Pupule ballot: Fantastical coulda-been bowl games

Konawaena running back Chauncey Mariani-Louis leaped over a Waipahu defender during the first quarter of an HHSSA Division II state semifinal game at Julian Yates Field in Kealakekua on Friday. Courtesy photo by Rick Winters

There may be enough reason to believe Kahuku has 1) the No. 1 team in the state, 2) has the most balanced offense, 3) the best front seven, 4) the most clutch performances under time constraints.

And yet, I keep voting for Saint Louis. I’m not 100-percent old school, but I usually list a defending state champion at No. 1 on my Star-Advertiser Top 10 ballot. So it was Saint Louis to start the football season, and the unbeaten Crusaders remain at the top of this list. Kahuku’s thrilling 35-31 win over Mililani was neither a minus or plus for me, since I’ve voted Kahuku at No. 2 for weeks. I’d have to go back and check, but I think it’s been the same all season. Kahuku is the defending OIA champion, didn’t lose in OIA play, and did nothing to change my perception. Mililani did plenty to challenge my viewpoint, and with a 21-7 first-half lead on Kahuku during the OIA championship game on Saturday, it sure seemed possible that we would have a changing of the guard.

Instead, Kahuku three-peated as league champion in what may have been the most dramatic, pendulum-swinging OIA title game in history.


Pupule FB ballot 11/6/17
1. Saint Louis Crusaders (8-0, 4-0 ILH)
2. Kahuku Red Raiders (10-1, 7-0 OIA Blue)
3. Mililani Trojans (10-1, 7-0 OIA Red)
4. Kamehameha Warriors (4-5, 0-4 ILH)
5. Punahou Buffanblu (5-3, 2-2 ILH)
6. Lahainaluna Lunas (10-1, 8-0 MIL)
7. Waianae Seariders (7-4, 5-2 OIA Blue)
8. Campbell Sabers (7-5, 5-2 OIA Blue)
9. Damien Monarchs (9-3, 5-1 ILH D-II)
10. Leilehua Mules (6-3, 5-2 OIA Red)

The biggest change on my ballot this week is the absence of Waipahu. The Marauders’ insane 53-50 loss at Konawaena truly stings for fans of the Black Flag. It is the first time in state tourney history that any team scored that many points and lost. I wasn’t at the game, but I kept an eye on the game thanks to a devout Wildcat fan’s Facebook live feed. And honestly, between all the scoring, penalties and injury time outs, when Waipahu scored a TD, then came up short on a two-point conversion, I thought the game was out of reach. It was 46-37 with a few minutes left. In the THIRD quarter. Somehow, I thought it was the fourth. That’s how long the game was, and as I surfed online and watched something else (forgettable) on TV, it wasn’t for another 45 minutes or so before I realized the game was far from over. That 53-50 basketball-looking final… as Billy Hull wrote, it’s an instant classic.

One fan from the Big Island texted me and asked how and why a school with such a large enrollment like Waipahu could or would play in Division II. The answer is simple: that’s where they belong. The OIA knows it. The school knows it. To be frank, some of the enrollment numbers on Oahu are skewed. Waipahu has its share of football-playing families. It also has a long history of talented, large students preferring not to play football — the 2.3 grade-point average requirement is a key obstacle that current coach Bryson Carvalho and his staff have begun to conquer — and, the biggest reason, a large Filipino immigrant population.

Most kids from other cultures aren’t into football. Some are, absolutely, but for the most part, they don’t have any interest or background in American football. Many of them don’t have the size to give them confidence about starting from scratch. So, yes, Waipahu seems to have a massive enrollment, but when you peel off the layers and discover how many families actually play football, it’s a modest number. Compare that to schools on the Big Island that are small, and in many cases, shrinking, yet almost all of them have a storied history and tradition with football that traces back to the plantation days. Immense community pride.

So fans at Julian Yates Field got to enjoy — or bemoan — one of the greatest wins in Konawaena history. And though Konawaena is nothing like the team that got blown out in its two preseason games (Kapaa, St. Francis), there’s clearly a case to be made for the Wildcats in the Top 10, and voters made it so by placing the ‘Cats at No. 10 in the poll today.

