‘Iolani’s Mizutani evolving into maestro territory

'Iolani QB Tai-John Mizutani followed up his ILH record of 485 passing yards to end last season with a nearly perfect game Saturday against Radford. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.
‘Iolani QB Tai-John Mizutani followed up his ILH record of 485 passing yards to end last season with a nearly perfect game Saturday against Radford. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Week 1 of prep football had its share of phenomenal performances.

Blowouts, yes, but let’s not discount the guys who are already nearing midseason form. One of them is ‘Iolani’s Tai-John Mizutani. Coming off an ILH record 485-yard performance in the 2015 season finale against Kamehameha, the quick-trigger slinger was in excellent form on Saturday night against Radford. ‘Iolani’s 42-6 win, with all 42 points coming before halftime, sets the tone for year 2 of the Raiders’ venture into “full-time” Division I football.

‘Iolani’s hybrid offense, which has shown wrinkles like jet sweeps in the past, was as basic and straightforward four-wide as it has been in some time. A big part of that is because of Mizutani’s evolution in the system. A year ago, the Raiders had multiple candidates for the starting job, and they all seemed to be in an evenly-matched battle. Mizutani emerged, and he continues to show the potential to rack up dizzying numbers unseen at ‘Iolani for the past few years.

The Raiders’ 42-6 win was largely the product of disciplined team defense and an offensive unit that relied on wits as much as brawn. They have some size up front, but it’s not much different from a standard, quality ‘Iolani O-line. They have speed at wide receiver and slotback, but nobody with unique height or size. Yet, they managed to produce 339 yards of passing offense even with the departure of some talented pass catchers (Keoni-Kordell Makekau, Nick Kennedy).

Mizutani’s mastery is the difference. Every ‘Iolani snap led to quick-hitting runs — K.J. Pascua rumbled for 70 yards and two TDs on 14 carries, while backup Troy Hanaoka amassed 68 yards on just 10 carries. They ran the ball just enough to keep Radford’s rangy defense honest.

Mizutani was willing to hand the ball off and work the left side of the field in a mechanical, efficient fashion until the opposite side of the field opened up. Just about every time the defense leaned away from playmaker Justin Genovia (seven grabs, 140 yards, TD), Mizutani made them pay. Whether it was sideline routes, bubble screens or quick bullets between the hashes, Mizutani and Genovia were on point.

Here’s a look at Mizutani’s chronological target chart:
Completion — 3 yards, Cody Pudiquet
Completion — 23 yards, Genovia
Incompletion — Jonah Miyazawa
Completion — 12 yards, Miyazawa
Incompletion — Pudiquet
Completion — 16 yards, Genovia
Completion, TD — 12 yards, Genovia
Incompletion — Pudiquet
Completion — 6 yards, Pascua
Completion — 8 yards, Miyazawa
Completion — 15 yards, Genovia
Completion — 49 yards, Genovia
Completion — 9 yards, Miyazawa
Completion — 5 yards, Miyazawa
Incompletion — Pascua
Completion — 24 yards, TD — 24 yards, Drake Shigemura
Completion — 6 yards, Pudiquet
Completion — 11 yards, Genovia
Completion — 5 yards, Pudiquet
Incompletion — Miyazawa
Completion — 20 yards, Pascua
Completion — 9 yards, Brent Nagami
Completion, TD — 12 yards, Rayden Kaneshiro

After four series, Mizutani was done for the day. Backup Jarin Yokogawa took over for the remaining two series of the first half, and then played the entire second half.

Mizutani was 18-for-23, 245 yards and three TDs. (These stats are corrected now.) He was credited with two carries for minus-4 yards. Radford may be in its first year under a new coach, but the defending D-II state champions were well prepared as can be. They didn’t give up the deep ball. They made ‘Iolani earn all of its rushing yards. Mizutani simply took what the defense gave him.

The difference between an experienced field general like Mizutani and a passer who is still learning the system and the game is like this: Mizutani had a passer rating of 210.78, which is pretty close to being off the chart. Yokogawa had nearly the same number of pass attempts, but had a rating of 60.9 against basically the same defense. Both of Radford DB Clinton Steven‘s interceptions came against Yokogawa. The Raiders let their young backup play through the ups and downs, huge for his development, much as they got reps for their starting candidates 12 months ago. To his credit, Yokogawa got better with more reps.

Genovia? Seven targets, seven receptions. That’s known as having a perfect game plan to set up your most explosive playmaker. The Raiders’ coaching staff are the maesters of balanced warfare. The ‘Iolani Raiders were something to behold on Saturday night.


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