2004 Mules give unranked teams hope

Bryant Moniz, Justin Lawelawe and Sione Faleofa helped Leilehua go from unranked to the state title game in 2004. Star-Bulletin file photo

Ask players, coaches and fans and they will all tell you that a preseason poll means little.

In many ways they are right, but history tells us that the preseason poll is more than just ‘cotton candy,’ as Paul Honda so fondly calls it.

Defending Open Division state champion Saint Louis is No. 1 in the 2017 Star-Advertiser preseason rankings. That in itself is not a huge surprise since every defending champion has started the following season ranked No. 1 since 2013, when the Crusaders and No. 2 Punahou were picked ahead of defending champion Kahuku.

That bodes well for the Crusaders as the preseason No. 1 team has finished the year in the top five in each of the last five years. Take away Kahuku’s 2010 squad, which started the season No. 1 but fell out of the rankings after using an ineligible player, and no preseason No. 1 has ever failed to be ranked in the top 10 in the final poll.

The last preseason No. 1 to fall out of the top five at the end was 2008 Saint Louis, which finished in eighth.

So it is safe to say that Saint Louis is in the rankings to stay. Holding onto the top sot is a completely different animal, though. Only two teams, 2001 and 2012 Kahuku, have held the top spot from the preseason all the way to the end. Punahou’s 2008 team, 2005 Kahuku and 2002 Saint Louis were all ranked preseason No. 1 but lost it during the season before getting it back in the final poll.

Although the odds are strongly against it, unranked teams in the preseason poll have some hope. Leilehua’s 2004 team with Bryant Moniz and Justin Lawelawe are the only group to go from unranked to the state championship game, losing to Kamehameha in the title game.

The Mules received votes in the Honolulu Advertiser’s preseason poll that year and entered their rankings in Week 2. Star-Bulletin voters did not mention them until they were already 3-0.

Other party crashers include 2002 Castle and 2006 Baldwin, which went unranked in the preseason to third in the final poll. The 2013 Farrington squad and 2009 Iolani are the only other schools to go from unranked to top four in the final poll.

Just as Leilehua has shown that it it possible to go from unranked to the title game, the 2011 Waianae Seariders can tell you that being ranked among the top teams in the state in the preseason is no mortal lock for a successful season.

That Waianae group was ranked No. 3 in the preseason and is one of only two to end the year outside of the top 10. The Seariders started the year 0-4 and finished it with a loss to Kahuku in the OIA quarterfinals. The only other team to go from ranked in the top three to the outside looking in was 2010 Kahuku, which started the season No. 1 and held the spot for 11 weeks before dropping out after using an ineligible player.

Since the Star-Advertiser poll began in 2010, at least six of the top 10 teams in the preseason were in the final poll at the end of the year. Last season, eight of the 10 teams remained with only Campbell (No. 9) and ‘Iolani (No. 10) crashing the party at the end of the year.

Four teams dropped out of the top 10 two years ago, but that was the only time so many have moved up since 2007.

This season, Lahainaluna (nine votes), Kailua (seven), Baldwin (four) and Leilehua (two) received votes but fell outside of the top 10.

Our preview on No. 1 Saint Louis will run in Thursday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.


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