By Jason Kaneshiro
Wendell Look didn’t expend a whole lot of words in his halftime speech.
Whatever the ‘Iolani head coach did express in those moments after a miscue-laden first half, it worked.
“We didn’t really tell them too much at halftime,” the ‘Iolani head coach said. “I left it up to them.”
After committing six turnovers before the break, the Raiders kept their cool, figured out how to keep their grip on the football and ultimately maintained their grasp on the Division II state championship with a 24-17 victory over Kauai last night at Aloha Stadium.
Running back Ammon Baldomero atoned for two first-half fumbles to rush for 108 yards and the go-ahead score, while quarterback Jarrett Arakawa overcame four interceptions to pass for 251 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
The ‘Iolani defense accounted for the game’s first score and kept the turnovers from inflicting too much damage as the Raiders captured their third consecutive D-IIstate title and fourth in five years.
“We want to be on the field, and it’s our job to get the ball back,” defensive tackle Seali‘i Epenesa said after completing his high school career with three state titles. “It’s what we do and that’s what’s expected of us.”
Arakawa completed 22 of 30 passes, eight going to junior wide receiver Trevyn Tulonghari, who finished with 134 yards.
“I made some bad reads (in the first half), so I tried to come out and minimize the turnovers and just do what we’ve been doing,” Arakawa said.
‘Iolani’s defense held Kauai to 225 total yards and gave the Raiders the lead on the game’s opening play when defensive back Reid Saito returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown.
But the Kauai defense responded with seven turnovers, four of the first-half takeaways coming inside its 30. Linebacker Travis Koga was credited with 18 tackles, forced a fumble and intercepted a pass.
Trailing 10-3, Kauai recovered a fumble on a punt return at the ‘Iolani 45. Kauai covered 36 yards in two Trey Shimabukuro passes and tied the game on a throw into the left corner that was bobbled by two players before coming to rest to Jamen Kealoha-Albarado’s chest for the touchdown.
The turnover count reached 11 when the first two drives of the third quarter resulted in interceptions.
After Arakawa’s fourth interception gave Kauai the ball at the ‘Iolani 47, ‘Iolani’s Andrew Skalman snuffed the threat with an interception at the 9-yard line. ‘Iolani then took 11 plays — highlighted by a 47-yard reception by Tulonghari — to reclaim the lead for good on Baldomero’s 3-yard touchdown run.
“We really did have our opportunities,” Kauai head coach Derek Borrero said. “The turning point was that last interception. If we could’ve pushed that in, we’d be right there.”
‘Iolani wore down Kauai and padded the lead with a 15-play drive bridging the third and fourth quarters. The Raiders faced third and goal at the 3 when Look called for a tackle-eligible play with Epenesa sneaking off the line and Arakawa lobbing him a pass to give ‘Iolani a 24-10 lead.
“I almost wanted to smile, but couldn’t,” Arakawa said.
“I was surprised when Coach called it,” Epenesa said “I was nervous, I just wanted to catch the ball.”
Kauai added a late touchdown, but ‘Iolani recovered the onside kick to seal the championship.
“They’re all special,” Look said of his fourth title. “They set out to do something and they accomplished it. Whenever you can do that, that says something.”
‘Iolani 24, Kauai 17
At Aloha Stadium
Kauai (10-1) 3 7 0 7 — 17
‘Iolani (12-2) 10 0 7 7 — 24
Iol—Reid Saito 36 interception return (Andrew Skalman kick)
Kauai—FG Shea Shimabukuro 40
Iol—FG Skalman 28
Kauai—Jamen Kealoha-Albarado 9 pass from Trey Shimabukuro (S. Shimabukuro kick)
Iol—Ammon Baldomero 3 run (Skalman kick)
Iol—Seali‘i Epenesa 3 pass from Jarrett Arakawa (Skalman kick)
Kauai—Kealoha-Albarado 8 pass from T. Shimabukuro (S. Shimabukuro kick)
RUSHING—Kauai: Paleku Yasay 12-36, Kele Hanohano 2-9, T. Shimabukuro 3-(-24). ‘Iolani: Baldomero 34-108, Arakawa 4-23, Alex Matsunami 1-10, Kevin Barayuga 1-0.
PASSING—Kauai: T. Shimabukuro 21-43-2-204. ‘Iolani: Arakawa 22-30-4-251.
RECEIVING—Kauai: Taran Tani 7-98, Kevin Reyes 4-22, Kalena Rodero-Workman 3-27, S. Shimabukuro 2-19, Kealoha-Albarado 2-17, Kele Hanohano 1-15, Yasay 1-5, Cameron Largusa 1-1. ‘Iolani: Trevyn Tulonghari 8-134, Baldomero 4-38, Bret Christman 3-22, Josiah Sukumaran 2-3, Barayuga 1-22, Dane Arakawa 1-12, Matt Talavera 1-11, Maika Kealoha 1-6, Epenesa 1-3.