for 221 yards and four touchdowns.
He distributed his throws among an array of speedy receivers and Jonah Miyazawa led the group with six catches for 89 yards and two scores.
“Offensively, we just have to be efficient,” Look said “With Jonah being new at the starting role, it’s a matter of him letting the offense work with him and for him.”
Along with creating turnovers, the Raiders defense contained prolific Waipahu running back Alfred Failauga for much of the afternoon. The Raiders stopped Failauga for losses on four plays and he went into halftime with 11 yards on 12 carries. He found a bit more room in the second half to finish with 59 yards in 26 attempts.
‘Iolani will play at Kailua and Moanalua the next two weeks while Waipahu expects to be close to full strength for a game at Radford.
“I don’t look at losses in negative ways, especially this early in the season,” Carvalho said. “We’re going to learn form it, we’ll definitely fix things on our end and another plus is we’ll have our full crew back.”