Format leaves No. 2 Punahou out of the state tournament

Punahou senior Marist Liufau had seven tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery against Saint Louis. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Saturday night’s ILH Open Division title clash between No. 1 Saint Louis and No. 2 Punahou at Aloha Stadium had all the makings of a high-stakes matchup. Perhaps too high, as the loser would have its season automatically end in October.

After a 45-21 win for the Crusaders, it was the Buffanblu who suffered a season-ending loss despite finishing with a 7-3 record in the first season of Open Division play. They are also the No. 2-ranked team in the state according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 with wins over No. 3 Mililani and No. 4 Campbell.

Before the season, it was determined that three teams from the OIA and one team from the ILH would form the HHSAA Open Division tournament. Punahou coach Kale Ane took the loss in stride but still wishes his team could play for more.

“Well, we all know the guidelines so we’re disappointed,” he said. “We knew going in that this was our opportunity to go to the state tournament, we just didn’t do our job.”

If the Buffanblu were able to pull off the upset, then Saint Louis, despite its No. 10 national ranking on MaxPreps, would have been done as well.

Punahou gave Saint Louis (9-0) its closest game of the year in a 35-28 victory for the Crusaders on Sept. 15. The Buffanblu did lose to Kahuku 41-28 to open their season, but beat Waianae and Kamehameha by a combined 87-0 to set up Saturday’s game.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” senior defensive star Marist Liufau said when asked if the Buffanblu should still be playing. “We deserve to play but it’s hard. We only have one seed but we can’t do anything about it. Saint Louis pulled through. It was all about tonight and there’s no excuses.”

History says that even if Punahou had a slot in this year’s state tournament, its first matchup wouldn’t be a sure thing.

Out of the three years the HHSAA has held an Open Division tournament, the ILH was allotted two teams just once in 2016. Punahou was the second team from the ILH but lost its quarterfinal matchup to Kapolei after Taulia Tagovailoa, then a sophomore, passed for 367 yards and five touchdowns in a 33-21 win.

But for now, Punahou, and the rest of the state, will never know for sure if the two best teams will be battling it out for the top spot in 2018. Instead, the Buffanblu will turn in their pads early.

“I’m still disappointed in the loss tonight but when I look back, there were a lot of great things that happened,” Ane said. “We have a good core of kids coming back. I think the seniors felt like they did a good job and they left a legacy where they were competitive and successful. For both the seniors and the underclassmen, it was a really good year.”

“It’s been a great journey,” added Liufau, who holds nine scholarship offers and had seven tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery against the Crusaders. “It’s always a sad thing to end but it’s on to the next chapter I guess. Go Buffanblu forever.”


  1. For the Kids October 27, 2018 10:56 pm

    Hawaii the only state in the country that won’t have the top 2 seeds in the state tournament!!! LOL what a joke

  2. Spam and Rice October 27, 2018 11:23 pm

    Nobody cares about #2. I say get rid of OIA #2 and #3 playing open championship. Just the winner versus #1 from ILH. It’s all about best of the best. Not pretty good against pretty good.

    It’s stupid that ILH fans complain about it. If you want to play post season against OIA win. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Obake October 28, 2018 1:22 am

    Top 4 teams in the state, St. Louis, Mililani, Punahou, Kahuku should be in. Or Campbell and Punahou play a play in game. Farrington at 2-9 gets the play in game instead. Punahou beat both Campbell and Farrington.

  4. Kamehameha #! October 28, 2018 7:02 am

    Mr. Spam and Rice! Hate to burst your bubble but people wants to go see and good competitive game! Who ever play St.Louis in the final game will get smash. The score will be 60 to 3! Thats why it wont be a state championship. State Championship is for the two best team in the state!

  5. Rebel October 28, 2018 7:11 am

    If Puns were in States, we would watch them lose a 3rd time this year to St. Louis?? St. Louis is #1 this year…Bring back Prep Bowl in Open Div., OIA Champ vs. ILH Champ.,unless outer island teams join Open..

  6. brah. No can!!! October 28, 2018 7:37 am

    This is stupid . How can it be called open division if you don’t put the two top teams in the playoffs? Even if it means two ILH or more. You can’t consider rations in an open division. That’s stupid. It’s about the best of the best.

  7. ??? October 28, 2018 8:06 am

    Why is everybody complaining about Punahou not being in states? They lost, deal with it.
    Yes, Kahuku & Mililani both loss in the season but won when it counted “Playoffs”
    That’s why their still playing. “win you in, lose you out”.
    Moanalua is probably the best In DI but their also not in states because they loss at the wrong time.
    Just have ILH, OIA & outer Island DI-D2’s have their own championships.
    You will NEVER satisfy everyone, Life is not fair!

