HHSAA Football
No. 7 Iolani stifles No. 8 Lahainaluna to win D1 state crown


Thu, Dec 23, 2021 @ Farrington [ 3:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
Iolani (11-0-0) 7 7 17 738
Lahainaluna (7-1-0) 0 0 0 00

KALIHI—Season perfected.

No. 7 Iolani shutout another opponent in the state tournament and smothered previously unbeaten and No. 8 Lahainaluna, 38-0, to win the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I Football State Championship at Farrington's Edward ‘Skippa' Diaz Stadium at Kusunoki Field Thursday.

The Raiders put the clamps on Aiea, the Oahu Interscholastic Association champions, 21-0 in the semifinals. Iolani shut out their sixth overall opponent and only yielded 76 points the entire season on their way to a ninth overall state title.

The Lunas (7-1 overall) defeated Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion, Konawaena, 30-7 in the semifinals and averaged 28.5 points per game and 346.3 offensive yards, but could not get any momentum going in their lone loss of the season.

Defensive coordinator Delbert Tengan crafted a masterful game plan that was executed by the players to shut out Lahainaluna. The Lunas' three leading rushers Ian-Jay Cabanilla (23 yards), Kaulana Tihada (41 yards), and Blare Sylva-Viela (22 yards) were held to 86 rushing yards combined.

"Credit to Coach Del (Tengan), credit to my teammates. What we preached this whole season was to do the job. Fill gaps and trust that your brother will be there to make the tackle. We listened to coach Del and we buy in because he won championships, he knows what it takes. Everybody fill their gaps, do your job, and believe in your brothers," Senior Stirling Sakashita said.

Sophomore quarterback Kualau Manuel threw for 174 yards on 13-of-16 passing, no picks and accounted for four total scores to help the Raiders (11-0 overall) cap the perfect season.

"It feels great to do this with my brothers. We all fought and do what we were supposed to do," Manuel said.

"It was confidence," Sakashita added. "He started believing in himself and made plays today. 38 points, that's Kualau right there."

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Manuel started for Micah Hoomanawanui after he was hurt in a non-league contest against Roosevelt on Nov. 19. The two shared a moment when the game ended.

"My teammates all believed in me. It's the next-man-up mentality. That's what we did. The coaches and my teammates were there for me," Manuel said.

Iolani lost a heartbreaker to Hilo, 20-17, in the 2019 state title game on a last-second, 55-yard field goal that bounced in and COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season. The seniors on the current squad wanted to make sure they got it for their former teammates who didn't have a season.

"It means a lot to Iolani School and this program and it means a lot to the kids. I keep deflecting to them because that's who's important, these kids," Iolani coach Wendell Look said.

"It's the whole team man," Nela Taliauli said. "We've been working this whole season since last year. Shout out to the seniors from last year since they couldn't play and this one was really for them."

"It feels amazing, the best feeling in the world. We came back, two years in the making," Sakashita added.

Iolani redeemed a Nikolas Yim fumble recovery on the Lunas' 31 into their first points of the game. Brody Bantolina was bottled up and Manuel completed a 9-yard pass to Tristan Martinez to the Lahainaluna 22 on fourth-and-1. Coach Look called a timeout and Martinez took the reverse rushed it in for the touchdown.

In the second quarter, Manuel completed a 7-yard pass to Martinez and tacked on 15 more yards from a facemark penalty to the 43. Two plays later, Manuel threw a pass to Kai Preusser, who leapt and caught it at the highest point and ran it in for a 28-yard touchdown to put Iolani up, 14-0.

Lahainaluna's seven first half drives resulted in two lost fumbles and five punts and was held to 66 yards of total offense and finished with 132 for the game.

The Lunas got as far as the Iolani 43 in the first half. It was the first time all season Lahainaluna trailed by two scores.

Teams combined for seven first downs in the first half. Iolani had 14 total first downs while Lahainaluna only had five the entire game.

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The Raiders opened up the third quarter with a five-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Taliauli to make it, 21-0.

"Our chemistry is pretty tight, he's my brother and I've been with him since day one. Shout out to him for throwing me that one," Taliauli said.

Iolani took over on the Lunas' 48 after a three-and-out and Manuel flipped it to Keao Miyahira on the jet sweep and he took it 41 yards to put the Raiders up by four scores.

Allison Chang went 5 for 5 on PATs added a 19-yard field goal to cap a nine-play drive for a 31-0 lead.

Bantolina was bottled up for 15 yards on 11 carries in the first half, but his biggest run of the afternoon was a 28-yard gain. He rushed for 12 carries for 72 yards in the second half to finish with 23 carries for 87 yards.

He was kept out of the end zone for the first time all season, but his 8-yard run set up Manuel's 6-yard touchdown keeper for the final score of the game.

Despite the score being greater than 35 points, there is no running clock in state championship games.

Lance Morikawa led the Lunas defense with seven solo tackles, one for a loss, Keawe Kane-Keahi had five tackles—two for losses and a sack in the defeat.

Bronson Morioka led the Raiders with eight tackles and recovered a fumble. Haaheo Dela Cruz had two sacks and a fumble recovery, Jacob Gaudi and Sakashita each added six tackles, Brayden Morioka had five tackles and a fumble recovery.

The Lunas and Raiders last met in the 2017 state tournament semifinals when they were in Division II and Lahainaluna won that contest, 35-27, on their way to winning the state title that year.

Iolani won all three D2 title games against Lahainaluna in the 2007, 2012, and 2014.

Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].

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