In his first start against a Division I opponent, ‘Iolani’s Tai-John Mizutani looked completely lost.
In the final game of his sophomore season, Mizutani looked like a seasoned veteran.
Mizutani ended the 2015 season shredding the Kamehameha defense for 485 yards on 40-of-57 attempts to set an ILH Division I record for passing yards in a single game. He also broke the all-time ‘Iolani passing mark by almost 100 yards.
Mizutani threw three touchdowns and had three different receivers go over 100 yards in a 39-24 loss to Kamehameha. The only other time the Raiders had three receivers go over the century mark was 2004 against Pac-Five when Micah Kalama, Kekai Kealoha and Travis Nishioka did it.
After the game, Mizutani had his right shoulder wrapped in ice and couldn’t lift his arm to shake hands after leaving everything he had on the field to try to get ‘Iolani (2-7, 0-6) a win in ILH play.
“Farrington, I was a deer in the headlights, man,” Mizutani said, referring to his four-interception performance against the Govs back in August. “Over the season, my teammates have helped me gain confidence and I’ve learned to trust them to do their job and not feel like I have to be the playmaker on the team.”
Mizutani left that up to his receivers, who also stepped up big. None were bigger than senior Keoni-Kordell Makekau, who finishes his career fifth on the all-time Oahu receiving list with 2,457 yards.
Makekau dislocated his shoulder in a 12-point loss to Punahou two weeks ago and sat out last week’s game against Saint Louis, but was able to suit up against Kamehameha. He caught 11 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Nick Kennedy added 159 yards on 14 catches and a score and Conor Hannum had 107 receiving yards on nine receptions with a TD.
“Our receivers were making excellent plays. Keoni basically had one arm coming into the game with a dislocated shoulder and he made big plays for us,” Mizutani said. “Not only is (Makekau) a playmaker, but he’s a great example off the field and is the most humble guy you’ll ever meet. He’s always in the weight room at 6 a.m. trying to get better and a lot of sophomores, like myself, and juniors look up to that.”
Makekau, who said he can run a 4.47 40-yard dash, took a short slant over the middle and broke a tackle before racing past a Kamehameha secondary that couldn’t catch him for a 51-yard touchdown reception.
He finishes his career with 22 touchdowns receiving and had 11 100-yard receiving games. He also holds ‘Iolani’s single-game receiving mark with 220 yards as a sophomore against Pac-Five.
“All of the coaches coached me up good. I never really started as a wide receiver before varsity football so I learned a lot,” said Makekau, who has D-I offers from Navy, Washington State and Hawaii. “It was hard and everyone was kind of hesitant at first about moving up to Division I but we came together and tried hard and tried to prove everyone we could do it.”
‘Iolani lost 59-22 to Punahou in the first meeting and 63-21 to Kamehameha. When the two teams played again, the Raiders lost 35-23 by Buffanblu (a 25-point improvement) and by 15 to the Warriors (27-point improvement).
‘Iolani coach Wendell Look refused to take any credit for it, putting it solely on the players, especially his 12 seniors.
“They understood what they were getting themselves into when we decided to take this on and didn’t complain about how things are going or make excuses,” Look said. “Their ultimate goal was to win the championship but obviously you have to win one game first and that was their short-term goal.
“They came out every week trying to get that and for 16- and 17-year old kids to have that mind-set, to have that understanding, to have that kind of drive says a whole lot about what kind of character this team is about. Who has a tougher schedule? Who plays one of the top five teams in the state every single week? Nobody. These kids came out and competed and worked hard.”