The ‘Iolani backfield is establishing itself as a real threat in the preseason.
After quarterback Tai-John Mizutani shredded Radford for 245 yards and three passing touchdowns in the Raiders’ season opener, running back KJ Pascua put on a show of his own against Waimea on Saturday afternoon at Kozuki Stadium.
The senior ran for all three of ‘Iolani’s touchdowns in the first half after the Raiders found themselves in a quick 3-0 deficit to the visiting Menehunes. He finished with 43 yards on 14 carries as the Raiders went on to win comfortably, 35-3.
“Pretty much everything they came out in, we were ready for,” Pascua said. “There were some small changes we had to make and once we made it, we were all set. All of our adjustments were solid.”
The unassuming Pascua stands at 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds, a 25-pound increase from his days as a state wrestling champion at 145 in 2015.
Though successful at the individual level, he’ll readily acknowledge his teammates.
“My approach was just to try to run hard, make my reads because I knew my line would block for me and they did solid today. It’s all because of them,” Pascua said. “The receivers blocking downfield too. That’s how I got my touchdowns in.”
Mizutani knows what he has beside him on the field and isn’t taking it for granted.
“It’s everything. I can swing it out to him and if there’s pressure I can dump it down and he gains a solid five yards every play. That’s what we need,” Mizutani said. “We need positive yards to make first downs more manageable. He’s got a lot of experience and it really helps.”
Raiders head coach Wendell Look figures to lean on Pascua in facing the ILH gauntlet of Saint Louis, Punahou and Kamehameha twice each.
“KJ is gonna be one of our guys that gets touches. He’s gonna touch the ball because he’s gonna produce for us so when we can, we’re gonna give it to him,” Look said. “We might give it to him 40 times a game, we might throw it 40 times a game, but he’s gonna touch the ball.”
The Raiders tried their hand in Division I last year and went winless. With a season under their belts, they’re hoping for better results this season.
As evidenced by his past, he’s never backed down from a challenge.
“Our progress has been great from the summer,” Pascua said. “We’ve been stepping it up a lot. We just gotta keep stepping up our game every practice, every week just getting better and we’ll be solid.”