  8. Farney October 28, 2018 8:38 am

    Punahou had 2 shots at St.Loius. This second time lost by 23 points. If this was best of 3, St.Louis would still beat them. Sorry. Not even the ILH wants to see that. Great season Punahou.

  9. Too Meke 2 October 28, 2018 8:46 am

    Punahou murdered Mililani. They continue to get better. They are clearly the 2nd or 3rd best team in the state.

  10. Too Meke 2 October 28, 2018 8:49 am

    ???, you say “Yes, Kahuku & Mililani both loss in the season but won when it counted “Playoffs”.”

    Well it’s much different when you win in playoffs and get 3 berths.

    If the OIA had a playoff that offered one berth, then one of the teams listed above would be out. Punahou did win in the playoffs with a smashing of Kamehameha.

    I don’t know how you can compare two completely different format for playoffs.

  11. To da hale October 28, 2018 8:49 am

    Although comments are made about punahou not being in the tournament, I think the open div playoff format needs to be changed.
    Just like how others comments have just been made, if you want to have a true “open division tournament” then the best 4 or 6 teams with the best overall records should play otherwise just play one game like the prep bowl (top OIA vs ILH). Don’t call it an “open division tournament” when possibly undeserving teams get in or form a committee to pick the best 4 teams to be invited to the tournament based on their play throughout the season.

    Crusaders are solid on both sides and I highly doubt their next 2 games will be close. Their depth and talent is too deep (plus good coaching).

    With this being said, I still hope to see good competitive games over the next few weeks.

  12. Afan October 28, 2018 9:22 am

    Top 8 teams in the state make the tournamnet regardless of league. Doesn’t take much thinking! This is getting to be like boxing. Nobody gets to see the fights we wanna see! Pfff! The governing bodies in Hawaii football need to get their heads out of the butts and do what’s right.

  13. HSFootball October 28, 2018 10:53 am

    You want fair..Let’s have all the teams in the
    Open Division have District exceptions .That’s fair…You want everything in your favor to satisfy your win at all cost…Let’s do that..Can you imagine that…Oh but wait, we can’t have that because that makes us equal..And we’re not ,because we better than you guys cause we private and you’re public…OMG…It is what it is..
    Everything makes sense, Even the Rail…

  14. Kimo October 28, 2018 11:50 am

    Run the table and be considered the Undisputed State Champ!
    2nd place are for 1st losers

    Crusader champs again

  15. M&M October 28, 2018 12:51 pm

    The HHSAA is Hawaii’s high school equivalent of the NCAA and we see the issues the NCAA has in choosing the best teams for the CFP. Until they expand the participation in the CFP we will continue to see various arguments of who is really the true champion. I believe the NCAA will soon expand the participation and I hope the HHSAA will follow suit. With increased exposure and scholarships available for Hawaii kids it’s all good stuff.

  16. Buff-n-boo October 28, 2018 1:44 pm

    “The top two teams”…as assigned by Star-Advertiser
    In reality, they are the runner up ILH team…and that doesn’t get you to the championship.
    They also recruit throughout the state and have significantly more resources than non-private schools. So, if you want to play in the championship- win.

  17. Ugly Olos October 28, 2018 3:28 pm

    Spam and Rice advocates “just win” and you can play in the playoffs.. why not take it a step further and have the two top teams play each other; STL and Pun and get rid of the OIA entries altogether. Pun smacked Mililani and Campbell and it wasn’t even close. OIA just rigs the entire HHSAA tournaments in all sports at all levels= OIA principals and ADs. Volleyball SHA vs. LaPietra and KSK vs. Iolani….I guess they’re tired of watching all ILH finals!!!

  18. Warrior Fan October 28, 2018 3:42 pm

    ???’s double standard is absurd. “Punahou lost so deal with it”. Well Mililani and Campbell lost to Punahou and Kakuku got crushed by St. Louis yet these OIA teams don’t have to “deal with it” because their loses to ILH teams don’t count. BTW Moanalua is far from being the best team in Div 1. They got hammered by Castle a .400 team that exposed their lack of a running game and an overrated defense. I bet you think that Mililani would’ve beat St. Louis during Hurricane Lane, right??? Your OIA bias has blinded you from all reason.

  19. ??? October 28, 2018 4:22 pm

    @Too Meke 2
    Like I said earlier, can’t satisfy everyone!
    OIA get 3 teams in, ILH complain.
    ILH Recruits, OIA complain.
    Last year STL had to play Puns & Mililani in tournament, they complain.
    Saint Francis uses ineligible player, banned from playoffs, they complain.
    I agree with #13, let all schools Recruit than take Top 4 teams regardless if OIA/ILH.

  20. ??? October 28, 2018 7:51 pm

    @Warrior Fan October 28, 2018 3:42 pm
    ???’s double standard is absurd.

