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Say and Look have Aiea and 'Iolani talking, watching wins


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POSTED: Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two educators, one offense.

On the surface, it is hard to find similarities between counselor Wendell Say and physical education teacher Wendell Look.

Say, the longtime football coach at a mid-sized public high school (Aiea), is tough when necessary. Soft spoken, but direct. Look has led 'Iolani to three of the last four Division II state titles. Sometimes gruff, even ornery, he demands much from his players.

They both have creative minds and assistant coaches who push the envelope, especially when it comes to offense. That's why fans and disciples of the run-and-shoot offense will get their fill when the teams clash Friday in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II State championships.

The semifinal at Radford's John Velasco Field starts at 7 p.m.

On paper: Aiea (9-3) vs. 'Iolani (10-2). The Raiders are the top seed in the D-II tourney, and ranked No. 5 in the Star-Bulletin Football Top 10.

'Iolani, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion, was 8-1 in league play. The Raiders have won the past two D-II state crowns.

The Raiders are led by quarterback Jarrett Arakawa. The southpaw had 248 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Kamehameha and 189 yards with three touchdowns (and no picks) in a rout of Punahou.

“;He's probably the smartest quarterback that we've had,”; said Look, who has been head coach for nearly 20 years. “;He knows what we want to accomplish, and that goes to basketball and baseball.”;

Aiea rebounded from an early-season loss to Pearl City to win five in a row. Then came two losses to Moanalua, the eventual Oahu Interscholastic Association White champion. A 20-12 win over Lahainaluna in last week's opening round gave Aiea momentum. It also gave Chucky Kaahanui (135 total yards) an amazing experience in his first start at quarterback.

“;Chucky gives us more of the run, more of an option,”; Say said.

The skinny: 'Iolani has not played in weeks; its last game was a 38-14 win over Damien on Nov. 7. The long layoff never seems to hurt the Raiders whether it's football or basketball.

“;Obviously, the physical rest is good, but mentally it's been beneficial also,”; Look said.

The Raiders' speedy receivers include Trevyn Tulonghari and Kevin Barayuga. Yet, the Raiders are more than willing to keep the ball on the ground out of their no-huddle offense. In the win over Punahou, 'Iolani ran 32 times and had 34 pass attempts.

Ammon Baldomero's role at running back has as much to do with ball control as it does with converting first downs with his legs and hands.

Aiea's run-and-shoot has emphasized more of the rushing attack lately. In last week's win over Lahainaluna, Aiea ran 27 times for 159 yards while Kaahanui threw 21 times. When Kaahanui wasn't carrying the ball, he gave it to Anae Vaa and Otto-Titan Salausa, both bruising runners.

“;Wendell has adapted to his personnel. He has a strong set of runners and his line is gigantic, so why not run the ball a little more and put the ball in the hands of your playmakers,”; Look noted.

That Aiea line includes left guard Zachary Mauga (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and center Fale Faatoafe (6-2, 280), both sophomores.

They'll face 'Iolani's interior stoppers, Seali'i Epenesa (6-2, 315) and Kaena Moose (6-1, 270).

Defensively, Say hopes tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina can play.

“;We thought Lawrence popped his hamstring (against Lahainaluna), but he's a lot better. He's practicing this week.”;

X factor: Na Alii have speed on the perimeter, but can they offer something 'Iolani doesn't see every afternoon at practice? Maybe. Senior receiver Kekoa Thompson (6-3, 190) may be the best athlete 'Iolani's secondary will face in the postseason.