Many weeks have passed since I last posted my pupule ballot for the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10. It’s part science and math, part art, part pupuleness. It is, as always, not real food. It has the nutritional value of whipped cream. And yet, isn’t whipped cream the thing everyone allows onto their frappuccino at Starbucks? (I always ask for none.)
But first, some pupule honors for our friends who work tirelessly at the concession stands.
Campbell fried noodles
Chef Ligaya is there early and she’s there late, fashioning the best fried noodles I’ve had all season. To be fair, I haven’t ordered FN anywhere else yet this season. But there is no question she and that massive wok are tools for world peace. Just the perfect balance of noodle, sauce, green onion. I can’t put a measurement of moisture and texture Chef Ligaya has mastered. This is a $10 dish in a sit-down restaurant. Campbell sells It for a mere $5. Winner, winner, fried-noodles dinner. I had my second try over the weekend. Still fantastic. Consistency matters. Pupule meter: 4.0 (out of 4).
Kapolei shave ice
If you prefer old-school texture and thickness of those wondrous ice pebbles in your cup, this is the place for you. No, it’s as crunchy as a 1970s shave ice, but it is also not that instant meltdown ice powder most establishments serve today. Shave ice always tastes better while being consumed in the sun, and it’s rather hot and steamy in Kapolei on a football afternoon. Hits the spot. Pupule meter: 3.0 (out of 4).
Mililani acai bowl
This comes with the usual sliced banana, honey, acai. It’s another refreshing, yet healthy alternative to the many tasty staples on the Mililani menu. It ain’t cheap, but I never resist. Pupule meter: 3.5 (out of 4).
Leilehua steak plate
This comes with corn. The grill masters at Leilehua are very, very consistent. I love the medium-well steak here. Pupule meter: 3.7 (out of 4).
Previously known as “haole brownies”, it is almost not right to include Kamehameha brownies into the more common chocolate brownie category. The flavor is completely different, though the texture is always tender and addicting. Weird, but true. This would be even better with cold milk, but they don’t sell milk. I’ll bring my own next time. Even though I am usually lactose-intolerant these days. Yes, it is worth it. Pupule meter: 3.5 (out of 4). It would be 4 if they had walnuts in it.
‘Iolani dessert table
I am listing this as the “dessert table” because the parents there go into insanely great baking mode on the rare occasions the Raiders have a home game. There were four tables covered with homemade goodies last time I was there. Everything looked great. I couldn’t buy one of everything. But what I devoured was a great deal. They also have a shave ice stand nearby that was excellent. Pupule meter: 3.9 (out of 4).
Kahuku kalua pig/cabbage plate
It is massive. I didn’t have time to finish half. I wish I could have. You get your money’s worth and then some. Pupule says: 3.5 (out of 4).
Great concession stands I haven’t been to this season: Radford (laulau), Roosevelt (hamburger curry), Kaiser (hamburger curry, same recipe as Roosevelt), Konawaena (fresh roast pork, fresh fried fish). Also, War Memorial Stadium (Maui) had fantastic good when the Souzas ran the concession.
On to the ballot…
FB Top 10
1. Saint Louis
1. Saint Louis Crusaders (7-0, 6-0 ILH Open)
Last week: def. Farrington 72-6
Next: vs. Kamehameha, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Aloha Stadium
Top 10 wins: Waianae, Narbonne (Calif.)*, Kahuku, Punahou, Kapolei, Campbell, Farrington.
Top 10 losses: None.
Skinny: There was a cancelled game at Mililani on Aug. 25 that will not be made up. That led the ILH to eventually wipe out the other Mililani results for Punahou (Buffanblu won) and Kamehameha (Warriors lost). It’s interesting that though each ILH team has a colorful, full-gorge feast menu compared to years past, there will still be a three-week gap before the state tournament.
X-factor: Connor Apo has developed nicely since the start of the season. A fabulous athlete who needed game reps to get his progression skills going, he has stepped up. That will be crucial if Jayden de Laura ever gets injured again.
