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StarBulletin.com

'Iolani's unbeaten run ends


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POSTED: Sunday, October 11, 2009

David slew one Goliath, and then another.

By Friday, however, a third Goliath — another Division I foe on 'Iolani's regular-season slate — prevailed mightily. Needing a win to stay within range of first-place Kamehameha, Saint Louis dominated 'Iolani 28-0 on a muggy night at Aloha Stadium.

What made Division II 'Iolani's impeccable run through the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, at least until this week, wasn't just the aerial awesomeness of its run-and-shoot offense. Though quarterback Jarrett Arakawa and his flock of receivers had been as efficient and reliable as the Raiders of another city — say Kenny Stabler, Cliff Branch and Stickum-fingered Fred Biletnikoff of Oakland in the 1970s — it wasn't just about the air show. 'Iolani's success on offense had been chiseled and molded into a dynamo by its ground attack.

More often than most four-wide offenses, the Raiders counted on running back Ammon Baldomero and a team of blocking surgeons up front — masters of the trap — to carve time off the clock, which preserved leads and gave them five wins in five outings.

; Kamehameha and Punahou found that out. Next in line was Saint Louis, which had lost to 'Iolani last season, stopped near the goal line in the final minute of a shootout. Combined with a stout defense, 'Iolani had permitted more than 21 points only once in eight games before Friday.

The Crusaders were more than ready this time. An 'Iolani offense that often enough was close to a 50-50 ratio of passes and runs found itself out of synch. On Friday, Arakawa lofted 49 pass attempts and the Raiders ran just 17 times (for 4 yards) against a physical, well-positioned Saints defense.

“;Our coaches knew. They coached us well,”; said linebacker Isaac Ava, who had one of Saint Louis' three sacks. “;We knew to watch out of the traps. We were pretty confident with our pass defense.”;

The matchup of teams with similar looks — both dedicated to the run-and-shoot — engaged in a surprisingly lopsided battle.

'Iolani was willing to challenge Saint Louis' receivers one-on-one early. With three first-half picks, that calculated risk proved worthwhile.

Saint Louis, however, set the tone when Jeremy Higgins connected with Duke Bukoski on a 60-yard bomb.

“;It was there. This dude is dangerous,”; Higgins said of Bukoski, a junior.

“;I saw him sitting there,”; Bukoski said of one of 'Iolani's cornerbacks. “;I knew I could run by him.”;

Higgins read it right.

“;He was playing over for the flat. The safety didn't get over there,”; he said.

The Raiders had to respect Saint Louis' ground game, allowing only 105 yards on 31 attempts. For the Saints, that offensive balance — Higgins and backup Marcus Mariota combined for just 23 pass attempts — kept 'Iolani's offense off the field for stretches.

It was 'Iolani's first shutout loss since a 9-0 defeat at Kamehameha last year. That loss followed the win over Saint Louis, which had been ranked No. 1 at the time. 'Iolani's midseason peak and plunge seems to have returned again, but that was almost expected of the small Division II school. The Raiders are potent defensively up front with Seali'i Epenesa and Kaena Moose, but boast average size at best across the field.

Whether they're hitting that midseason wall or not, the Raiders have won the last two D-II state titles and are on track to win a third — maybe.

The Raiders will finish out the season with their D-II peers while the D-I race continues.