'Iolani, Kauai really one and the same
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
The 'Iolani and Kaua'i High football teams share much more than a common nickname and school colors of red and black.
The Raiders and Red Raiders, who meet in today's 4:30 p.m. First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai'i High School Athletic Association Division II championship game at Aloha Stadium, represent almost mirror images of undersized DII teams that feature speed and discipline and execute at a DI level.
"It's like looking in the mirror," said 'Iolani coach Wendell Look. "They're scrappy, they play hard, they have good overall team speed and their defense is quick, always flying to the ball. They're not real big, but they have good skill kids and are really well-coached."
In other words, just like the Raiders.
"With them, it doesn't matter if they don't have great size," Kaua'i coach Derek Borrero said of 'Iolani. "Wendell has been with that program 28 years (19 as head coach), so to be involved in high school football for that long, it's unbelievable. He's one of the great coaches around."
Look won't be the only one on the Raiders sideline with state title game experience. 'Iolani is the two-time defending champ, and will be appearing in the DII final for the fifth time in the past six years.
Kaua'i's only state championship appearance was in 2006, when it lost to King Kekaulike, 33-20. In that game, two early turnovers by the Red Raiders resulted in a 14-0 deficit before they ran a single play on offense.
Borrero, who was then Kaua'i's JV coach, said the Red Raiders cannot afford a slow start today.
"We have to not let it get out of hand right away," Borrero said. "Last time, we gave up 20 points in the first quarter and before we knew it, we were scrambling and running out of time. This time, we have to make sure we start strong and match them punch-for-punch."
One key for Kaua'i (10-0) will be ball-control behind senior quarterback Trey Shimabukuro. He has thrown for 1,465 yards and 17 touchdowns, with Kalena Rodero-Workman (27 catches, 492 yards, 6 TDs) and Taran Tani (46, 484, 5) as his primary targets.
The ground attack is led by running back Paleku Yasay (847 yards, 6 TDs).
In a 28-14 state semifinal victory over Hawai'i Prep last week, Shimabukuro completed 17 of 31 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns and added a 1-yard TD run. But the Red Raiders, who had not played in 28 days, committed four first-half turnovers as Ka Makani took a 6-0 halftime lead.
"We normally don't make that many mistakes, but we were rusty," Borrero said. "In the second half, we realized we needed to take care of the ball and played better."
Defensively, Kaua'i safety Cameron Largusa will try to help the Red Raiders contain a vaunted 'Iolani offense led by senior quarterback Jarrett Arakawa, who has 219 completions in 394 attempts (56 percent) for 2,695 yards and 32 touchdowns. Arakawa's top receivers are Trevyn Tulonghari (69 catches, 907 yards, 12 TDs) and Kevin Barayuga (55, 544, 14).
The Raiders' ground attack is led by running back Ammon Baldomero, who has gained 673 yards and scored six touchdowns. He had a season-high 139 yards on 31 carries in last week's 21-7 semifinal win over 'Aiea.
'Iolani's defense is led by tackles Sealii Epenesa (6 feet 2, 315 pounds) and Kaena Moose (6-1, 270), linebacker Cody Petro-Sakuma (5-7, 175) and safety Andrew Skalman (5-9, 150).
Although classified as Division II, both teams scored big victories over top DI competition earlier this season.
'Iolani upset Kapolei (23-21), Kamehameha (20-17) and Punahou (35-12). Kaua'i knocked off Big Island Interscholastic Federation DI champ Honoka'a, 47-7, and Coronado (Calif.), 49-13.
"What that ('Iolani's upset capability) shows you is that they know how to make plays," Borrero said. "When everything is clicking like that, anything can happen."
Look said Borrero and his players set lofty standards for themselves despite playing in the state's smallest league, the three-team Kaua'i Interscholastic Federation.
"They set a goal of finishing the season at Aloha Stadium, and they were able to take the necessary steps and do it," Look said. "That's a credit to him and his staff. They have great football minds, and a hunger and desire that's refreshing. And you can see it in their play."
Borrero said his players — all of whom will be in a football state title game for the first time — are pumped up for today.
"This is our bowl game, our big opportunity," Borrero said. "It should be a great game."
Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com