Did you know? Blazing WR Roman Wilson (15 receptions, 429 yards, five TDs) is only a junior.
Sumo rank: Yokozuna. Crusaders are No. 10 in the national rankings (MaxPreps). The Hakuho of Hawaii prep football.
2. Punahou Buffanblu (5-2, 5-2 ILH Open)
Last week: Bye
Next: @ Waianae, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Kapolei, Farrington, Mililani, Campbell, Kamehameha
Top 10 losses: Kahuku, Saint Louis
Skinny: The five wins over ranked teams are surpassed only by Saint Louis and Mililani. But the close loss to Saint Louis (35-28) said more about the state of the ILH and head-to-head play by the league’s top two teams. A 7-point loss to a nationally-ranked team sure isn’t bad. The loss at Kahuku to begin the season (Aug. 11) is telling. Kahuku was healthy and executing well. Kahuku is not that same team now due to injuries. Punahou remains fairly healthy.
X-factor: The bye week, of course, is a humongous advantage at this point of the season.
Did you know? Punahou had taken 10 games in a row from Kamehameha until Oct. 13 last year, when the Warriors prevailed 44-31.
Sumo rank: Yokozuna. Think Taiho.
3. Mililani Trojans (7-2, 5-0 OIA Open)
Last week: def. Kapolei 49-7
Top 10 wins: Farrington, Kamehameha, Campbell, Waianae, Kahuku, Kapolei
Top 10 losses: St. John Bosco (Calif.)*, Punahou
Skinny: The Trojans, from varsity to JV to the Mill Vill JPS program established a few years back, are about imposing their collective will on an opponent. It shows up in the scores. There has only been one game, win or lose, where the Trojans varsity has been in a game determined by 22 points or less. That mental edge makes up for a disadvantage in overall size and depth against most elite opponents. The loss to St. John Bosco, the nation’s No. 1 team is an exhibition, all things considered, that puts Mililani on the national map for future thought. But top play Punahou just one week later, getting home and dealing with jet lag, that’s one heck of a challenge. There’s a chance these two teams meet again at the state tourney.
X-factor: How far can the men of Troy advance without a substantial ground attack? Do they need to rush for 100 yards? Probably not. If they move the chains with short passes and the occasional first-down scramble by Dillon Gabriel, that’s all they might need.
Did you know? With 30 touchdown passes and just four interceptions so far in 2018, Gabriel has the best TD-INT ratio for quarterbacks with at least 30 scoring strikes since Tua Tagovailoa had 33 TDs and only three picks as a sophomore.
Sumo rank: Yokozuna. The late, great Chiyonofuji.
4. Campbell Sabers (5-3, 2-1 OIA Open)
Last week: def. Kahuku 28-27
Next: @ Kapolei, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Farrington, Kamehameha, Kahuku
Top 10 losses: Mililani, Punahou, Saint Louis
Skinny: Most times, a platoon system at QB this late into the season is not a positive. At Campbell, it worked marvelously against Kahuku as Krenston Kaipo and Kaniela Kalaola made big throws against a tough Kahuku defense. The four wins to begin the season, especially over Kamehameha, were impressive. Then came three lopsided losses to Top 5 foes. The win over a Kahuku is major and should provide a turning point for the Sabers.
X-factor: How far can the Sabers go with multiple ironmen at the skill positions? Unless Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa and Titus Mokiao-Atimalala go both ways, the Sabers don’t beat Kahuku.
Did you know? The victory was Campbell’s first over Kahuku at the Sabers’ field since 1977.
Sumo rank: Yokozuna. Think Musashimaru.
