The timing was right. The state tournament, officially branded the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships, came to a close last weekend. Coaches, all of them, were done for the year.
What did they think of the new format, adding one division of eight teams, expanding to a 20-team format? Most of the coaches who responded by phone, text or e-mail had plenty to say, and yet they agreed that the new three-tiered look is, well, awesome.
They also had some suggestions, of course. Give head coaches a means to expound, and no practices to run, and you have some very interesting feedback. They wrote or spoke about the state tourney and a few have input about their own leagues.
Cal Lee, Saint Louis
“I think the format is excellent. I think people, there’s the parroting when you go to the game and not everybody should be in the same division. If you want to go and get beat up, that’s your choice.
“Having Division II, I, they get the feeling, look at Waialua. Somebody like that, and I think that’s where the state has got to go. The big teams, let them play the big teams. The way I look at it, the way it’s set up now, Kahuku’s going to beat up on everybody. You think Radford wants to play? The way it is with concussions, and they look at who they’re playing against, parents worry about the safety of their kids.
“I like the idea of interdivision and the fact that it would make football better not only players getting better through competition, but coaches, and fans would enjoy the competition every week. It would be equal.
“If you had (an interleague) game at your site, you’ve got concessions, everybody wins. I like this Open Division as far as the state tournament. i don’t see any negative whatsoever. I don’t know how it can be improved. I think all the coaches like the format.”
Kale Ane, Punahou
“Well, first we’re happy with the opportunity to participate in the tournament. I hope that others feel the same way. You always want an opportunity to compete against the top schools.
“We weren’t sure who we were going to play, but when you’re not the champions of the league, you have to play whoever is selected whether its Kapolei, Farrington or Waianae. I think most of the teams feel the same way.
“I thought the crowds would be bigger. The last game was great to watch, a great atmosphere. It’s what you want.”
Eddie Klaneski, Damien
“I feel that adding the the Open Division was a great concept, but as all new things, you will find flaws and things that need to be re-evaluated. Of course, having more teams in the state tournament is a plus, but deciding who gets there and how many teams get in needs to be looked at again.
“It doesn’t make sense that the D-I tournament had eight teams compared to six in the other two, that is partly why there were half of the pool of teams with losing records going into it.
“I also feel that there has to be a better way to seed teams. I felt that the D-I and D-II seedings were poorly done. And because we were notified so late about the change in the tournament, a team was already set for post season before a game was even played (‘Iolani). I think that if the HHSAA continues to use this post season format, I feel that the ILH and OIA need to come to some kind of agreement or crossover the leagues. Otherwise, the ILH will have to figure out how they are going to do berths for post season.
“I think that ‘Iolani is a great football program but to not have to beat anyone to get into it is not right. That definitely needs to be addressed.
“As for Damien’s experience, I felt that our travel plans as well as officiating played a huge role in our loss to Kapaa. I know that we don’t pay for our own flights and pick schedules but getting in two hours before kickoff is probably not the best way to have a team vying for a state championship to travel. I don’t like to make excuses but I feel that travel and coordinating officials need to be re-evaluated as well as it directly affected the outcome of our game. I have already spoken to both ILH and HHSAA about this.
“At the end of the day, I think that there is a lot of upside in continuing to have a three-tiered state tournament because we are kinda in a time that we need to separate the talent level. And give more teams the opportunity at a state tournament and state championship.”
Darren Hernandez, Kapolei
“My big concern is the OIA third-place game. The incentive should be to win that game for a more advantageous seeding in the open tournament. If winning doesn’t help your standing, then the game shouldn’t be played.
“Otherwise, the Open (Division) tournament was a new and exciting addition. One last thing: the tournaments should be renamed either Division I, II, and III or A, AA or AAA, and scrap the name “Open”.
Pohai Lee, Baldwin
“I thought the three divisions were a good idea. It was competitive and made it interesting for the fans. With a pilot program, every coach had their opinion on the brackets. Given the off-season, the powers that be should spend time on a more concrete format on how the brackets should be aligned. Other than that, I thought it was a good idea.”
Philip Rapozo, Kapaa
“I taught it went pretty smooth. The stadium staff was very helpful. The only thing that went wrong was that we lost! Lol!”
Brad Uemoto, Konawaena
“I feel that the new format really didn’t affect Division II. I think that the different tiers are a good way to organize the caliber of teams, but Division I becomes odd when you have teams with losing records and non-league champions competing for a state title.
“In the Open Division, I think many people expected more parity amongst the six teams, but blowouts in the semifinals may not justify the ditch of the old format.
“I guess I’m just a believer in working hard to get better and close the gap. You will always have the top tier teams and the rest of the field. Every so many years, different teams will surface from the field to challenge the top fixtures and I feel that’s what creates the intrigue of the old format.
Nolan Tokuda, Leilehua
“I like three tiers.
