Coaches, fans on start times, overtimes at states

Lahainaluna celebrated Joshua Tihada's winning touchdown in the seventh overtime in the Division II state championship game Nov. 18. The Lunas defeated Konawaena 75-69 in a Aloha Stadium tripleheader that lasted more than 12 hours. Dennis Oda / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships had a different look this year.

It looked quite well, even though it didn’t seem like that was possible. With the Oahu Interscholastic Association reducing its entry number from 10 teams in 2016 to just four, there was a question about how the tourney would stand.

It was a success. For more, read today’s feature in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

>> Unprecedented
First, the Division II state final turned into a record-setting seven-overtime thriller. Lahainaluna defended its title in the 75-69 marathon, edging Konawaena in a four-hour-plus battle that never waned. It was Konawaena’s first time in the final, and it would’ve been the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s first state title.

The seven-OT game itself was an instant classic, but created two issues:

1) By going an extra 67 minutes in the extra periods, it pushed the D-I and Open Division finals back. The Open final between Saint Louis and Kahuku didn’t start until 9:58 p.m. When Kahuku quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava‘s final pass fell incomplete, it was 1:04 a.m., well past bedtime for most fans.

2) Most fans, as well as the coaches involved in the seven-OT game, say they prefer a shorter game. Lahainaluna’s Garret Tihada and Konawaena’s Brad Uemoto are in favor of adopting the college rule, which requires teams to attempt 2-point conversions after the second extra period.

Not everyone wants to tweak the rule.

“Don’t change the overtime rules. It works. It’s very dramatic and worked out in epic fashion,” Greg Rush opined via Facebook. “The real story is the emergence of the BIIF as a viable contender.”

To be certain, not a single fan deplored each additional overtime stanza during the game. It was pure drama. At the high school level, the chances of two kickers making a combined 12 PAT kicks and two field goals aren’t typically strong. But it happened.

HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun wants to keep the tripleheader format intact.

“We need to figure something out. I want all the kids to play in front of 20,000-plus with a big-game feel,” he said. “But not end after midnight. This was a better feel than playing D-II and D-I separate like last year.”

>> Tee time
Star-Advertiser/Hawaii Prep World writer Christian Shimabuku supports an earlier start time.

“Even before the seven-OT game, I wanted the tripleheader to start at noon. Colleges kick off at noon all the time,” he said. “Even in August.”

>> Spillover effect
Hilo won its first state football championship, rallying past Damien 35-19 in the D-I final. The Vikings saw plenty of Big Islanders from Konawaena stick around to witness their victory. Plus, the length of the previous game pushed everything back, so plenty of Saint Louis and Kahuku fans were seated to enjoy the Hilo-Damien contest.

“I’d love to see the tripleheader remain in place,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “Growing up watching the state championship nights and finally getting to be a part of it was great. We had a great time and are fortunate and proud to have represented our island, league, school and program, finally bringing a state championship back to the city of Hilo and the BIIF.”

>> Drama by design
Six of the nine games in this year’s smaller state tournaments were decided on the final possession. With fewer teams — 12 this season instead of last year’s 20 — there were no quarterfinal games. Closer games made each bracket feel much more efficient.

“Throughout the playoffs and up to championship night, the term ‘instant classic’ was used quite a few times,” former Hawaii Preparatory Academy lineman Derrick Hanano wrote on Facebook. “That makes me inclined to think that the HHSAA got it right when organizing the divisions.”

Last year’s debut of the three-tiered format at the state championships has been proven right. Even if the OIA continues to stay away from the D-I state tourney. But that could change this offseason.

>> OIA double reverse?
Every OIA coach who has spoken about the OIA’s pullout from D-I supports the administrative decision, but has also would not be against participating again. In an eight-team bracket, that would have opened slots for four OIA teams in D-I: Campbell, the league’s fourth-place team, and three of the four teams that lost in the quarterfinals — Kapolei, Leilehua, Farrington and Moanalua. The D-II state bracket had just one OIA team instead of two.

The 2017 league-by-league breakdown has eight fewer teams in all compared to 2016.

“I think the tournament should go back to last year’s format,” Lahainaluna coach Garret Tihada said. “I think it was unfortunate that so many teams from the OIA did not have a chance to participate in the tournament.

Tihada anticipates change.

“It’s not going to be the same next year,” he said. “I’m pretty sure. It’s ridiculous. I feel bad for those (OIA) teams.”

Drummondo agreed.

“I’m a fan of the bracket that was in place for the 2016 tournament with the inclusion of OIA teams in every division. It’s something the OIA will hopefully look to going back to,” he said. “It’s best for competition and it benefits the players who are offered more exposure and the opportunity to compete for a state championship. You’ll always have critics who say the lower-level games are useless and there’s only one ‘real’ champion. Those people are definitely not coaches who put in the countless hours working with teams and preparing them to compete at another level your designated to compete at.”

Longtime Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez is an advocate of more games and exposure for players.

