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.”
‘Iolani’s seniors run through the tunnel as their classmates celebrate after a 38-0 win over Damien to clinch the ILH Division I title. Brody Bantolina 68 rushing yards and two TDs in 1st half. @HawaiiPrepWorld @Iolani_Raiders @StarAdvertiser pic.twitter.com/wqvB7GDxXJ
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) September 25, 2021
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)
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)