For me, it’s splitting hairs, the difference between many of these teams. But I try.

Breakdown
1. Saint Louis Crusaders (8-0, 4-0 ILH)
> The lone unbeaten team, defending state champ.

2. Kahuku Red Raiders (10-1, 7-0 OIA Blue)
3. Mililani Trojans (10-1, 7-0 OIA Red)

> Finally, head to head settled this. Sort of. That was a great game.

4. Kamehameha Warriors (4-5, 0-4 ILH)
5. Punahou Buffanblu (5-3, 2-2 ILH)

> One of my co-workers (and fellow voters) wondered aloud why Punahou, which beat Kamehameha in two of their three matchups, is behind Kamehameha in the poll. I know there’s recency bias involved, but the double-digit margin of victory by Kamehameha over Punahou (44-31) in the ILH playoffs, I have to think that mattered a lot to most voters. More than the overall head-to-head results this season.

6. Lahainaluna Lunas (10-1, 8-0 MIL)
7. Waianae Seariders (7-4, 5-2 OIA Blue)
8. Campbell Sabers (7-5, 5-2 OIA Blue)

> In the Star-Advertiser Top 10, the Lunas are at No. 7 and Waianae is at No. 6. For me, this has a bit more to do with the Lunas’ near-flawless record, wins over D-I programs, and as of last weekend, a dominant performance at the line of scrimmage in a close win over ‘Iolani. They’re about as one-dimensional as Waianae can be at times. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who believes Waianae (or Campbell) is superior to Lahainaluna. But in terms of success and what I believe — that the Lunas can hang with most teams in the Top 10 — they belong at No. 6. And Campbell deserves to be right there under Waianae after that amazing overtime loss to the Seariders on Saturday.

9. Damien Monarchs (9-3, 5-1 ILH D-II)
10. Leilehua Mules (6-3, 5-2 OIA Red)
11. St. Francis Crusaders (8-4, 4-2 ILH D-II)

> Lost at Leilehua 13-9 in preseason. Damien and St. Francis were at loggerheads all season. They should sandwich Leilehua, which beat St. Francis when the visiting Saints fumbled at the Mules’ 2-yard line in the final moments. Leilehua went on to finish second in the OIA Red. Looking at all this through two-tiered sunglasses makes it strange to view, but picture everything in three tiers, and there you have it: Damien, Leilehua and St. Francis are perfect fits there this season, and among the finest of that group, to boot. Note: The Star-Advertiser Top 10 has Hilo at No. 10 and Konawaena at No. 10. No Damien and no Leilehua.

12. Farrington Governors (5-5, 4-3 OIA Red)
13. Kapolei Hurricanes (5-5, 3-4 OIA Red)

> Governors beat Kapolei 28-7 at Skippa Diaz Stadium.

14. Konawaena Wildcats (9-2, 7-0 BIIF)
15. Waipahu Marauders (10-1, 7-0 OIA D-II)

> Home field makes a difference, but Konawaena still had to back it up and did so. Where else would I have two teams that combined for 103 points, nearly 1,200 yards of total offense, in a three-point final margin.

16. Pearl City Chargers (7-3, 6-1 OIA D-II)
17. Hilo Vikings (9-1, 6-1 BIIF)
18. ‘Iolani Raiders (4-6, 3-3 ILH D-II)

Hilo got past Maui 26-7 and will play for the D-I state title next week against Damien. Pearl City was done after losing by a shred to Waipahu. ‘Iolani, as mentioned earlier, lost to Lahainaluna on one of the weirdest coincidences during a single drive I can remember. Twice on one series in the second half, touchdown passes by the Raiders were called back. And there was a dropped TD pass during the same possession. Lahainaluna, which nearly lost a 35-10 lead, pulled out a close win.

More than anything, there is this: every coach I’ve spoken to in the past two weeks would have loved a chance to play more games, as many as three more. That’s the void that exists now with the OIA participating only in the Open Division and D-II of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Championships. The OIA sent three teams to Open (Kahuku, Mililani, Waianae) and one to D-II. That’s just four of its 22 football programs, the lowest ratio of state-tourney entrants of any league in the state. Four versus the 12 OIA teams that participated last year.

