‘Iolani Defeats Damien to Enter DI Tournament


Treyjan O.

Several crucial turnovers by the ‘Iolani defense sealed a 21-14 over the Damien Monarchs to send the Raiders to the Division I state tournament. Though the ILH does not officially sanction a playoff between the two teams, Friday’s winner-take-all matchup was essentially just that, with the victor taking both the ILH Division I crown and the sole ILH position in the upcoming HHSAA Division I State Championship Tournament.

The rematch of September’s 38-21 Raider victory was more of a defensive battle, with ‘Iolani utilizing a ballhawking secondary to turn the tide of the game. On the first drive of the game, Damien powered their way down the field with a tough rushing attack by quarterback Jake Holtz and running back Amo Sulu. Bending to its limit but refusing to break, the Raider defense kept the game scoreless when a soaring Lanakila Pei ’20 jarred the ball loose from Holtz on an attempted dive over the pile at the goal line. Stirling Sakashita ’22 fell on the ball, setting ‘Iolani up at their own 1-yard line. Defying the conventional run tactic, the Raiders dropped back to pass and quarterback Jonah Chong ’20 hit receiver Carter Kamana ’20 on a 5-yard hitch pattern. From there, Kamana took off down the left sideline for a 99-yard score, immediately swinging momentum back in ‘Iolani’s favor. Damien did not answer after cornerback Trevor Kan ’20 punched the ball out of the hands of a receiver on the following drive, enabling safety Micah Camat ’20 to scoop up the loose ball. 

The Raider defense carried their stifling effort into the second quarter, denying Damien’s powerful running game with speedy coverage. After another possession shift, a 31-yard connection between Chong and receiver Wailoa Manuel ’21 set up ‘Iolani at Damien’s 5-yard line. Some trickery with Pei taking direct snaps got the ball near the goal line before Chong punched it in with a pass to running back Brock Hedani ’20, increasing the lead to 14-0. Damien’s Holtz got the Monarchs on the board when he took a quarterback-keeper 34 yards for a touchdown. 

A stalemate ensued until the fourth quarter when a botched handoff by Holtz resulted in Pei recovering the fumble and racing to the end zone for the score. Damien was able to answer with another Holtz touchdown, setting the score at the final tally of 21-14 before ‘Iolani drained out the clock. 

The Raiders are now in the state tournament for the second consecutive year. Unlike last year, Waipahu and their super star running back Alfred Failauga do not stand in ‘Iolani’s way. Now the Raiders await the results of the Division I OIA tournament to find out who will play them on November 16 in the 4-team playoff bracket for the state title.