Stout defense, ground attack lift ‘Iolani past Damien for ILH D-I title

Students lined the tunnel to celebrate ‘Iolani's 38-0 win over Damien. The Raiders clinched the ILH Division I title. Paul Honda/

Sterling Sakashita leads an active, mobile life.

The ‘Iolani senior often brings first contact to opposing ballcarriers, a human heat-seeking missile. Agent HYBRID 01, one of seven such defenders listed as such on the Raiders’ roster.

With a 38-0 win over a gritty Damien squad, ‘Iolani captured the ILH Division I crown on a hot Friday afternoon at Eddie Hamada Field. Once the team was done with post-game photos on what was a reasonable version of homecoming — vaccinated parents were allowed to attend — Sakashita and his fellow seniors eyed the tunnel. There, dozens of their classmates waited.

Students were close by during the game, observing the live stream/webcast. But in the tunnel, their excitement was palpable. The Raider seniors, then the underclassmen, sprinted through the tunnel as their supporters roared. It was the most high-school football moment of the season, perhaps, for any team statewide.

“That’s the best class, class of ’22. I love the support,” Sakashita said. “Too bad they couldn’t be in the stands, but we appreciate them. They waited for us in the tunnel, cheering us on.”

Now 4-0, ‘Iolani has a state-tournament berth sealed along with the ILH title. One remaining game on the regular-season slate, Saint Louis I-AA, and then, perhaps, crossover games down the road with OIA teams. The state tourney is not until late December. The Raiders will be happy to wait.

“I think this team has had to endure a whole lot more outside of football,” coach Wendell Look said. “To persevere through all this and still have the desire, the determination to go out and play at a high level that shows a lot of character. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

The Raiders did it their way, running the ball on 56 percent of their snaps: 35 carries for 174 yards and 28 pass attempts for 147 more. Senior running back Brody Bantolina rushed for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as ‘Iolani opened a 31-0 lead. He sat the second half.

“Brody, he’s dependable. He’s proving to be a guy that’s going to give you everything he’s got on every carry,” Look said. “I told his dad we finally got to let him loose this season, let him show what he can do. I’m happy for that.”

While the defensive unit limited Damien to 45 yards, the offense was steady, taking advantage of superb field position.

Starting field position for ‘Iolani, first half:
> 22-yard line, ‘Iolani
> 35, Damien
> 24, Damien
> 19, Damien
> 41, Damien
> 29, ‘Iolani
> 40, ‘Iolani

The Raiders didn’t have a false start until the second half, finishing with five penalties for 46 yards.

“Every day, that’s one of the three things we have to focus on: discipline, playing hard and playing smart,” senior center Raynne Passi said. “We learn that in practice every day, playing disciplined, playing ‘Iolani football. That’s what we do.”

Home, sweet home.

“Playing at our home field, the heat is super hot. We’re able to play in this every day at practice. Damien got way better from the last time we played them,” Passi said. “But we kept working on our game.”

At Eddie Hamada Field
Damien (2-3, 2-3 ILH) 0 0 0 0 — 0
‘Iolani (4-0, 4-0 ILH) 7 24 7 0 — 0
Iol—Brody Bantolina 6 run (Allison Chang kick)
Iol—Bantolina 2 run (Chang kick)
Iol—Chang FG 24
Iol—Nela Taliuli 12 pass from Micah Hoomanawanui (Chang kick)
Iol—Brayden Morioka 50 interception return (Chang kick)
Iol—Kaeo Miyahira 18 run (Chang kick)

Individual statistics
RUSHING—Damien: Peyton Dalmacio 10-12, Nalu Chinen-Zablan 7-(-7), team 1-(-14), Thor Gante 2-(-8), Sylas Alaimalo 2-2. ‘Iolani: Bantolina 15-68, Hoomanawanui 3-(-11), Miyahira 9-83, Cainen Torres 7-23, Kualau Manuel 1-9.

PASSING—Damien: Chinen-Zablan 10-22-3-60. ‘Iolani: Hoomanawanui 9-19-0-106, Manuel 6-8-0-42, Tyger Hayashi 1-1-0-(-1).

RECEIVING—Damien: Kela Chinen-Zablan 2-13, Gante 3-8, Alaimalo 5-39. ‘Iolani: Tristan Martinez 5-45, Kai Preusser 4-73, Lathan Mokiao 3-13, Taniela Taliuli 1-12, Carter Matsuwaki 1-6, Hayashi 1-(-1), Hyrum Horita 1-(-1)


  1. Justine Smith September 24, 2021 11:49 pm

    This is not Aloha Stadium.

  2. To da hale September 25, 2021 1:36 am

    ILH DIV I JV Title Champs

  3. Proud Class Adviser September 25, 2021 8:28 am

    The ‘Iolani Senior Class of 2022 is 277 strong and 270 attended the watch party next door at Seto Hall. They all COVID-tested negative that day. They love and support each other, especially their 12 Football Seniors: Brody, Tristan, Ryan, Raynne, Stirling, Mason, Niko, Cainen, Lathan, Christian, Jace, and Kai!

  4. Kurnakay September 25, 2021 8:41 am

    To da hale, you mad bro? LOL! Why you hating on young men that have a chance to play football during these COVID times?

