Before the season started, ‘Iolani knew what it had to do to earn a berth in the HHSAA Division I state tournament: Win the ILH title, which included beating out the likes of Saint Louis, Punahou and Kamehameha.
The Raiders went 0-7 in ILH play.
Yet here they are, one win away from a Division I title game after a 17-14 nail-biter over Moanalua at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
In August, the HHSAA added an Open division to the state tournament in addition to modified Division I and Division II tournaments. The Raiders (4-7) were probably the biggest beneficiary of that change, as their slot in the Division I tournament was uncontested.
“These kids have worked hard,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “We’ve had to try to prove ourselves and tonight we proved that we could play and that we’re a good team.”
It was the Raiders’ first game since Oct. 14 when they lost to Saint Louis 33-0 in the ILH playoffs at Aloha Stadium. For starting quarterback Tai-John Mizutani, it was his first game in almost a month. The junior was pulled with an undisclosed injury against Punahou on Oct. 7.
“I missed it,” Mizutani said. “I love it. I was sick seeing my boys out there lose to Saint Louis but it’s a great feeling to be back, especially when we win. Can’t ask for much more.”
‘Iolani now shifts its focus to Campbell, which routed Waiakea 48-0 on its home field Friday night. The matchup is set for next Saturday, Nov. 12 but the site is yet to be announced.
“I’m proud of my guys, I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity and it feels good,” Mizutani said. “Another week of football, gotta love it.”