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.”