“I would like to see more OIA teams in the state tourney. It would be fun for the kids. It’s all about the kids and giving them more opportunities to play. Maybe have the OIA-ILH champions play for the D-I title and then have the three neighbor-island champions and five top Oahu teams (enter). A committee selects the most interesting ‘bowl game’ matchups,” Hernandez said. “I’d also like to see the season go back to playing the Friday after Thanksgiving. The season is among the shortest in the nation. Again, it would be more fun for the kids.”

Another veteran coach, Randall Okimoto of Farrington, is for more games.

“Imagine, we would’ve had all those teams (in the D-I state tourney). That would’ve been a heck of a D-I,” he said. “If it’s any excuse like money, you’re always going to find people willing to help the cause. I like what Rod York said about last year in D-I and how it helped them of this year, especially for your JV kids coming up, it’s so, so valuable. You cannot replace those additional reps.”

>> Shifting winds?
Top-seeded Lahainaluna’s back-to-back state titles weren’t a surprise, not when the program has been on solid ground for decades under co-head coaches Bobby Watson and Tihada. Moving up to Division I, where the Lunas were competitive in years past before D-II was conceived, is never out of the possibility. It’s just not probable.

“We always wish that, as Lahainaluna, we want to see how the OIA does it. Your best go to the Open (Division) and the next guys go to D-I,” Tihada said, referencing the format in 2016. “Right now, the MIL is only the top team (in D-I and D-II) go. There’s years we’ve been D-I and we were the No. 2 team (in the MIL), and we’re staying home. We’re a small league with just five teams. It would nice to send the top two (from MIL D-I). Then we’d gladly go to the D-I (state) tourney.”

>> Bright lights
The D-II state final kickoff time, 2 p.m., seemed to insure that the Wildcats and Lunas would be done before the sun went down. Instead, their epic battle played into the night.

“We purposely went to seven overtimes so we could play under the lights,” Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto quipped.

He has a point about that night-time environment. In fact, Uemoto thinks D-II should have equal footing with D-I when it comes to championship kickoff times.

“If I had one complaint, it would be the start time for the D-II game. I feel that D-I and D-II should flip time slots occasionally or have some kind of formula or vote to determine which division plays the first game,” he said.

Like coaches, fans had plenty to say about what is widely-regarded as one of the best football state tournaments in HHSAA history.

>> Instant replay
Before, during and after the game, coaches and fans have wondered aloud about utilizing instant replay, especially because it is available at Aloha Stadium. That won’t placate all spectators who are dissatisfied with officiating, but it would benefit the officials.

Some fans are also wondering what it would take to bring in out-of-state officials, but that’s a whole new expense — airfare, car rental, hotel rooms, per diem — that the HHSAA isn’t likely to create.

>> Free TV or no TV
One fan among many wasn’t happy that the game was available live only on pay-per-view. However, the HHSAA needs turnstile counts to be as high as possible. The tripleheader drew 22,436 spectators.

The game was available on free TV the next morning (Sunday).

>> Parking
Fans who arrived an hour early — prior to the 2 p.m. kickoff for Lahainaluna and Konawaena — were stuck in their cars all the way down Salt Lake Boulevard, curling around on Makuapaani Street, locked bumper to bumper and scarcely moving.

“If you run three games, cancel the Swap Meet,” one spectator tweeted. “Start the first game earlier. Cancel the trophy ceremonies.”


  1. TooMeke November 21, 2017 7:07 am

    Let the kids play. More games = more reps = better teams down the road and more exposure.

    First of all – how about just Divisions I, II, III…? K.I.S.S. Never mind “Open” – what genius came up with that?

    I say keep the Top Division as is.

    2nd division: allow 2nd & 3rd place ILH D-1 teams to compete with OIAs 4th & 5th and whoever else from neighbor islands. I’m confident that Campbell at the end of this season would’ve been competitive with either Puns or Kam this year… and if we’re gonna crown neighbor island teams as “champions” then they should have the opportunity to beat Oahu teams.

    As for 3rd division: ILH D-2 1st & 2nd and OIAs 6th thru 8th plus other neighbor islands.

    Food for thought…

  2. Too Meke 2 November 21, 2017 9:32 am

    Only in our foolish state would be put teams in a state tourney based on number of teams in a league. If that was the case then screw the Power 5 Conferences in the BCS Tournament. The Team with the most teams in a conference should have the most berths. That’s just dumb. The best teams should play, plain and simple.

    Division 1A: (2) ILH & (2) OIA

    Division 1AA: (1) ILH; (1) OIA; (1) MIL; (1) BIIF

    Division 2: (1) KIF; (1) OIA; (1) MIL; (1) BIIF

    Done, plain and simple.

    The only guys that need it want more OIA are ones that don’t want the best teams in the tourney and don’t want their kids to play the best. And they want the easiest path.

    The boys who play and are real competitors are all the same. Line em up and we take them done. They don’t cry about teams from a league or seedings. Only the crybabies in here (mostly from Kahuku like anywaays/808/goodstory/88/too meke). They are all the same person. So really there’s only one crybaby here. But he’s the biggest whiner in the internet.

