Iolani waits out
weather to reach D-II
championship game

The Iolani Raiders were counting on fair weather, and when the skies finally cleared, victory was theirs.

Kiran Kepo'o connected on two touchdown passes in the third quarter as Iolani rallied past Hawaii Prep 17-7 last night to advance to the Division II finals of the First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships.

"The rain was a big factor. They adjusted with their running game after halftime," HPA coach Tom Goodspeed said. "It's tough when you have to defend the run when they have such a good quarterback and receivers."

Iolani (9-2), ranked No. 7 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, will meet Campbell, which defeated Kauai 29-20 Friday night.

The Division II state title game will kick off Friday, 5 p.m., at Aloha Stadium.

Hawaii Prep, which went unbeaten in 10 Big Island Interscholastic Federation games, finished the season 11-3. HPA was the first team in four decades to win every BIIF game. Ka Makani finished with 312 total yards, including 243 rushing yards on a partially muddy field. Mike Kopra rushed for 96 hard-earned yards on 23 attempts despite a lingering cold. Zach Say added 91 yards on 11 attempts.

Kopra, who was also HPA's leading tackler and its place-kicker, praised Iolani.

"We just messed up on a couple of key plays. Iolani is fast, disciplined and they hit hard," he said. "They weren't cocky. They played with humility. It was nice playing a team like that."

As rain fell, Iolani sputtered early before a crowd of about 1,800 at Kunuiakea Stadium on the campus of Kamehameha Schools. The Raiders did not turn the ball over, however, and finished with 265 total yards. Mike Hirokawa tallied 112 yards on 18 carries, and Kepo'o completed 13 of his 24 attempts for 161 yards.

"The first half, my reads were off," Kepo'o said. "But I talked with my coaches."

Iolani's defense bent, but would not break. Ka Makani drove to the Iolani 12-yard line, but the Raiders stopped Kopra on a fourth-and-1 toss play. Lineman Matt Maze suffered an ankle injury during the march, and his temporary absence proved pivotal.

"We missed him on that drive," Kopra said.

Kepo'o guided Iolani on a 16-play drive to the HPA 13-yard line. Milo Kalani drilled a 30-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 3-0 lead with 42 seconds left in the opening quarter.

HPA, which ran on 10 of its first 11 plays from scrimmage, stayed at ground level on its second drive. Billy Case, finding no open receivers on a rollout, cut back and gained 30 yards. On the next play, Say raced up the middle, put a spin move on a defensive back and sprinted to the left pylon for a 40-yard touchdown run. Kopra added the PAT kick, and HPA led 7-3 with 11:17 left in the second quarter.

As the shower turned into a heavy downpour -- plus some strong trades -- neither offense could muster a significant drive. Iolani's final possession of the half ended with HPA lineman Daniel Te'o-Nesheim sacking Kepo'o at the Raiders' 41-yard line.

Though both teams fumbled in the opening half, neither committed a turnover despite the inclement weather.

The second half brought dry weather and good fortune for the run-and-shoot Raiders. They drove 67 yards in five plays, including a 39-yard jaunt by Hirokawa. Kepo'o found Hirokawa in the flat for a 5-yard touchdown pass to conclude the drive. Kalama's extra-point boot gave Iolani the lead, 10-7, with 10:37 left in the third quarter.

Late in the third, Iolani struck again with a two-play, 85-yard drive. Hirokawa ran right for a 26-yard pickup before Kepo'o rolled left and found Kekai Kealoha open on a corner route. Kealoha beat the free safety, fumbled the ball, picked it up and finished off a 59-yard touchdown play.

"When the rain stopped, Coach wanted to go for the big 6," Kepo'o said.

Iolani led 17-7 with 2:20 remaining in the third.

"I just had to hold the ball palm to fingers," Kepo'o said of the footballs that got soggy. "The weather got better and we took advantage of that time."

HPA got no deeper than the Iolani 25-yard line the rest of the way as Iolani's Landon Patoc and Robert Lopes came up with interceptions.

Still, the school with just a few hundred students had a historic season.

"We're just ecstatic to represent the BIIF. Representing Waimea and HPA, it was a great feeling of support," Goodspeed said.

Iolani 17, Hawaii Prep 7

At Kunuiakea Stadium
Hawaii Prep (11-3) 0 7 0 0 -- 7
Iolani (9-2) 3 0 14 0

Iol--FG Milo Kalama 30.
HPA--Zach Say 40 run (Mike Kopra kick).
Iol--Mike Hirokawa 5 pass from Kiran Kepo'o (Kalama kick).
Iol--Kekai Kealoha 59 pass from Kepo'o (Kalama kick).

RUSHING--HPA: Kopra 23-96, Say 11-91, Billy Case 9-54, Andrew Queen 1-2. Iolani: Hirokawa 18-112, Micah Kalama 2-7, Kepo'o 5-(-15).
PASSING--HPA: Case 5-14-2-69, Kopra 0-1-0-0. Iolani: Kepo'o 13-24-0-161
RECEIVING--HPA: Queen 2-26, Say 2-7, Sparky Springmeier 1-16. Iolani: Micah Kalama 1-4, Kealoha 5-90, Hirokawa 6-59, Travis Nishioka 1-7.



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