1. More teams playing
2. Even playing field
Up for discussion
1. 13-14 games is a lot
2. Make regular season count instead of first round being a play in game to Open and Division I. Top two teams in each division, Red and Blue, automatic Open Division, and they play for seeding for Open Division. Next two teams in each play for seeding in the OIA for Division I.”
Garret Tihada, Lahainaluna
“I think the new format is a good thing. Having three divisions just enhanced football for the fans, and it also gave more teams a chance at winning a state title. From watching last night’s game, that it was a huge success, both from a football standpoint & from a financial standpoint. Football fans statewide got a real treat with the new format.
Kaeo Drummondo, Hilo
“I think the new format worked out great by creating more parity in the tournament and extending the opportunity for more athletes and teams to play meaningful post-season games. I think overall the change in the state tournament format was definitely a success.
“I think there can be better communication regarding seeding criteria and how match ups are being created. If the state decides to stay with the same format I think it would be good to make all 3 tournaments the same as far as teams participating, seeding as it correlates to home/away and byes, etc.
“I think it would be exciting to have a single championship event where all 3 games are played consecutively as opposed to D2 and D1 on one day and Open on the next.
“All in all I don’t have any complaints. I thought all 3 tournaments were competitive and exciting. Hopefully it’s something that continues because it benefits much more kids.”
Randall Okimoto, Farrington
“Anytime we can extend the season for our players it’s a positive. It gives us more time to keep the team together and the purpose of football going. Having three divisional state tournaments is definitely justified given the different levels of competition we have in this state.
“The question will always be which teams should be playing in the respective divisions and how are they seeded in each tournament. There’s definitely some controversy on those subjects that needs to be discussed in order to produce a system that is as fair as we humans can make it.
“If there’s one request that I have it’s to have a replay system in place. This game is just too hard for the human eye to capture every occurrence that goes on during a football play. Therefore it would be beneficial for everyone involved that we implement a replay system so that the outcome of the game is as close as it can get to being decided by the teams on the field and not by a third party, who by no fault of their own is expected to call a game that moves faster than the eye can see.”
Rod York, Mililani
“I thought the tournament was good. the kids were given New Life and they were able to play at their Peak against other Elite teams at their peak in Nov rather than crossover preseason games in August. It also gave the kids more opportunities to get playoff film against other teams. But most importantly it was more teachable , learning opportunities for us to teach our kids.
“The best thing I like is that the teams of all leagues battled hard ON THE FIELD. We were able to settle it on the field. Hilo/Mules came down to a blocked field goal. Moan/Iolani decided by 3 points. Baldwin/Mililani was tied at 7 minutes in the fourth quarter with Baldwin having the ball. It taught our kids to fight and we had to pull together to win these type of games. Half my team watched the Kahuku/Crusader game TOGETHER. That’s something my team wouldn’t do in August and September. The tournament gave my kids a second chance to play for something important and they learned to work together and depend upon each other. If we didn’t have the state tournament games, we would have never grown to that point. Mililani players grew up more and more in the last three weeks bc every game was a challenge.
“I was shocked when I sat in stands and slowly, but surely, half my team made their way to sit with each other next to me.
“Hopefully, they will want to be playing in the game and not watching in the stands..lol. I know i kept thinking that.
“Like I said…..we treated the D-I tourney like a playoff system to play in the HAWAII BOWL. We know the national championship game was Sat night but our Hawaii Bowl D-I champ was important for our team. The tournament pit us against Maui, our rival, and ILH competitor Iolani. We made sure that our kids took it personal and it was more than just our team and community. Now our league got pushed to the forefront. It was important to defend the OIA against the others. In the championship game, our kids understood the challenge to defend our league. And the tournament gave us that platform to settle it on the field in NOVEMBER rather than a preseason game where we play everyone or when OIA doest have all players bc of academic probation rule.
“It’s not my position to comment on rules or format, but I can say it was a huge success for all those reasons.
“Wouldn’t it be great if the Hawaii champions could play the California or Vegas champions? We could play in December in Aloha Stadium when all teams are at their peak. Imagine Crusader and Red Raider crowd on SAME SIDE rather than against each other? Opportunities for kids would be tremendous. Public interest would be high. instead of playing mainland teams during by week, we would play them in December.”
Wendell Look, ‘Iolani
“The concept of having three divisions is a good one. Creates competitive match ups throughout the state. The playoffs were a great example of each league being represented and winning a state championship. Are there kinks that need to be worked out? Sure, but the concept is beneficial to high school football for the state.”
Amosa Amosa, Campbell
“I feel like this format really gives more teams a chance to be a part of the state championships. I just feel we can improve the seeding part to avoid teams playing each other three times, and to allow more OIA teams. The ILH have more reps in there with only four teams in their league. Lastly, given a three-tier championship we should go to a three-tier (regular-season) division: Open, D-I, D-II. It’s a necessity with this state tournament championship. It was an honor to be seeded No. 2 in the state D-I tourney.”