‘Iolani finishes just short of state title dream

'Iolani's Lanakila Pei (23), who celebrated with teammates after he intercepted a pass against Waipahu last season, leads the returnees on defense for the Raiders. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

If you saw how intensely the ‘Iolani Raiders were competing on Friday night, you understand the full meaning of the following quote after the team’s 20-19 loss to Waipahu.

“They wanted it more,” ‘Iolani receiver Carter Kamana said. “Two great teams making it this far. What it means is they proved they just wanted it. They had that hunger to come back at us after we beat them (55-14 at ‘Iolani on Aug. 11).”

Basically, it was two teams hammering away on each other for four quarters, with the momentum swinging back and forth.

Waipahu took the early edge and ‘Iolani took over for a while before the Marauders, simply put, willed their way to victory.

And, if what Kamana says is true — that Waipahu wanted it more — then the difference in that category was very small indeed. One point on the scoreboard. A half percent on the effort scale, perhaps.

And the bigger difference is the future. The Marauders are aiming at a first state title. The Raiders (8-3) are done for the year, after missing out on a chance for a ninth state title. It’s been four years in a row now that ‘Iolani is not hoisting the koa trophy. That span comes after the eight Division II state titles the school captured from 2005 through 2014.

A year ago, the Raiders were bounced from the D-II semifinals on Maui by eventual champion Lahainaluna, 35-27.

‘Iolani coach Wendell Look had that irritated look on his face after Friday’s loss to Waipahu at the Marauders’ Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex. It was that “we just lost a big game by one point” look.

He was certainly not disappointed in his players.

“They (the Marauders) outplayed us,” he said. “They made plays when they had to. Our defense played a helluva game. I could not have asked for a better effort. You have to play and win in all three phases of the game. We didn’t do that. Our players played well. They hung in there and gave it their best shot and that’s all I can ask for.”

The running of Waipahu’s Alfred Failauga (162 yards on 38 carries) was the ultimate difference. He spearheaded both scoring drives that brought the Marauders back from a 19-7 deficit to the 20-19 win.

The ‘Iolani game plan appeared to be working on him early, but he broke loose in the second half.

“The more carries he gets, the stronger he gets. He put them on his shoulders and carried them,” Look said about Failauga.

The Raiders had a chance at the win in the fourth quarter, but Mika Makekau‘s 38-yard field goal was blocked by Amo Montero. Makekau had converted on field goals of 22 and 35 yards earlier.

The incredible effort ‘Iolani put in during the eventual losing cause was personified by Lanakila Pei on an interception of a Cody Marques pass. He chased down what appeared to be an uncatchable bullet, leaped high with outstretched arms and gathered in the ball with his fingertips.

Pei also had nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Teammate Kyler Mento made 11 tackles.

Kamana, the 6-foot-3 junior who had nine catches for 90 yards, is already thinking about helping his Raiders get to the promised land next year.

“We want to come back next year — next team up — and prove we belong here (at states) again.”


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