Playoff formats are usually simple.
Not so in the case of Interscholastic League of Honolulu football in both Division I and II.
The subject all of a sudden came up in the collective Hawaii fan’s mind on Thursday night after Punahou’s 33-20 upset of Saint Louis at Aloha Stadium. Now, if both teams win out against teams they have already beaten, they will both finish the D-I regular season at 5-1.
Well, then what? The No. 1 seed (regular-season champion) is scheduled to play the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed is set to meet the No. 3 seed in the semifinals on Oct. 14.
Before we go any further, it must be noted that what follows is Hawaii Prep World’s best guess on the ILH playoff format, which is not spelled out completely in the official 2016 ILH schedule. The guess is based on discussions with two ILH head coaches and one ILH assistant coach Thursday night. None of the three gentlemen are 100 percent sure, though.
The winners of the semifinal games play in the final round on Oct. 21, but then it gets complicated. By ILH rule, if the regular-season winner and the playoff winner are different, another game will be held on Oct. 27 to determine the ILH champion.
The two ILH head coaches we spoke to said they believe that in the case of a regular-season tie, the regular-season champion (top playoff seed) will be determined by a card draw.
So if that happens, the card-draw winner is guaranteed another game if it does not also win the playoffs. The card-draw loser must win the playoffs to move on.
But, there’s more. Hawaii Prep World learned after midnight from a source that instead of a card draw to break a regular-season tie, a playoff game would be squeezed in between the Oct. 7 regular-season ending games and the Oct. 14 semifinals, possibly on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The source, who did not want to be identified, said he got the information of a tiebreaker playoff directly from ILH executive director Blane Gaison.
HPW will be contacting the league office on Friday morning to determine which format is actually correct.
After the loss to Punahou on the Aloha Stadium Fieldturf, Saint Louis’ Cal Lee, the winningest head coach in Hawaii high school football history, was asked by reporters if he knew how the ILH would break a regular-season D-I tie if it happens.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s something you guys can figure out and tell us.”
Also, in Division II, if there is a two-way or three-way tie for the top of the regular-season standings, the coaches Hawaii Prep World spoke to believe that a card draw will determine the seeding. On Oct. 13, the No. 2 seed plays the No. 3 seed. Then, on Oct. 21, the winner of that game plays the No. 1 seed (regular-season champion). If the No. 1 seed loses that (playoff final) game, another game for the overall championship would be held Oct. 27.
Obviously, if our source is correct and D-I squeezes a playoff game in to determine seeding, D-II would also likely get the same deal in the case of a two-way tie. A three-way tie, ostensibly, would need two playoff games to break the tie, and it appears there wouldn’t be enough time for such a scenario.