After watching five of the top six football teams in the state over the past four days in person, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on my Top 10 ballot this week.
The Star-Advertiser’s Top 10 poll officially comes out in Tuesday’s paper, but here’s how my ballot looks heading into Week 3:
1. Saint Louis
The three questions that come to mind after putting together my ballot:
1. How do I decide between Punahou and Saint Louis at No. 1?
This question was already on my mind as I drove out of the Aloha Stadium parking lot following Saturday’s 45-24 win for Saint Louis over Kahuku. The game was close for three quarters before the Crusaders outscored the Red Raiders 22-0 in the fourth, getting a meaningless touchdown in the final minute to make the game seem like more of a blowout than it was. It came on the heels of my trip out to Mililani on Thursday night to see the Buffanblu beat the Trojans 24-14, a game that featured the opposite scenario at the end; Mililani scored a late touchdown to make the score closer than the game really was.
You could flip a coin to determine who to put at No. 1, but I think it’s clear that Saint Louis and Punahou are the two best teams in the state after two weeks. The Crusaders have combined to score 100 points in two games, and they look unbelievable on offense with quarterback Ryder Kuhns, running back Adam Noga and a host of receivers led by super senior Devan Stubblefield. Punahou, with Larry Tuileta at QB, the 237-pound Kotoni Sekona at running back and Kanawai Noa leading the receiving corps, is pretty darn good as well.
For now, I’ll go with Saint Louis, for two reasons: You can’t ignore the team that ended Kahuku’s 18-game winning streak, and the Buffanblu offensive line has some work to do after giving up six sacks to a talented Trojans defense. One thing is for sure though — circle Oct. 4 on your calendar, because Punahou vs. Saint Louis will be the game of the year in the regular season.
2. How do I justify ranking Waianae ahead of Kamehameha?
This is easy, right? Both teams have played Farrington and the Warriors dismantled the Governors, 38-3, while Waianae only managed a 33-16 win. Advantage Kamehameha, right?
As ESPN’s Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friends. While the Warriors were impressive on Friday night at Kunuiakea Stadium, getting 200 rushing yards from Brandon Kahookele, that ho-hum 15-0 win over Castle in Week 1, which included a defensive touchdown, is still alarming to me. Quarterback Noah Sua-Godinet fared a lot better in Week 2 against a Farrington team that has had everything seem to go against it — the latest a scary-looking injury to running back Sanele Lavatai, who was taken to a local hospital following a crushing hit by two Kamehameha defenders.
Castle’s 27-13 win over Damien helped Kamehameha’s cause, but a lot is going to hinge on the development of Sua-Godinet, who is only a sophomore. Waianae has a three-year starter in Kekoa Kaluhiokalani running the ship, and running back Jemery Willes is off to a fast start. Kamehameha might have a slight edge on defense, and both teams can pound the rock. I’m taking the three-year starter at QB for now, but if Sua-Godinet improves every week like he did from Game 1 to Game 2, watch out for the Warriors.
3. Who do I put in at No. 10?
I think the top nine teams are pretty easy to come up with. Yes, ‘Iolani’s defense has a lot of work to do after giving up a combined 92 points to Leilehua and Kalani, but the Raiders are still going to score points and have bounced back from big losses early in the season in recent years (2011, beat Waianae 21-14 after losing 42-7 to Farrington; 2010, beat Kamehameha 13-6 three weeks after losing 43-23 to Mililani; 2009, beat Kamehameha 20-17 two games after losing to Castle 42-21).
With apologies to coach Darren Hernandez at Kapolei, I decided to give the nod to longtime Aiea coach Wendell Say and his Na Alii, who have outscored Kailua and Pac-Five 68-8 to start the year. Call it a lifetime achievement bonus or whatever, but Say, who has won 118 games since he took the job in 1991, has had to work hard to keep his Aiea teams competitive in a division that just seems to get tougher and tougher every year.
Consider this: Through two weeks this season, the OIA Red West is a ridiculous 11-1, with the only loss coming when Punahou beat Mililani. Compare that to the OIA Red East, which is 3-10 overall (one of those wins came via forfeit) and doesn’t have a single win against a Division I team.
It’s not all good news at Aiea, however, as starting quarterback Jordan Liilii suffered a foot injury against Pac-Five. If the 6-foot-2 junior is unable to go this week against Waianae, Aiea’s place on my poll will likely be short-lived. But for now, at least, I’ll give Na Alii some love with the No. 10 spot heading into Week 3.
You’ll find all of the Star-Advertiser’s 2013 Top 10 Football Polls here.