After back-to-back losses following an impressive 3-0 start, ‘Iolani moved back into the Star-Advertiser Top 10 this week after an impressive — and crucial — win over Damien.
The lone meeting between the two ILH schools competing in Division I this year left ‘Iolani in a first-place tie with the Monarchs and with the head-to-head tiebreaker in its favor.
That has set up ‘Iolani quite well down the stretch as it began its final four games of the regular season — against OIA teams a combined 5-17-1 entering Friday’s play — with a 42-6 homecoming victory over Radford at Kozuki Stadium.
Quarterback Jonah Chong threw three touchdown passes and senior defensive back Kyler Mento returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown in his final home game.
‘Iolani (5-2, 4-1 ILH D-I) will play its last three regular-season games on the road.
“I’m going to miss it,” Mento said. “It was one to remember. I was at safety … luckily ball was there, Lanakila (Pei) made a nice block for me and it was just kind of a team play.”
‘Iolani improved to 8-0 all-time against Radford with three different receivers catching touchdown passes.
Junior Carter Kamana, who made a defender miss to turn a short pass into a 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter, notched his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season with seven receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Jonah Miyazawa opened the scoring with an 11-yard TD pass from Chong. Sophomore backup quarterback Sam Faumuina added a 26-yard touchdown pass on his only attempt to Wailoa Manuel for a 42-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders played sloppier than normal according to coach Wendell Look, but there was a lot at stake coming off a physical win against Damien, the short week, and homecoming festivities following the game.
“That’s kind of a good sign to have a win with the score as it was and not play your best,” Look said. “This a young group who is enjoying a little bit of success and it’s always a challenge to see how they will handle the success.”
Moanalua’s 31-13 win over Damien tonight means ‘Iolani can finish 2-1 in its final three games and still make the state tournament.
Had Damien beat ‘Iolani last week, the Monarchs would have enjoyed a two-game advantage with four games to play, but the added significance of the head-to-head tiebreaker would have made it nearly impossible odds for the Raiders to overcome.
‘Iolani rode senior running back Kaua Nishigaya, who carried the ball 41 times for 226 yards, to victory as it wore down the Monarchs with its running game, something it hadn’t done in recent years.
“Just numbers wise we had 36 guys last year. This year we had 50 and that in itself gives us some options,” Look said. “Especially the seniors this year, the kids have had to endure some tough seasons but from that adversity you learn a lot. Hopefully this is the reward they are going to reap from all of the suffering and adversity they have been through.”
In seven games, ‘Iolani has given up just 89 points (12.7 ppg) and allowed more than 19 points in a game only once.
“I definitely see something special in this team,” Mento said. “Mentally and physically I think being undersized we work our butts off. We really got heart and play for each other.”
Up next for the Raiders is their first game in the valley at Nanakuli since a 44-6 win in 2005.
‘Iolani season stat leaders
Jonah Chong, 133-208, 1,463 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT
Kaua Nishigaya, 129 att., 579 yards, 6 TD
Carter Kamana, 55 rec, 690 yards, 7 TD