By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
'Iolani's Seali'i Epenesa can rest easy today.
The senior defensive lineman kept busy last night by terrorizing the Kaua'i offense.
Epenesa, a 6-foot-2, 315-pound tackle, recorded a team-high seven tackles, forced a fumble and caught a touchdown pass to help the Raiders to a 24-17 win and their third consecutive First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai'i High School Athletic Association Division II Football Championship.
"This whole year, we've preached about finishing and that's what the guys came out and did today," Epenesa said.
It was the Raiders' defense that led the way.
Cornerback Reid Saito returned an interception 36 yards for a score on the first play from scrimmage.
"I tried to show the quarterback that I was playing cover-three, but we were actually trying to hide in a cover-two, so once I read the hitch and I saw the quarterback raise his arm (to pass), I just jumped the route and got lucky," said Saito, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior.
'Iolani quarterback Jarrett Arakawa said the pick-six gave his team an early boost.
"It's so much easier to go out there when you know you have a lead," Arakawa said. "You know the defense stepped up for you."
Kaua'i tied it at 10 before halftime, but the 'Iolani defense picked off a second pass by quarterback Trey Shimabukuro on the Red Raiders' first second-half drive.
Free safety Andrew Skalman came down with the ball at the 'Iolani 9-yard line after picking off the third-down pass with 8:50 left in the third quarter.
"The defense, the whole season, has been stepping up for us," said wide receiver Trevyn Tulonghari, who finished with game-highs of eight receptions and 134 yards.
With 2:21 left in the third quarter, 'Iolani regained possession at its 15 after a Kaua'i punt.
'Iolani moved the ball down the field and had third-and-goal from the 3.
The Raiders came out in a double-tight end formation with Ammon Baldomero as the lone running back. Arakawa faked a handoff to him and floated a short pass to Epenesa, who was aligned as the right tight end.
"I was surprised , because 'G' (Arakawa) gets the call and he tells us what it is and I was surprised when he told us that it was the play that I run out for the pass," said Epenesa. "I was just thinking 'catch the ball.' "
Raiders coach Wendell Look said the play has been in the making for a few years.
"We had it in for two years and we've just been waiting to get it done and run it," Look said. "How they were playing us, they were overloading to that side and reacting to the play-action (pass), so I figured, 'Hey, that's the perfect time to try' and they executed it. You can call the perfect play, and if they don't get it done, it's a terrible call, but these kids they executed it very well."