Pupule’s ballot: The neglected Lunas

by Paul Honda on October 22, 2013

Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa scores a touchdown for Lahainaluna in last year's Division II state final against ‘Iolani. (Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser)

Scott-Isaac Medeiros-Tangatailoa scores a touchdown for Lahainaluna in last year’s Division II state final against ‘Iolani. (Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser)

Here’s how one pupule cast his votes in this week’s Star-Advertiser Football Top 10.

1. Punahou (8-0, 6-0 ILH).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Punahou is No. 1.
Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Mililani, Kamehameha, ‘Iolani, Saint Louis. Also a win at Helix (Calif.).

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: none.
The Buffanblu were solid in a 35-32 win over Saint Louis nearly two weeks ago, but then again, it was their closest game of the season. There is, at this point, nothing to indicate that Punahou is about to lose, and of course, there’s that youneverknow factor. But this team has been dominant. Period.

2. Mililani (8-1, 7-0 OIA Red).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Mililani is No. 2.
Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Kapolei, Waianae, Campbell, Leilehua (twice).

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Punahou.
They’re kind of like Punahou, except that they lost to Punahou in their season opener. I’m sure some fans can (and will) argue that the Trojans have progressed so much that they would beat Punahou today. Maybe. Probably not, I think. But they’re certainly worthy of a 2-spot.

3. Kamehameha (9-1, 6-1 ILH).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Kamehameha is No. 3.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Farrington, Saint Louis (twice), ‘Iolani.

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Punahou.

Well, now that the Warriors have developed their passing game to a very effective level, who can really stop them? That headbanging offensive line continues to dominate in the trenches and their tall front 7 gets results. Fast. They created all kinds of turnovers in Saturday’s playoff win over Saint Louis. But for me to bump the Warriors higher on my ballot, it would probably take a win over Punahou this weekend.

4. Saint Louis (6-3, 4-3 ILH).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Saint Louis is No. 4.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Kahuku, ‘Iolani.

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Kamehameha (twice), Punahou.
As powerful as the ILH has been over the decades, I don’t recall a ballot like this with three of that league’s teams among my top 4 for this length of time. It’s still somewhat absurd to think that two of these top four will be eliminated and sitting through the state tournament. The Crusaders are done, and for better or worse, we never got to see a second matchup with Punahou, which is what the previous format allowed.

5. Lahainaluna (9-0, 7-0 MIL).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Lahainaluna is No. 8.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: none.

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: none.

This is where my ballot gets all metaphysical and theoretical. Please forgive me. But when the Lunas are this senior-heavy and talented, they are a nightmare for opposing coaches. Dealing with that modified wing-T offense is horrifying enough, but the Lunas have a stellar defense led by DE Hercules Mata‘afa. If Lahainaluna were in the OIA, they would’ve had a good shot at winning the OIA Red East, and I’m certain they would’ve reached at least the semifinal round. The last time they were this good, they beat Mililani in the D-I state tourney.

6. Campbell (7-2, 5-2 OIA Red).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Campbell is No. 6.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Kaiser, Waianae, Kapolei.

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Leilehua, Mililani.

I’ve had the Sabers all over the lower 5 of my ballot this season. Pretty much the same as most of the Red West. Since losing to Mililani, they’re on another roll with three wins in a row. Everyone seems to get better after losing to 1) Punahou or 2) Mililani.

7. Farrington (7-2, 7-0 OIA Red).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Farrington is No. 5.
Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Kahuku, Kapolei.
Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Waianae, Kamehameha.
The Governors are hot! HOThot! But for all of Sanele Lavatai’s monster rushing totals, one other thing really pops out: Kahuku was the first ranked team they beat. It was a huge win. Huuuge. But if you saw that game, you know that Kahuku was stubborn. Refused to throw on first down. Farrington took advantage of that one-dimensional approach and bottled the Red Raiders up that night. Then came last week’s close win over Kapolei. So what do we really have here? A) This is a team that has learned to win by staying poised and patient, B) A team that has not been really tested by the pass with one exception: Moanalua. I like the way the Govs were willing throw on first down in that win over Kahuku. Of all the strategic elements that night, that was the biggest difference. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Govs beat Campbell, but for now, the Sabers are higher. They beat more ranked teams. They beat Waianae, which trounced Farrington early in the season, which now feels like ages ago. Like the Ice Age.

8. Kahuku (6-3, 6-1 OIA Red).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Kahuku is No. 7.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Waianae.

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Saint Louis, Farrington. Also lost to East (Utah).

Again, like Farrington, a dearth of Top 10 teams were on the schedule for Kahuku. You know, when you win four games in a row by smashing teams in the trenches, it doesn’t seem preposterous to repeat the recipe again, right? With Soli Afalava back from his shoulder injury ahead of schedule, they probably will stick to the formula until dire straits arise again. In other words, don’t expect any first-down passes for awhile.

9. Waianae (7-3, 5-3 OIA Red).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Waianae is No. 9.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: Farrington, Leilehua, Kapolei.

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: Mililani, Campbell, Kahuku.

The Seariders’ season is done. Finality. So sudden. A lopsided playoff win over Castle gave the home fans a fun night. Then came a lopsided loss at Kahuku. There’s something to be said for having that first-round bye. Kahuku clearly appreciated it.

10. Kauai (7-0, 5-0 KIF).
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Kauai is unranked.

Wins vs. Top 10 teams: none, though they beat two off-island/foreign teams (Kwansei, Cottage Grove) by a combined total of 73-31. 

Losses vs. Top 10 teams: none.
There was a time, before the state tournament(s) were organized, when KIF champions were powerful. Waimea, certainly. Then Kauai for a spell. I’m talking the 1990s. Since then, it’s been spotty. Could this be the year the Red Raiders break through? I’m not too optimistic, but Kauai has beaten everyone on their slate. That’s good enough for a 10-spot.