    ILH can Recruit but OIA cannot!
    Why don’t you tell me what’s ABSURD ??
    Still waiting??🤷🏽‍♂️


  21. Farney October 28, 2018 9:49 pm

    Waianae lose to Waipahu. Waipahu lose to Iolani and Damien. Farrington lose to Waianae. Waianae and farrington are in the OPEN. Those two get pounded by the Open teams. Oh and St.Francis goes undefeated . So my suggestion is New ILH, St.Louis,Punahou,Kamehameha,Iolani,Damien and St.Francis. Nice. That way no huhu.

  22. U2MUCH October 28, 2018 10:18 pm

    You guys gossip like wahines

  23. OIA recruiting October 28, 2018 10:23 pm

    OIA never recruits. They just use a relatives address or find a reason that will fall under a district exception.

    I thought this topic has been discussed many times over already.

  24. Facts October 28, 2018 10:34 pm

    We all just lucky taulia went to alabama also or kapolei would be up there and dillon’s wouldn’t be leading passer

  25. Hammer October 29, 2018 8:58 am

    Why don’t they a system were the top 6 teams make the playoffs especially when you are playing each other doing the season mililani playing farrington in the semifinals of the OIA playoffs there record is 2/8 before the mililani game and he is the biggest joke they play Campbell to get in the state tournament remember all you OIA cry babies this is a state tournament not a OIA tournament so should have the teams playing not only 1 team from the ILH and 3 teams from OIA good example Iolani volleyball girls wouldn’t have a chance to the state tournament if they left out and they wouldn’t be state champs tidy every tournament in the country have fair system the best plays the best to there only one standing but o just remembered Hawaii is the crook it state in America and it shows

  26. mentobento October 29, 2018 9:09 am


    OIA cannot recruit!? Please bradda! You know Millville highly recruit their boys! Campbell does now since DJ took over. Previous years Kaiser was SUPER known for that crap and Radford followed through the next couple years after.

    So my man…no act like you don’t know that these OIA schools recruit as well cuz they recruit even harder than the ILH schools.

  27. HSFootball October 29, 2018 10:27 am

    ILH>OIA…Simply put…So let the ILH play themselves..They can have their own playoffs and Championship..While the Public Schools can have our own..We’ll call it Hawaii Public High School State Championship…Then All the Public schools from around can get involved, from Maui, Kauai, Big Island..We’ll have more than enough teams…Then we won’t have to hear how great the ILH teams are..And how Unfair the playoffs are every year…We would see alot more parity…In order to see you
    gotta open your eyes…Win at all cost. $$$

  28. UH Warrior Fan October 29, 2018 12:35 pm

    ??? and HS Football this issue keeps getting debated but you two are basically saying that the OIA should be allowed to rig the HHSAA w/undeserving inferior 2-9 teams or they’ll bar the ILH from participating. We’ve gotta be the only state that does stupid sh!t like this. All of the hard work and commitment to playing in the toughest leagues should have more bearing on which teams make the state tournament. Players, Coaches, Fans all want to see the best teams compete against each other. No one wants to watch Waianae or Farrington get cracks from Mililani or Kahuku and no one wants to see the OIA play against each other in an otherwise insignificant championship. Look at the empty stands during the OIA Championships in all sports. When it comes to the Open Division, have the best teams play regardless of their league affiliation. Even OIA homers know Punahou should be in.

  29. ??? October 29, 2018 1:51 pm

    @UH Warrior Fan October 29, 2018 12:35 pm

    You still didn’t answer the simple question!!

    How is it fair STL Academy & Punahou can recruit the BEST players in the state but Waianae & Farrington cannot??
    But it’s unfair Punahou is out of states & Farrington might be in? Everyone knows
    STL Academy will be state champs.

  30. ??? October 29, 2018 2:06 pm


    I never said OIA doesn’t have District Exceptions!

    I said make it LEGAL for all schools to recruit so we than have a level playing field.
    STL Academy is the Bishop Gorman of Hawaii and that’s why public schools in Vegas are trying to get BG out of their public schools division because they have no chance of beating them.
    99% of public schools will not beat STL Academy that’s just a reality.

  31. ??? October 29, 2018 2:15 pm

    All you guys that think recruiting doesn’t make a difference have NO idea about sports & coaching.
    Without recruiting Cal Lee would be way behind Larry Ginoza in wins and if Cal coached in the OIA he would be average!

  32. OpenDivisionRecruiters November 3, 2018 10:41 am

    mento bento—- i know ONE team in the open division that for sure dont recruit or use the DE loophole .. WAIANAE BABY !! STRICTLY ROOTED.

  33. ROOTEDnotRECRUITED November 3, 2018 10:50 am

    Yall knew the format from the start of the season now all i hear is crying lol.. shoulda just stick with the old state champonship format .. oh but wait .. still would have a bunch of ILH groupies crying LOL

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