The last time the ‘Iolani Raiders played an official ILH football game, it was the Division I final against Damien on Oct. 25, 2019.
The Raiders edged the Monarchs, 21-14, then routed Moanalua, 35-9, in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA D-I State Championships. A week later, a 20-17 loss to Hilo on a 55-yard field goal by Keanu Keolanui as time expired.
That 10-3 season included seven wins in their first eight games. The victory over Moanalua avenged a 21-20 loss at Na Menehune’s field early in the year. ‘Iolani’s three losses were by a total margin of seven points.
All of the returning talent for the 2020 season never got a chance to play a game. The response at ‘Iolani was remarkable, however, with face shields manufactured on campus, practices conducted with protocols — earlier than many schools.
But there was no football, aside from an intrasquad scrimmage. That changes on Friday with a home opener against Damien at Eddie Hamada Field. Kickoff is set for 3:15 p.m. No spectators are permitted, but games will be streamed live or telecast.
“I think the fans are excited to watch high school football again,” coach Wendell Look said. “You know, it’s an exciting time, but it’s a different time. It all comes down to the kids. You give them an opportunity to create experiences and memories for themselves, which they deserve.”
Micah Hoomanawanui (5-11, 165), a junior, is at quarterback. Running back Brody Bantolina (5-8, 160) figures to get plenty of work running behind trench men Raynne Passi (5-11, 225) and Tristan Kim (5-9, 180).
Bantolina rushed for 575 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in ’19.
Wide receiver Kai Preusser (5-11, 175) and slotback Lathan Mokiao (5-5, 140) lead the pass catching corps.
The Raiders’ defense, guided by coordinator Delbert Tengan, employs numerous hybrid-type defenders. Stirling Sakashita, Jacob Gaudi and Asher Matsui are run stoppers who can cover, while linebacker Ryan Tsuruda (5-8, 180) leads the front seven.
Sakashita (5-10, 165), Gaudi (5-9, 170) and Matsui (5-9, 155) are among the Raiders who are literally listed as HYBRID on the team roster.
Allison Chang, a junior, is ‘Iolani’s placekicker.
The veteran staff will get all the game-time looks it can handle, just like every team in the ILH. As the ILH football coordinator, Look is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. In 2020, he and other administrators cobbled together nine backup plans for prep football in the private-school league.
“I don’t know if it was that many,” he said. “But I’ve run out of backup plans, and it’s adjust and adapt on the fly, man.”
Look is in his 31st season as a head coach and has a career mark of 206-135-3.