Believe it or not, the Iolani Raiders have lost 14 straight ILH games, all against teams that were ranked inside the Cover2 Power Poll, with eight inside the Division I top five.
That dates back to October of 2014, meaning the Raiders senior class has yet to win a league game.
One of those seniors, quarterback Tai-John Mizutani, is a three-year starter and Iolani lifer.
Mizutani is talented in many aspects of life, from choir, spearfishing, and baseball, and has put almost all on the back burner to live out his dream of leaving the legacy of a state title before taking on a family legacy.
Since he was in kindergarten, Mizutani longed to bring the koa trophy to Kamoku Street.
“Ever since I was a kindergartener, fifth grade, sixth grade, I kind of just imagined myself playing on this field. When we were little kindergarteners, we used to run around the track with the Iolani flag,” Mizutani said. “We’d play the big teams, the best teams at Punahou, Kamehameha, and all that. I think that just really taught me to love this school and have school pride, and just the community, the Iolani community really means a lot to me.”
As a junior, Mizutani nearly did it, guiding the Raiders to the Division I state title game last year, where they lost to Mililani.
Now he has a year left to join Raider everyday starting quarterbacks Austin Jim On, Reese Foy, Jarrett Arakawa, and Kela Marciel, all of whom have won a state championship since 2006.
“It would mean the world,” Mizutani said. “Last year we were close and just that feeling of losing after coming up so close, it stung. I think winning a state championship not only for us, the teammates, but for the school and the community, I think it’ll be huge for us.”
Mizutani has seen an Iolani roster that has always been small in stature, but this year, they’re short on players. Instead of the usual 40 to 50, Iolani only suits up 36 this season.
“Knowing Tai-John and his competitiveness, with 36 guys, with a small defensive unit, he wants to put them on his shoulders and carry them, carry this team, and he can,” said Iolani head coach Wendell Look. “I’ve always said if you put him on any other team, he’d break every record in the state, every throwing record in the state.”
A talented vocalist and baseball player, Mizutani has had to put a lot of his other hobbies on hold to focus on football and school. That will continue after his Iolani legacy will wrap up this season. He will continue to challenge himself by seeking to enter the family business while playing football in college.
His father is longtime Hawaii news and sports anchor Ron Mizutani. The younger Mizutani wants to study journalism in college and become a sports reporter of his own.
To keep the pressure off another anxiety-filled endeavor, Mizutani has an outlet: finding spirituality through spearfishing.
“It’s just relaxing. A couple of my classmates, we just go. It’s not really so much about catching as much fish, it’s just experiencing it,” he said. “When you’re in the water, especially when you’re underwater, it’s just so quiet and peaceful. It’s not like being on the field where everyone’s screaming at you and everyone’s just trying to yell at you. In the water, it’s just a different experience.”