  5. To da hale September 26, 2021 10:58 am


    Absolutely NO hate against any player in any division.

    However, as previously commented in another article, Look not even willing to scrimmage open ILH teams or challenge themselves and step up to the open division. He rather play Pac5 and Damien twice (93-7 & 64-0 respectively).

  6. Kurnakay September 27, 2021 7:41 am

    To da hale,

    Ah ok I see what you are saying, allow a school with barely 40 undersized kids on the entire Varsity roster, play a traditional powerhouse open division program like St. Louis. That makes sense. I like that they created the open division, it allows for other schools with smaller rosters (both size and numbers) to compete. I remember several years ago, Damien forfeited their game with St. Louis out of the safety for their kids. Were you critical about that too? Again, why you mad that Iolani is doing so well with what they have in players (size and numbers)? Maybe throw some credit to Coach Look and his staff for what they are doing. You want to see smaller schools get rolled up by Open division programs? It really doesn’t make any sense.

  7. ILoveHawaii September 27, 2021 9:05 am


    How long have you been around Iolani football?
    This is a perspective that MANY people have had with regards to Iolani football for a long time.

    Mad respect to them and their perfection at execution and the physicality of the team.
    They work hard, remain disciplined throughout the game and every player knows their role.
    Its obvious that Iolani does not belong playing with Pac and Damien.
    Why play down?

    I honestly think that they wouldnt get rolled up. Especially this year as evidenced in that Kam win.
    Have you seen Kams Dline and backers, well, with the exception of the NG, but everyone else is under 200lbs, easy.

    Your response is the classic Iolani “undersized, only 40 kids on the roster, physically not able to compete, safety concerns” and all that other BS you guys come up with. Iolani will NEVER be respected for football as long as they keep punching down. The only time they earned respect?
    The two years they competed in d1 with Lulu, Puns, and Kam. And may I say gave Puns and Lulu some scares during those 2 years.

    Bunch of Sandbaggers.

  8. Kurnakay September 27, 2021 9:44 am

    That win against Kamehameha was against their JV team (Kamehameha 2), and it was competitive. Now you really sound angry! LOL! Yes Iolani won many titles playing DII and there were a lot of people that shared your opinion. They moved up to D1 and had success there as well. Now you are saying move up to the open division? I disagree with this. No they are not sandbagging. I honestly feel D1 is where they belong. I have no vested interest in the Iolani program. I haven’t been around Iolani for any extended period of time. I’m just trying to understand where you think they are avoiding competition with open division teams? The have 1 player at 200 pounds (barely). What makes you think it would be competitive? My response is logic and safety, not classic Iolani. They really only have 40 kids?! It’s facts, not BS. I am not an alum. I just watch football.

    I think it’s great that they have a season to play while they wait for the OIA to get underway. I also thinks its very commendable that both Kamehameha and St. Louis were able to field a team to play the D1 programs. There is no way Iolani could compete with their open division programs. That would be evident in the results. I think the coaches also acknowledged that, and therefore agreed to have their JV programs compete with the smaller schools (Damien, Iolani, Pac 5). Unfortunately, Punahou could not provide an additional team to expand the competition.

    Stay safe and Aloha to you. Agree to disagree. Take care.

  9. ILoveHawaii September 27, 2021 12:39 pm

    Hmmm. Typical strategy. Safety, small roster, say that we are angry and not using logic.
    Maybe you not being around Iolani football long enough explains why you feel the way you do. Not enough information. They are competitive and have always been that way but choose to stack the deck and play teams they KNOW are not as good as them.

    The teams the have played in OIA D1 are just as big as teams in the open. Yes, they are. No problem playing those guys.

    If im not mistaken, I think they scrimmage Waianae every year and have given them cracks. Thats an open team. Hmmm?

    Aloha to you also and yes we disagree that Iolani is a bunch of Sandbaggers. Mahalo.

  10. Na Menehune September 28, 2021 3:57 pm

    I gotta agree with the Iolani guy on this one. Not like Iolani been rolling up DI schools every year. Their games against OIA DI is always competitive. I was there when they lost to Moanalua. I seen them lose to Waipahu and get rolled up by Leileihua too! The games Iolani won in DI was always up and up. If they was pounding DI schools year after year, then I would say move up to Open division and play the big boys.

    This year is different. OIA is delayed. No blame them that all they get to play is Pac 5, Damien and the JV teams from Kam and St. Louis. Wait til they start playing DI. Going be different. They no belong in DII and Open division either. Let um stay DI.

  11. BURGER KING (Can't have it your way) September 29, 2021 8:26 am

    If safety, size, low numbers, etc. is the main reason and concern then why is it ok to play JV teams when you have juniors and seniors? Isn’t that an safety issue for the other schools (SL and KS JV kids) Hmmmm? D2 in football but D1 in Volleyball and Basketball and other sports ? Shouldn’t be able to pick and choose so you can dominate a certain sport. What about the safety of other schools?

  12. Justine Smith September 30, 2021 7:54 am

    May I recommend that for those of you following sports really hard and keeping track of the pandemic, you fans really suck. They are not using Aloha Stadium any more. That building structure has been condemned by public works. Or the engineers there.

  13. ILoveHawaii September 30, 2021 2:20 pm

    Justine making the rounds today.

    Woke up and chose violence.

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