After ‘Iolani defeated St. Francis two weeks ago and the Saints handed ILH first-round winner Damien its only loss to a Hawaii opponent last week, the ILH Division II race seemed wide open entering the second round on Friday.
By halftime on a hot afternoon at Kozuki Stadium, it was evident the Saints are going to be extremely tough to beat.
Running back Jonan Aina-Chaves continued his stellar sophomore season with 169 rushing yards and four more touchdowns in the Saints’ 43-19 win over the Raiders.
The biggest improvement for the Saints (7-3) was their defense, which held ‘Iolani to a season-low in points just two weeks after giving up 45 in a 16-point loss to the Raiders at Aloha Stadium.
“We stayed in a three-man front, dropped eight and lost a backer here or there, but played pretty well,” St. Francis coach Kip Akana said. “We know they’re going to move the ball, but we wanted to make them earn (points) each series and not give up the big plays.”
Senior Tyson Shimabukuro, whose 30-yard touchdown run in the first quarter put St. Francis on the board, played his first game of the season on defense and came up with a big interception of ‘Iolani quarterback Tai-John Mizutani in the red zone in the third quarter.
Trailing 29-13, but still a two-possession game, Mizutani tried to lob a touch pass over Shimabakuro in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.
Shimabukuro used every bit of his 5-foot-9 frame to leap into the air and make a jarring pick that deflated the ‘Iolani sideline.
The Saints came back down and scored in three plays. Quarterback Bubba Akana hit a 71-yard pass to Lachmann Atoa and Aina-Chaves scored on a 21-yard run.
“I haven’t been able to get into the game much (so playing defense) was a nice opportunity,” Shimabukuro said. “I saw (the receiver) kind of late and dropped back and saw the ball and honestly I just tried to hit it down. It came into my body and I caught it.”
Mizutani finished 35-for-55 for 305 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Five different receivers had at least five catches for ‘Iolani, including senior Justin Genovia, whose 7-yard reception in the third quarter made him the ninth receiver ever on Oahu with more than 2,000 career receiving yards.
Unfortunately, Genovia injured his shoulder on the play and did not return. He was in a sling on the sidelines for the fourth quarter.
‘Iolani, by virtue of finishing higher than Pac-Five in the first round of ILH play, had already secured a berth in Division II of the state tournament.
The Saints need to beat Damien twice over the next two weeks to win the league title and clinch a berth in the Division I state tournament.
“We just wanted to make sure when we come back Monday we had practice,” Shimabukuro said. “It’s ride or die right now. We want that championship.”