  3. TooMeke November 21, 2017 9:43 am


  4. Too Meke 2 November 21, 2017 9:57 am

    Hahahah that’s so original anywaays. Hahaha. And your from the “mainland”. Sure buddy! How about this fool is from Waialua and using a mars king device to provide a fake IP.

    Nice try anywaays.

    Zzzzzzzzzz (how original). Bwahahaha! Loser!

  5. Coach C November 21, 2017 10:45 am

    Next year.
    OPEN GAME. OIA champ vs. I’LL champs.
    D1. 2 OIA ,1 ILH, 5 outer island.
    D2. 2 OIA 2 outer island.
    Get rid of the automatic touchback on kick offs.

  6. Frank Mauz November 21, 2017 12:22 pm

    In 1985, i covered an ILH triple-header at Aloha Stadium for the Advertiser. So thinking in terms of the media and deadlines, the length of the day is awful. Also, very tough on stadium employees and families with small children. A high priority should be that the games start ON TIME. Consider
    Noon, 3:30 and 7:00. If there is gap time between games, provide entertainment like bands

    Move the championship games back to the Friday after Thanksgiving. Along with that, start the season on Labor Day weekend instead of the hot, humid mid-August. This is Hawaii, not Alaska.

    The word “tournament” just doesn’t sound right when connected to football. The NCAA does not call their football playoffs a “tournament” and neither should we. Actually, I think HHSAA has it correct, but some media is the one doing that.

    A big NO to more games which = more time away from the classroom. Athletics has become more important than academics. Bad enough that it is happening at the college level, shameful at the high school level.

  7. Envy November 21, 2017 8:20 pm

    @Frank Mauz, do remember what it was like being in the stands during those tripleheaders? Sure, the first game at 3:30p was appropriately called the sun bowl, but as soon as the suns shadowed crossed the mauka stands, the stadium came alive with the hundreds if not thousands of fans that came to see 6 teams clash week in and week out for the price of one game, knowing every game counted in the quest for that one chance at a Prep Bowl title. Fans from each school got to know those from other schools waiting for their teams to take the field. Bands from the respective schools would play side by side on occasion. Fans also got to see the Homecoming halftime ceremonies from the respective schools. Those were the fun times, now hardly anyone goes except during the state championship.

  8. Austin Chang November 21, 2017 8:34 pm

    Dear OIA and Fans

    Football Team Next Year 2018-2019
    Open Division:

    IHL Open:
    St. Louis

    OIA 6 Team would make it to the OIA Playoffs, OIA 2 Team would not make it to the OIA Playoffs

    In the OIA PLAYOFFS if the OIA Team in the third round lost, then they should compete for OIA 3rd Place, to make to the State Open Division.

    State: OIA Champions Vs 3rd Place OIA

    Only 3 teams can make it to the State Playoffs, OIA Runner Up, OIA Champions, 3rd Place OIA, IHL CHAMPIONS.

    Division 1:

    Pearl City

    6 Team will make it to the OIA Playoffs.
    2 Team will not make it to the OIA Playoffs.

    Only 2 OIA Teams, OIA CHAMPIONS, and OIA Runner Up, IHL Champions, BIIF Championship, MIL Championship, and KIF Championship, will make it to the State Playoffs.


    IHL D1:
    Saint Francis

    BIIF D1:

    MIL D1:


    KIF D1:


    OIA D2:


    BIIF D2:

    Hawaii Prep

    MIL D2:

    King Kekaulike

    4 Team will make it to the OIA Playoffs. Only 2 OIA, OIA RUNNER UP, AND OIA CHAMPIONS, 1 BIIF, AND 1 MIL.

    I feel like that the OIA’s need to create a Open Division for the tougher teams like Mililani and Kahuku. I am tired of hearing teams like Aiea or Castle saying “It not fair, at all because every year they get blowout against Tougher Teams. What am trying to do is balance the team out. They need to create a Open Division or else Radford would not win any games at all. Hopefully you are listening OIA.

    Let get more islands team around the States to participate in State Championship too. Please help us please.

    Thank you for reading my statement I really accepriate.

    From: Austin G. Chang

  9. anywaaaays!! November 21, 2017 8:53 pm

    Hate to break it to you, Austin. the OIA isn’t gonna read what you wrote

  10. 88 November 21, 2017 10:31 pm

    anywaays can you shat up? You give us Kahukuans a bad name.

  11. Special E November 22, 2017 4:16 am

    Austin Chang that’s all good but you need to work on starting games earlier like 12noon 1st game and so on so we don’t stay late like 1am on the 3rd game? Just a suggestion better to start Early and finish early:) Thank you…

  12. Awrite!! November 22, 2017 4:33 pm

    Head referee Michael Goshima a St. Louis class of 1969 Grad was the head umpire for the Open division Championship game. Can HPW do an investigation as to why this is not a conflict?

    Is this another one of Cal Lees tactical advantages?

  13. anywaaaays!! November 22, 2017 5:33 pm

    I told you. The refs were bought off. Refs won the game. Saint Lulu just took home the W. This entire state tournament needs to have an asterisk next to it at the very least. What should happen is a complete investigation by HPW and also possibly state AG office.

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