5. Kahuku Red Raiders (4-3, 1-2 OIA Open)
Last week: lost @ Campbell 28-27
Next: @ Farrington, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Punahou, Waianae, Kamehameha
Top 10 losses: Saint Louis, Mililani, Campbell
Skinny: In the days when 95 players filled the roster sheet, depth was incredible. Now, with roughly 75, depth is still strong, just not quite the same. So Thorton Alapa, the reserve QB, makes a tackle on kickoff coverage. Elite LB Miki Ah You goes down with a season-ending injury, and it will take time to get the rest of the defense situated. There isn’t a major drop-off, but every unit has a certain rhythm, and losing a leader like Ah You has a ripple effect. Kahuku will find a way. And losing to one of the top teams in the state on the road by a single point — a direct result of the regular holder being injured — is a snap-and-clear situation.
X-factor: Kahuku’s ground-and-pound approach was effective against Campbell, but only if they keep turnovers to a minimum. The sack and runback for a TD by Campbell proved to the the difference.
Did you know? At one point, Wes Alo-Maiava ran the ball seven plays in a row against Campbell. I haven’t seen that many in a row by a Kahuku rusher since Kesi Ah-Hoy did roughly double that consecutive-carry load in a game as a junior.
Sumo rank: Yokozuna. Think Akebono.
6. Kamehameha Warriors (4-4, 3-3 ILH Open)
Last week: def. Waianae 27-0
Next: vs. Saint Louis, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Kapolei, Farrington, Waianae
Top 10 losses: Mililani, Campbell, Kahuku, Punahou
Skinny: Coach Abu Maafala and staff have waited patiently for their team to develop a killer instinct in the second halves of games. They had Punahou at 14-all by halftime two weeks ago, then lost 30-14. A 27-0 win at Waianae last week builds some momentum for the big game this Friday.
X-factor: Hoku Arias is one of the most underrated defensive players in the state. The defense takes a lot of pride in its work and it starts in the middle with Arias. They’ve had all season to prepare for Goliath Saint Louis, and the Warriors have the defensive personnel to match up, but if they struggle to move the ball offensively, they’ll need a break or two on special teams.
Did you know? Alec Serrao (571 yards) and Reino Bush (403 yards) are among the top rushers in the state, but no Warrior RB has scored more than two touchdowns.
Sumo rank: Ozeki.
7. Moanalua Na Menehune (7-0, 6-0 OIA D-I)
Last week: def. Waipahu 29-5
Next: vs. Nanakuli, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Leilehua, Damien, Waipahu
Top 10 losses: None
Skinny: It has been a bizarre, phenomenal first seven games for Moanalua. A one-dimensional offense with three wins over Top 10 teams, and even the home games are not at home due to lighting issues. The Moanalua defense has been lights-out, pun intended, in the last five games. They’ve permitted just 35 points (7 per game), racking up signature wins over Leilehua, Damien and Waipahu.
X-factor: DT Tupu Alualu proved his ability and motor during the GPA Combine last May against many of the state’s top linemen and earning the event’s top D-lineman honor. He has not let up since, and is a tantalizing prospect as a 3-technique with mobility and tremendous tenacity.
Did you know? LB Micah Kim, who had two sacks in the win over Waipahu, is a “faster, skinnier” version of Alualu, according to Coach Savaii Eselu.
Sumo rank: Ozeki. Think Shimizugawa, an old-school champion who didn’t have the girth of today’s sumotori, but overcame adversity.
8. Leilehua Mules (7-2, 5-1 OIA D-I)
Last week: def. Damien 23-17
Next: vs. Radford, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: ‘Iolani, Waipahu, Damien
Top 10 losses: Farrington, Moanalua
Skinny: The home loss to Moanalua four weeks ago may have served as a jolt offensively. The Mules have scored 113 points in three wins since, while the defense continues to be consistent.
X-factor: Despite missing three games due to injury, James McGary has rushed for 517 yards and five TDs.
Did you know? This historic battle between military-impacted schools near the sea (Pearl Harbor) and shore (Schofield Barracks) has been lopsided for two decades. Leilehua has won the last 14 matchups. Radford’s last win in the series was on Oct. 23, 1987. The Rams won 13-7, limiting an all-time great, Adrian Murrell, to just 29 rushing yards.
Sumo rank: Ozeki. Think Konishiki, whose success sparked a resurgence of great sumotori from Hawaii.