(Correction 10/22/13: Kauai reached the D-II state final in 2006, losing to King Kekaulike, and in ’09, falling to ‘Iolani.)

The Others
Kaiser (9-1, 8-0):
I don’t have any doubt that the Cougars would beat Kauai or even half the teams on my ballot. But they haven’t beaten a ranked team all season, through no fault of their own, of course. When I see Kaiser forced to have a balanced offense — that’s how weak their defensive foes have been since that season-opening, nonconference loss to Campbell — it’s tough to gauge this team. Talented, work ethic, motivated … all yes. I know it seems illogical to reward a team (like Kauai or Lahainaluna) for playing weaker schedules, but this isn’t the NCAA. They don’t have a lot of wiggle room in that there tight budget. Kauai can’t jump on a plane and take on ‘Iolani in August. (Or maybe they do and prefer not to, but I don’t think so.) Lahainaluna doesn’t have a Superferry to ride over to Oahu with for another big win over a Division I powerhouse. This is a fun team to watch. I shouldn’t penalize Kaiser for losing (by two TDs) to the only ranked (and D-I) team it has on the menu this year. But, apparently, I do.

Kapolei (6-4, 3-4 OIA Red): The ultimate fringe team. I couldn’t figure out all year whether the Hurricanes were going to get some balance offensively. Then I realized at some point that Kapolei, Waianae, Kamehameha, Kahuku, Farrington (and more) were teams that simply lacking the personnel to gun the ball into the stratosphere on a regular basis. Their linemen were better geared to play bone-crunching smashmouth football. That their QBs were better runners than passers (sub-50 percent) most nights. Suddenly, I was able to sleep again before 6 a.m.

Leilehua (6-4, 4-4 OIA Red): I suppose this could be chalked up as a “down year” for the Mules, not making the state tournament. But a Leilehua down year would be an up year for most programs. The bar is high, and in the big picture, the coaching staff got a lot out of this year’s Mules.

‘Iolani (6-4, 4-3 ILH): Hairy day last weekend when the Raiders led by “only” nine points against St. Francis midway through their playoff game. That’s how quickly a 40,000-time defending state champion (in D-II) can be neutralized by the passage of time (graduation) and talent (Reece Foy was one helluva slinger). The Raiders have talent and skill and not a lot of size, and even when they were in the midst of winning all those state crowns, some of those years they were absolutely vulnerable defensively against the big boy smashmouth teams (D-I). This year’s different, and they should reach the state final. But these are hairy times, indeed.

Hilo (9-1, 8-0 BIIF): Back in the 1960s, Hilo High was coached by Ted Ura, arguably the finest football coach in league history. The program was so dominant — these were the years before Waiakea and Keaau and Kamehameha-Hawaii), that they joined the MIL for football. Three years of ferry rides, slow and soul-destroying, I imagine. By the third year, Hilo finally won the MIL. Then they defected back to the BIIF. It’s not quite like that in 2013. The Viks’ lone defeat was against a D-II program, Konawaena. But if the ferry every comes back, well … never mind. I just remembered that the MIL isn’t what it used to be, either. And speaking of …

Konawaena (8-2, 6-1 BIIF): The hands-down favorite to win the D-II title on the Big Island. HPA could mess that up real good, though.

Baldwin (5-4, 5-2 MIL): It’s one of these years when Lahainaluna is so good, the rest of the league looks tame in comparison. But since I’ve got the Lunas at No. 5 on my ballot, the Bears deserve a look. If the Lunas go on to kick tail in the D-II state tourney, then Baldwin’s losses to them (28-7, 48-3) will be just a wee bit easier to swallow. Especially if the Bears do some damage at the D-I state tournament.

Seabury Hall: I haven’t kept tabs on their record since they started 4-0 (overall). But I’ll be catching up soon. If you haven’t read a thing in your life about 8-man football in Hawaii, let me help. Currently, Seabury Hall, Hana, St. Anthony and Molokai are officially sanctioned in the MIL’s 8-man league. There’s interest on Lanai. Ka‘u is already fielding a team and has played several games, including exhibitions against Seabury Hall and Molokai. Now Anuenue is getting interested.

Half the battle is fundraising enough money to get the equipment and cover travel costs. As long as these smaller, proud schools and communities take care of that end, I say more power to them.

As always, high school polls have the nutritional value of whipped cream. They’re tasty and fun to eat. Enjoy the debate and remember, it’s all empty calories.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Manuel Henriques October 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Paul,

I believe in regards to your comments about a KIF team never reaching a DII state final you are incorrect – I distinctly remember Kauai playing King Kekaulike for the DII state championship at Aloha Stadium one year. Aloha!

Paul Honda October 22, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Thanks Manny. I made the correction. Another astute reader reminded me via text that Kauai played in the D-II finals in 2006 and ’09. I made the correction. Mahalo!

greg jones October 22, 2013 at 9:19 pm

My Top 10…
1. Punahou
2. Mil
2. Kam
4. Campbell
5. Kaiser
6. Govs
7. Luna
8. Kahuku
9. Hilo
10. Pearl City

Top 5 is base on talent and who I think is best teams period. Only teams that are in the tourney are ranked. I feel no reason to rank you when your season is over.

Paul Honda October 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Hilo!

maurice fujie October 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I was involved with the ’62-’64 Hilo MIL teams….there wasn’t any ferry then…..we flew to Maui 4 times each year and Gordon Chang was the head coach……Ted Ura came after that from Honokaa. The assistant coaches included Herman Clark, Charlie Miyashiro and Basilio Fuertes

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