Hawaii high school football already has one 2019 league champion.
Molokai wrapped up the MIL 8-man championship with a 54-30 victory at home against Lanai last Saturday. The Farmers (4-2), who played and lost two 11-man, nonleague games this season, finished 4-0 in the MIL for its fifth straight title.
“We’re really pleased,” Molokai coach Mike Kahale said. “We’re slowly trying to build the right football culture for long-term success. Build the culture and success will follow.”
According to Kahale, Molokai is open to moving up to 11-man football, but he is in no hurry right now. A lot depends on what happens with the league itself. There are four less 8-man teams this year in the state than last season — three instead of seven. Gone are all three BIIF teams (Pahoa, Ka’u and Kohala) who moved up to 11-man. Also, Seabury Hall did not field a team in the MIL this year.
“It kind of really depends on where the 8-man league goes,” he said. “We’re a small school with just over 300 students. The last thing we want to do is jump too early and jeopardize the program overall. We would want to make sure the numbers justify a jump. We had 14 or 15 seniors this year, which is twice as many as we’ve had the past few years. I think we have the talent, but I’m not sure about the depth. In the two 11-man games we played this year (39-0 loss at Kamehameha-Maui, and 37-0 loss at Nanakuli), we took our lumps, but it was definitely a good experience that we can reflect on.”
Kahale is hoping Seabury Hall comes back in the mix next year so the league will have a six-game (instead of four) schedule.
“We don’t want to just leave Lanai and Hana,” he added. “We do have a loyalty to 8-man. If we can get a six-game schedule and if teams could add one or two 11-man games, it would bode well.”
Molokai is one of the original MIL 8-man teams — along with Seabury Hall and St. Anthony.
In 2019, the Farmers’ leaders included quarterback/defensive back Kaimana Nakayama, two-way lineman Vaai Seumalo, safety Landon Kaneakua and halfback/linebacker Jordan Kupau.
“Kaimana filled in whatever role we needed him in the last few years,” Kahale said. “And he really stepped up this year at quarterback and finished great. Against Lanai, it felt like a championship game and he played the best game of his career with four TD passes.
“Vaai was a surprise for us, a first-year player as a senior. He’s athletic and we even lined him at QB to run the ball. And the kid has an arm, too. He threw a 50-yard TD pass that was called back against Lanai.
“Landon has been real steady for us, an all-star the last two years and he will probably be an all-star this year, too. He has a passion for the game, a great tackler with a nose for the football.
“Jordan started on both sides. If he focused on one side, he would have done more as a halfback. He’s the quiet assassin. He doesn’t say two words and gets the job done.”
The Pine Lads took second place with a 2-2 mark. A year ago, Molokai and Lanai shared the league crown.
Here’s a look at the playoff scenarios in all of the other Neighbor Islands leagues in Hawaii as teams make their case for a state-tournament berth:
Kapaa is in the driver’s seat at 4-0, needing a victory over Waimea on Oct. 18 at Vidinha Stadium to clinch the KIF championship and the state Division II berth that goes along with it.
The Warriors (4-1 overall) play a nonleague game at home against BIIF opponent Kamehameha-Hawaii (7-2) on Saturday.
The Menehunes (3-3, 2-2), who are idle this week, can stay in the league chase with a victory over Kapaa next week.
Kauai (1-5, 0-4) is out of the postseason picture.
MIL Division I
Baldwin (3-3, 3-2) clinched the first-round Division I league title and are a half-game ahead of Maui (1-6, 0-6) in the race for the second round.
In the second round so far, the Bears are 0-1 and the Sabers are 0-2. Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium between the two squads will likely determine the second-round title.
If Baldwin takes the second round, no playoff will be needed and the Bears will go on to states. If Maui is the second-round winner, a playoff will determine the overall title and the state berth.
MIL Division II
Lahainaluna (7-1, 6-0) has the inside edge, but Kamehameha-Maui (4-3, 3-3) and King Kekaulike (3-4, 2-3) both have a shot at the championship and state berth.
The Lunas already own the first round, having gone 4-0. They’re 2-0 so far in the second round, ahead of both the Warriors (1-1 second round) and Na Alii (1-0 second round) — who play each other tonight.
A possible pivotal matchup is scheduled for Oct. 19, when Lahainaluna hosts King Kekaulike.
BIIF Division I
Hilo, ranked No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10, is the big dog here and a front-runner for the championship and state berth. The Vikings (8-0, 7-0) need one more win to clinch a spot into the league title game, and they can do it with a win Saturday at Waiakea.
Konawaeana (6-2, 6-1) is also looking good for a spot in the title game. The Wildcats still have a chance at the regular-season title and it may come down to their next matchup against Hilo, which won 43-0 the first time around.
The Vikings and Wildcats meet at Hilo on Oct. 25 and could conceivably go at it again the following week for all the marbles.
Kealakehe (5-3, 4-3) is still in the chase, but the Waveriders need help with either Vikings or Wildcats losses.
BIIF Division II
Kamehameha-Hawaii (7-2, 6-0) and Hawaii Prep (5-1, 5-1) have clinched spots in the title game. The Warriors and Ka Makani will meet in the regular-season finale at Kamehameha-Hawaii and then again in the league championship game a week later for a spot in states.