Q&A: ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look

'Iolani coach Wendell Look instructed his team in a practice. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

There are numbers and there is efficiency.

‘Iolani wants the latter. Even after a perfect completion rate by first-year starter Jonah Chong in a 63-0 nonconference win over Kalani, the Raiders aren’t buoyed by gaudy numbers.

“Don’t believe in stats,” said Wendell Look, now in his 28th season as Raiders head coach.

Look wasn’t disappointed, of course. Chong was 8-for-8, 136 yards and three touchdowns without a pick. The stat lines of most every other Raider just wasn’t enormous. In ‘Iolani’s four-wide attack, it’s about making the right decision. Being less predictable. Managing risk. Between Chong, Sam Faumuina and Tate Shimao, there were five TD tosses and zero interceptions. Running backs Rexton Suzuki and Kaua Nishigaya combined for 113 yards and three TDs on 23 carries.

Field position. Execution. Efficiency. Chong has the weight of the offense on his shoulders, but he is well prepared.

Look chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday, just three days before ‘Iolani meets another Division I powerhouse, Waipahu.

HPW: Tai-John Mizutani finished as the No. 4 career leader statewide in passing yardage. What’s the road been like for Jonah?

Wendell Look: He’s been the understudy to Tai-John. Last year, he got to watch him for a whole summer and whole season so obviously he’s learned a few things from him. He’s been working with (offensive coordinator) Joel Lane for years, so that has always been a plus. Jonah’s been working out with us in the summers. There’s nothing like live fire. You’ve got to be in there learning everything around you, being around the live fire, in front of the crowd.

HPW: The statistical lines up and down show modest individual numbers, but very consistent efficiency. Five players had at least 21 receiving yards.

Look: That’s what we preach, taking what the defense gives you. Receivers know that. They know the ball can come to them on any play. We stick to that rule and we can be very efficient on offense. If we force the ball to certain people, the offense is not efficient.

HPW: Year to year, you have one of the smaller offensive lines, yet their effectiveness is consistent.

Look: We have a few returnees. Our roster has about four kids that are over 200 pounds and we’re talking 205 and 210. The heaviest guy is 225. And I don’t think any of them are on the offensive line. Ryan Nishizaki (5-8, 180), Aki Iwakiri (5-9, 200) and Kilo Scanlan (6-1, 196). Those are the there returnees. We’ve got a sophomore at center, Micah Anduha (5-9, 173).

HPW: The receiving corps, a ton of returnees.

Look: Thats the strength of our offense, our skill guys.

HPW: The ‘Iolani offense has always tried to establish the ground game.

Look: Our key is we’re going to have to be very balanced, can’t be too one-sided. That was kind of the downfall last year where we relied a little bit too much on Tai-John. We’ll play to our strengths, but we don’t want to be too predictable.

HPW: If it were easy, somebody would still be running the wishbone.

Look: If we could cut block in high school, we would.

HPW: The defense has been in bend-don’t-break mode lately.

Look: We’re going to be playing a lot of guys. I think teams are going to look at our makeup and our physical size and think they’re going to be able to run the ball at will, so we’re going to have to be able to play a lot of people to maintain our level of play. We can’t rely on 160-pound guys stopping the run all game.

HPW: Who’s leading the unit?

Look: We’ve got Kyler Mento returning, (Meki) Pei. Those are two guys we’re going to rely on a lot. They’re hybrid kind of guys.

HPW: How is the kicking game?

Look: Mika Makekau, Keoni’s sister, she’s gotten a whole lot stronger and a lot more accurate. That’s kind of a weapon for us.

HPW: Is it true the pooch kick was outlawed? I didn’t see you using it as much last year.

Look: The hard ground kick, that was banned. It’s for safety. The pooch is still legal.

HPW: Now you have Waipahu on Saturday.

Look: We don’t have too much on them. We just heard that they’re very good, with 28 guys playing Waianae, that says a lot about the makeup of their team. They’re very physical up front and they’ve got an excellent running back. What concerns me, what’s impressive is they had 28 guys. They won the game against Waianae in the fourth quarter. That shows a lot of toughness on their part.

HPW: What’s your take on their running back, Alfred Failauga?

Look: I haven’t gotten a look at him up close. Their offense seems very similar to what we do, except we’re the medium size and they’re the XXL size.


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