Dreams Fulfilled, Statements Made: Raider Football Team Wins the HHSAA Division I Championship

The ‘Iolani football team made history on Dec. 23, 2021, as they rallied past the Lahainaluna Lunas to win the Hawaiʻi High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) Division I Championship 38-0. Coming off a 21-0 victory against Aiea, the OIA champions, the Raiders saw this game as their chance for the koa and to redeem themselves for their last-second loss against Hilo back in 2019. Furthermore, ‘Iolani Coach Wendell Look ’78 along with other Raiders saw this game as an opportunity to pay a tribute to the efforts of the seniors who were unable to play a normal football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The team’s steadfast commitment to defense and strong special teams carried them to victory, along with the offense’s scoring production despite some early-on penalties. On Lunas first drive, defensive tackle Haʻaheo Dela Cruz ’23 recovered a fumble, placing the Raiders in great field position. Tristan Martinez ’23 scored on the drive with a 22-yard run coming off an unexpected run formation. In the second quarter, quarterback Kualau Manuel ’24 delivered to Kai Preusser ’22 to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead going into the half. Despite the lead, running back Brody Bantolina ’22 struggled to get run yardage against the well-prepared Luna front. 

In the second half, the Raiders picked up the pace with quarterback Kualau Manuel ’24, who completed 13/16 passes with a total of 174 yards, delivering passes to Taniela Taliauli ’24 and Keao Miyahira ’23. The Raiders passed for 174 yards net, opposed to merely 29 yards for the Lunas. Furthermore, the consistent extra-point kicking by Allison Chang ’23 along with a field goal in the third quarter propelled the Raiders to secure the game by the end of the third quarter. 

Besides the offensive front, the Raiders made a statement on the defensive front throughout the entire game. The Raider defense never let the Luna offense into their own territory. Bronson Morioka ’23 had a team-high eight tackles, followed by Stirling Sakahita ’22 and Jacob Gaudi ’23, who each had six. Defensive lineman Haʻaheo Dela Cruz ’23 posted two sacks on Lunas quarterback Noa Gordon. Regarding special teams, Mason Mizuta ’22 consistently landed punts deep into the Lunas territory, forcing them to start many times below the 20-yard line despite the strong winds blowing against their play. 

After the game, the Raiders shared the joy of receiving the koa and proclaimed that it was the whole team’s effort that made the undefeated season. Defensive coordinator Delbert Tengan summed it up: “Nobody’s looking to take the credit. Everybody just does their job.”