‘Iolani working to prove it belongs in D-I

'Iolani's Justin Genovia caught two touchdown passes against La Jolla Country Day (Calif.) on Saturday. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani’s Justin Genovia caught two touchdown passes against La Jolla Country Day (Calif.) on Saturday. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

Changes to the state football tournament haven’t changed ‘Iolani’s outlook.

As far as they’re concerned, there’s still a full ILH season to be played.

The Raiders (3-0) face Saint Louis, Kamehameha and Punahou twice each over the next six weeks, starting with the Crusaders on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.

“We’re gonna have to battle and play pretty flawless to stay in the hunt,” coach Wendell Look said. “We’re going to face teams that are physically bigger and just better talent-wise. We gotta be ready for that.”

Last Monday, the HHSAA voted to add an Open division to the state tournament along with revised Division I and Division II tournaments.

The Open division will feature the ILH’s top two teams, while the Division I and Division II tournaments will consist of one ILH team each.

“The kids just took it in stride. We preach taking it one game at a time and to not look too far ahead,” Look said. “That’s how they’re going to approach it.”

As it stands, Saint Louis, Punahou, Kamehameha and ‘Iolani are the ILH’s Division I teams. Damien, Pac-Five and St. Francis make up Division II.

Since the state championship was split into two divisions in 2003, ‘Iolani has struggled to find middle ground.

The Raiders won eight Division II state championships from 2005 to ’14, including six straight from ’07 to ’12. When the school moved to Division I last year, it went 0-6 in ILH play.

Kamehameha, Saint Louis and Punahou are all expected to compete for the Open division, leaving ‘Iolani as a lock to represent the ILH in the Division I tournament. Raiders quarterback Tai-John Mizutani isn’t going to make any assumptions.

“I’m excited. At the same time, we have to prove ourselves in the ILH,” Mizutani said. “There’s going to be a lot of people saying that we don’t belong or that we got it handed to us.”

If the Raiders are one of the teams competing for a championship, they certainly want to earn it.

“One of the things that we talked about was that our job is to go out and prove to everyone that we deserve to be in the playoff and that we’re gonna earn our spot,” Look said. “We have to show that we’re gonna represent the ILH in the state tournament and a be great representative for our league. We have to be very well-deserving of the opportunity.”


  1. MrWendall August 28, 2016 7:16 am

    The ILH forces their will upon the entire state because they have many alumni in high places. I guess football is a big thing in the ILH that they have to do drastic things to improve their chances of winning titles.

  2. anonymous1 August 28, 2016 8:58 am

    I think this 3 tier playoff system is long overdue so credit to all those involved. I do find it strange that Iolani seems to get an automatic entry into Division I tournament, while 3 teams fight for a Div II spot and 3 teams fight for 2 Open Division spots. I’m surprised that I don’t see more people questioning this. Is there any other school in the state that has an auto pass into the state football tournament this year? I do understand that Iolani would not be a fit in Div I and Div II, but perhaps this is a quirk they need to fix. Granting a team an auto pass into the tournament despite record (on the surface, at least) leaves much to be desired in my opinion. Perhaps the HHSAA director who is an Iolani alum, was torn about this, not?

  3. Mahatma Gandhi August 28, 2016 12:53 pm

    MrWendall, who cares who wins Div 2 or Div 3? I went to the Kahuku – St Louis championship football game last year. The Kahuku fans showed up as soon as the gates opened at 4 PM. They weren’t there to watch Radford play. They were there early to get good seats for the Kahuku game.
    Iolani can just recruit more players than before to be able to compete in the Open Division. I think they recruited just enough players in years past, just enough to guarantee a Div 2 state title every year, but not so many players that they would have to then play Div 1, not wanting to get into a bidding war with St Louis for elite players.
    Trust me, they had Samoan recruits on their 1980 Prep Bowl team that blasted the Waianae Seariders. One of them was Albert Tufono, whose kids now play for Punahou. How did that happen? Didn’t Iolani offer Maninoa and Jack-Eli too?

  4. SimpleSimon August 29, 2016 11:06 am

    @anonymous1 – I was wondering the same thing. Such a stupid format in all aspects. Then you have OIA Red and Blue 3rd and 4th places with the opportunity to have a DIV-1 state title. Nothing on this adding an Open Division makes any sense.

  5. J Milo September 2, 2016 9:09 am

    last win for the raiders this season as well as their rankings.

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