Kaua Nishigaya‘s first year of varsity football included seven consecutive games against either Saint Louis, Kamehameha or Punahou.
That was two years ago. Now, as an ‘Iolani senior, Nishigaya feels the Raiders are right where they’re supposed to be.
“These past two years we’ve faced a lot of adversity and finally it’s going our way,” Nishigaya said after Friday night’s 33-12 win over Kailua at Alex Kane Stadium. “I think this is the correct division for us to play in.”
No. 8 ‘Iolani is 3-0 and added an impressive 21-point win over a solid Kailua team to a resume that includes a 41-point win over Waipahu and a 63-0 shutout of Kalani.
Don’t be surprised if both Kailua and Waipahu are fighting it out in the league playoffs in October, but for now, the Raiders have cemented themselves as the top team in Division I on Oahu through the first three weeks.
Nishigaya accounted for both of ‘Iolani’s second-half touchdowns and finished with 102 rushing yards against the Surfriders. Junior quarterback Jonah Chong threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns and the Raiders survived the school’s first trip ever to the Windward side to play at Kailua.
The two teams had only played once before — a 7-0 Kailua win in 1966 at Honolulu Stadium.
“Every week we go in with the mind-set that we have to try to run the ball first,” Nishigaya said. “Each and every game we come out hard.”
‘Iolani coach Wendell Look, who admits he’s “pleasantly surprised” at his team’s 3-0 start, said they’ve put a big emphasis on the running game in the offseason.
“We looked back at our years when we were successful and we were not 50-50 (run/pass) but we were pretty good at running the ball,” said Look, who has led the Raiders to eight Division II state titles. “That was kind of the thing we needed to get better at and kind of revisit in our offense.”
‘Iolani led 20-6 in the fourth quarter and was backed up on its 5-yard line when Kailua had a safety negated by a defensive holding penalty.
The Raiders then went 95 yards in 12 plays with Nishigaya putting together runs of 14 and 27 yards on consecutive plays before scoring on a 2-yard TD run.
“It was really nice to be able to put that drive together and how we did it was kind of impressive given how much pressure Kailua was putting on us up the middle,” Look said.
Chong threw all three of his touchdown passes in the second quarter after a scoreless opening 12 minutes.
Kailua came out in a two-tight end jumbo set and ran the ball 24 consecutive plays in the first quarter.
Samson Rasay led the way with 89 yards but needed 22 carries to earn those yards. Five turnovers doomed the Surfriders (0-3, 0-1 OIA D-I).
Trevor Kan intercepted two passes and Isaac Ignacio recovered two fumbles for ‘Iolani.
“The defense is playing at a really high level,” Look said. “They play together and they know for us to be successful, it has to be 11 guys who all just do the job their supposed to. We’ve put up a lot of points but maybe half of them are attributed to the defense. They’ve created turnovers for us and put the offensive in great field position.”