The ‘Iolani Raiders are in a sweet spot.
The reformation of merged schedule, a three-tiered format, finally has the Raiders in a place they can call home. For a long time, ‘Iolani was a Division 1.5 type of football program. Dominant at the D-II level, but lacking girth and depth at the then-top tier of D-I. With the current Open, D-I and D-II structure, ‘Iolani is off to a strong start in the middle division.
The Raiders are 2-0 so far with lopsided wins over Kalani and Waipahu, scoring 118 points. They’ve allowed just 14. That’s impressive for a defensive unit that has below-average size. Coach Wendell Look and his staff continue to preach the virtues of teamwork.
Coach Look chatted with HPW on Tuesday.
HPW: Coach Look, it’s a long season, but 2-0 with decisive wins, how has this team done it?
Wendell Look: Well, I think the kids are buying into what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively, special teams. I think they’re playing together, which is really nice to see at this early stage. They believe in each other and all the hard work over the summer is paying off for them. Now, it’s a matter of staying healthy and raise our level of play every week.
HPW: The OIA isn’t counting wins or losses against ILH teams. Do you think that might lead to personnel decisions by OIA coaches when injuries become a factor?
Look: I think it’s just the integrity of all the coaches and the fact that we’re in this to play the game right. I don’t see that to be an issue or problem. People are here to compete and do what’s best for our team and our league, and for this alliance.
HPW: Your first-year starter at quarterback, Jonah Chong, has been incredible. (Stats: 26-for-32, 357 yards, seven TDs, no interceptions.) But without his offensive line, the system doesn’t work.
Look: Our offensive line, what I tell them and Jonah, the offense is going to work for them if they do their job. It will be efficient if all 11 guys do their job. The results should speak for itself, but they’re a young bunch sprinkled in with some veterans, so it’s a work in progress. They understand they have a huge responsibility because everything starts up front. The receivers, quarterbacks, linebackers get all the attention, but the O-line are the most important group to me along with defensive line. They’re the unsung heroes, if you want to put it that way. They have to be very smart in recognizing schemes and making the correct calls.
HPW: You’ve got a road game at Kailua (on Friday). What do you think about them?
Look: We haven’t seen too much of them. It’s all kind of brand new to us, playing these OIA teams, but that’s the challenge of it all. Every week I sound like a broken record when I talk to the team on Mondays. They’re going to be physical, athletic, so we’ve got to be able to control ourselves and what we do and make sure that we’re ready to play regardless of what the other team is about. Everyone’s going to try to establish the run on us.
HPW: The defense giving up just 14 points. Kyler Mento and an overall undersized group, playing lights out.
Look: They’re all playing pretty steady as long as everybody does their jobs. We have to play as a unit, as a team. Defensively, they’ve been doing a great job doing that, utilizing their strengths and try to hide their weakness.
HPW: In the old ILH, teams played the same opponents over and over. Now you’ve got all these OIA teams to scout and study. How’s the process of getting new video each week? It must be a challenge.
Look: We’re trying the best we can to get the information. It’s tough, but we’re trying.
HPW: It’s interesting to see your system, who stays healthy, who gets more playing reps over the course of a season. A kid who starts the season on the bench can end up making key plays as a fourth option with the starters.
Look: Everybody strives to get on the field. That’s what competition is about. It’s healthy. For us, it’s who deserves to play whether you’re a senior or sophomore.
HPW: Let’s circle back to Jonah. His numbers are super efficient so far. Can he sustain this?
Look: It’s a bit early yet. He has a ways to go to establish his career and reputation. It’s a matter of being consistent over time. You can’t have two good games and live off of that. Every week’s a new week and hopefully he gets better every week, not be satisfied. He has the right mindset. That’s always a good start.
HPW: Are you as amazed as I am that we finally have interleague play?
Look: It’s been exciting to see a lot of different matchups we haven’t seen and the interest level will continue to grow. Everybody’s getting in the flow it and you’ll see some good football.