9. ‘Iolani Raiders (7-2, 6-1 ILH D-I)
Last week: def. Castle 41-14
Next: @ Aiea, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Waipahu, Damien
Top 10 losses: Clackamas (Ore.)*, Leilehua
Skinny: Only one team, Leilehua, has scored more than 19 points against ‘Iolani. That was also the Raiders’ lone defeat in OIA-ILH play.
X-factor: Kaua Nishigaya has racked up 845 yards and 13 TDs on the ground, giving the Raiders a much-needed ball-control component.
Did you know? Three Raiders have at least 27 receptions, led by Carter Kamana (66 catches, 792 yards, eight TDs.
Sumo rank: Sekiwake. The Raiders have come a long way with a first-year starter at QB and a relatively small defense. The only difference between ‘Iolani and Kamehameha/Leilehua/Moanalua? Those three teams have three wins apiece over Top 10 foes. The cancelled game with Moanalua is one that fans would love to see eventually. It could happen at the state tournament.
10. Lahainaluna Lunas (7-0, 6-0 MIL)
Last week: def. Maui 38-0
Next: @ Kamehameha-Maui, Friday, 7 p.m.
Top 10 wins: None
Top 10 losses: None
Skinny: The mighty Lunas are the program that is more than happy to distance itself from modern-day, social-media chatter. They don’t churn out 400-yard passers or 200-yard rushers. They simply hone their skills and perfect the wing offense that has been a staple for decades. The argument that Lahainaluna belongs in D-I is valid in terms of sheer wins, but this is still a mid-sized school that relies on discipline and execution more than gargantuan size and numbers.
X-factor: Voting for the Lunas is a matter of taste. They haven’t faced a ranked foe all year. They didn’t face a Top 10 team in preseason and normally don’t. They haven’t gotten much competition from the MIL’s D-I programs. Whether it’s inability or unwillingness to schedule Open and D-I teams from Oahu in preseason, I need more quality wins to vote them higher.
Did you know? No MIL opponent has scored more than 7 points against the Lunas this season.
Sumo rank: Sekiwake.
On the cusp
Kapolei Hurricanes (3-5, 1-2 OIA Open)
Last week: lost to Mililani 49-7
Next: vs. Campbell, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: Downey (Calif.)*, Waianae
Top 10 losses: Kamehameha, Punahou, Farrington, Saint Louis, Mililani
Skinny: The roller coaster is far from over. The ‘Canes are in the hunt for a playoff berth in OIA Open with Campbell and Kahuku remaining on the regular-season slate.
X-factor: All three of Kapolei’s QBs has completed less than 50 percent of attempts. If that number gets over 50 percent, the ‘Canes have more than enough defense, ground attack and receiving talent to move the team to the next level.
Did you know? Kapolei has a 6-5 series record over neighboring rival Campbell, including wins in the last three matchups. … Offensive lineman Julius Buelow committed to Washington last week. He has 19 scholarship offers. His teammate, linebacker Peni Naulu, committed to Washington State on Sept. 5.
Sumo rank: Sekiwake.
St. Francis Saints (8-0, 7-0 ILH D-II)
Last week: def. Kalani 52-0
Next: @ Roosevelt, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Top 10 wins: None
Top 10 losses: None
Skinny: It’s never easy to gauge a team like the Saints, who have not faced a Top 10 foe all season. They have college-level talent on the roster, but the lack of depth means this is a true small-school program that needs some athletes to play two ways. RB Jonan Aina-Chaves returned from injury recently and eased past the 1,000-yard mark against Kalani.
X-factor: With a state berth sewn up, the Saints will have a three-week break after this week. They are not eligible to get a No. 1 seed in the D-II state tourney because the ILH is not officially recognizing a champion in D-I and D-II because there are only two teams. That means the Saints will have to win three games in the state tournament to be crowned champions, and a possible St. Francis-Lahainaluna semifinal would be similar to the Kaiser-Lahainaluna matchup in 2013.
Sumo rank: Sekiwake.