Still some video to edit, but I’m squeezing this in.
For the first time in weeks, we have virtually no debate about who is No. 1 in the islands. But I can’t help wondering just a bit about how good Mililani really is. They gave Punahou a serious battle in Week 2, a closer game than Kamehameha gave the Buffanblu.
Even Lahainaluna, despite its lack of strength of schedule, has been impressive defensively. A dominant rushing attack. A dominant defense. Here’s my ballot.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 1.
Gwen Stefani. As in, no doubt.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 4.
As I mentioned above, they gave Punahou a tougher challenge in Week 2, and that was long before they were settled at quarterback and several other positions. They have been dominant since: 35-0 over Kapolei, 44-24 over Waianae and 39-12 over Waipahu. All road wins. I enjoy what Saint Louis (great offense) and Kamehameha (great defense) do. But production-wise, the nod goes to the men of Troy. For now.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 2.
I have no strong argument over the Warriors at No. 2. They’ve proven who they are, particularly on defense. The defensive numbers would be even better if the offense had some consistency. It’s a good offense — destroys average opponents — but not a great one. There’s raw talent at quarterback that needs time and reps to develop. Punahou exposed that inexperience. I love what the Warriors do with their offensive line and that combination of depth and skill at running back. What I’d love even more is to see an option component out of that two-back set. Fatu Sua-Godinet is a superb athlete who might adapt more quickly to that. I know… easier said than done.
4. Saint Louis.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 3.
Again, no strong argument against the Crusaders at the 3 spot. Stopping the run consistently has been a big task in recent years. But after seeing what Punahou did against Kamehameha’s normally productive ground game, I expect to see the Crusaders adopt the blueprint if they play Kamehameha one more time (playoffs).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 9.
I’m pupule, but I ain’t crazy. I’m fairly certain the panel of media and coaches were prepared to bump the Lunas off their ballots if they’d lost to Baldwin. But they won 28-7, rarely give up points and are still unbeaten. Dominant. And deep down, I don’t think Oahu-centric voters really respect neighbor island teams early enough. This is Week 7. It’s time. Just too bad they don’t have a strong D-I team to play in nonconference play.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 5.
Even with Soli Afalava out (collarbone), the Red Raiders are a tough out. Patience required for Big Red fans.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 6.
The Sabers deserve to be higher than this. The win over Waianae is a better quality win than anything Kahuku has done so far.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 10.
With the OIA Red West so deep this season, this is a matter of splitting hairs at this region of the ballot. Campbell/Leilehua/Waianae/Kapolei. In years past, there would be Baldwin and Kealakehe filling up this section. Not this fall.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 7.
Easily could be No. 5. But those punt-snap issues are still fresh in my mind. They had two bad ones against Campbell.
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 8.
The one team in the Red West I have yet to see in the flesh. The West is a hub of talent, growing enrollments and, yes, transfer madness. Some years, a ton of transfers come into Kapolei. Once in awhile, they’re leaving. This year, they’ve gotten a good share of incoming talent. But none of those players were as good as former QB Mason Koa. Many of them had college-level potential, but Koa was a producer and leader. We’ll see in time if this team has that kind of mettle.
Kaiser. This is what I think when I see Kaiser demolish another small-school program by a beellion points: nothing. It doesn’t register. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t. I’m waiting for the Cougars to get to the playoffs, which is when things will get interesting again. For now, they’re playing better football each week, new players are meshing into the system and Fitou Fisiiahi remains a beast. He’s the closest thing to the late Manu Lakalaka (Kaimuki) I can remember. God love Manu. He was an Incredible Hulk on the field (5-10, 240) and in the weight room (he could squat inhuman amounts of weight). A gentleman off the field.
Farrington. Getting better gradually.
‘Iolani. I don’t remember exactly when the Raiders were out of the Top 10. But it’s been years. Maybe a decade. Their offense is most definitely Top 10. Marc Ma is an animal on the defensive line. J.T. Los Banos is one of the fastest defenders I’ve seen this year. But once Max Look got hurt, their defense wasn’t quite the same against Saint Louis.
Hilo. The Vikings have potential. A team that can beat HPA at HPA gets my attention. Former KS-Hawaii coach Dave Baldwin has done a nice job with the Vikings, where he is also a teacher. I can’t really consider any other BIIF team for the Top 10 at this point. Konawaena lost to Maui, which got routed by Baldwin, which got beat by Lahainaluna by three touchdowns. Kealakehe is 1-3. KS-Hawaii is warming up, but they lost at ‘Iolani big and scored 3 whole points.
Kauai. I have to find out more. They’ve beaten everybody so far, including Kapaa.
Seabury Hall. I kid you not. This team just played its first official season of football last year and won the MIL 8-man league. Then they went to Ka‘u and won by 12. I don’t think my editor will ever allow an 8-man team into this poll, for reasonable reasons, but props to the Spartans. They and Molokai and Hana and St. Anthony and Ka‘u have gotten the ball rolling on something that could be so special in Hawaii. I hate to see kids who love football left with no real alternative, no real opportunity to play when their school drops the sport due to poor numbers and lack of commitment. Most of us on Oahu can’t really fathom it, but in rural areas where getting to and from practice is already a challenge every day because of distance, these kids deserve a shot. 8-man gives them back the game.