It’s through no fault of their own, really.
Every year, the Star-Advertiser Football Preseason Top 10 is released in countdown fashion. By midseason, few fans remember who was ranked where. But it’s safe to say, those teams that were neglected by voters — coaches and media — can use the snub as fuel.
That might be the case for Kaiser, which dominated the OIA White last year and went on to capture the Division II state title. First-year head coach Cameron Higgins prefers otherwise.
“I tell my players, it’s not about where you start, but where you finish,” Higgins texted on Wednesday morning.
That sentiment is probably shared by perennial D-II powerhouse ‘Iolani. Kaiser and ‘Iolani teams each collected 21 points in the voting, not far behind No. 10 Kapolei.
Though it’s been some time since Kapolei was in the title picture of the OIA’s Red Conference (Division I), voters don’t seem to pay mind. Not only do the Hurricanes play in a tougher level of football, they churn out college players every year. Big players, the kind who move on to FBS programs.
Kapolei was not in last year’s first poll, but voters are apparently quite optimistic about the ‘Canes’ massive offensive line and the addition of former Kahuku assistant coach Darren Johnson. All signs point to the kind of power ground game that Johnson favored as a head coach at Kailua a decade ago.
“Being in the top 10, it’s a double-edged sword,” Hurricanes coach Darren Hernandez said Wednesday morning. “As a player, you want recognition for the hard work you’ve put in, but you don’t want to believe your clippings. These are high school kids, so we understand that going in. it’s not a bad thing.”
Maybe ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look is right. Maybe teenagers don’t read the newspaper much, let alone pay attention to polls.
“I don’t think they really care. They know they don’t deserve to be in the Top 10. They haven’t done anything,” Look said on Wednesday morning. “We’re not even talking about it.”
Lahainaluna could gripe a bit, though it’s unlikely that the Lunas — like the Cougars and Raiders — aren’t the type of program that relies on rankings for motivation. In fact, Lahainaluna shares a mantra that many other squads prefer: better to be out of sight and out of mind. At least until the postseason.
Neighbor Island teams comprise the rest of the list of “also receiving votes”. Behind Lahainaluna (12 points), there’s defending KIF champion Kauai (9), defending BIIF D-I champ Hilo (6), defending MIL D-I champ Baldwin (5), and with one point, Maui.
It’s not always this way. A year ago, Lahainaluna came in at No. 10 to start off the preseason countdown and ‘Iolani opened at No. 8. But, once again, Baldwin didn’t crack the Top 10 and Kealakehe, which had a D-I dynasty in the BIIF just a few short years ago, didn’t even garner a single point.
The biggest preseason snub last year was Campbell, which emerged as a state-tourney qualifier, which just goes to show — voting on teams before a single scrimmage is played is merely educated guessing. More art than science.