One longtime ILH official said the OIA never offered a reason for reducing its participation to this extreme, but I listed a bunch of possible explanations (last week) and there’s no good guy-bad guy scenario going on. But there are a lot of teams, players, coaches who would’ve played in the D-I state tourney had the OIA allowed it.

The OIA’s pullout from the tourney isn’t altogether rebellious or revolutionary. Remember, the original public-school athletic programs in the city jumped ship from the ILH in 1970 and merged with the Rural Oahu Interscholastic Association. Bypassing the D-I state tourney entirely was surprising, but not shocking.

Again, however, not a single coach told me he would’ve skipped the D-I tourney this season. Rod York has already expressed both support for his administration as well as great satisfaction in seeing his younger players develop during three extra weeks of practice during the 2016 D-I tourney.

While the top three OIA teams are in the Open Division state tourney, last year there were four OIA entrants. The fourth-place team this year would’ve been Campbell.


There were four more teams that went to the D-I state tourney in ’16. This year, those teams would have been Kapolei, Leilehua, Farrington and Moanalua.

“That would’ve been a heck of a D-I (state tourney),” Farrington coach Randall Okimoto said. “If it’s any excuse like money, you’re always going to find people willing to help the cause. I like what Rod York said about last year and how it helped them for this year. Especially for your JV kids coming up, it’s so, so valuable. You cannot replace those reps.”

Pearl City, the OIA D-II runner-up, would have been a very able competitor in the state tourney. The Chargers lost to Waipahu 23-22 in the league final.

Purists like the idea of leaving the state tournament to league champions only. We had something like that with the extremely small fields this year, including the four-team bracket in D-II. It’s probably one of the most convincing reasons why five of last weekend’s six games were thrillers to the end. The underneath games — the quarterfinals — did not exist this year. Top-shelf competition and drama, everything cut straight to that level of play.

It has been a factor in Maui and Hilo playing in a D-I semifinal, Damien and Kauai in the other. It sounds preposterous — four competitive, but far-from-dominant programs that deep into the state tourney only because Damien and Kauai are more familiar to observers as D-II football schools.

But it is, perhaps, another key step toward a three-tiered state tourney in ’18. Long overdue, but certainly not guaranteed.

19. Kauai Red Raiders (5-4, 4-2 KIF)
20. Moanalua Na Menehune (4-6, 3-4 OIA Blue)
21. Kailua Surfriders (4-5, 3-4 OIA Red)

Kauai gave Damien a major battle before losing to the Monarchs at Vidinha Stadium in the D-II state tourney. After winning the KIF, I had to wonder how the Red Raiders would fare against stronger competition, someone a notch tougher than Waimea and Kapaa.

And now, a quick trip through the parallel universe where non-state tourney teams of 2017 are actually playing in exhibition bowl games.

Leilehua vs. St. Francis — A great rematch as long as the Mules recover in time from key injuries, especially for QB Kona Andres.

Punahou vs. Kapolei — Again, the return of an injured QB (Stephen Barber) would make this a wild game to watch.

Campbell vs. Kamehameha — The Warriors were playing their best football of the season during the ILH playoffs. The Sabers have key injuries (RB Jacob Covington), but this would be a very watchable game.

Farrington vs. Baldwin — There’s some amazing history between these programs in the state tourney. Two fairly young, but very talented teams. That’s a lot of rep time they could’ve had if more games were accessible.

Pearl City vs. Kamehameha-Hawaii — Two excellent D-II programs. I’d love to see this.

Moanalua vs. Kealakehe — Both teams were playing their best late in the season.

Kailua vs. Waimea — One more game at historic Hanapepe Stadium?

Perhaps this is one too many exhibition games. But the top teams of the ILH and OIA meeting for bowl games? It’s not entirely far-fetched. An ILH official told me that there was some discussion about this, never materialized.

22, Kaimuki Bulldogs (5-4, 5-2 OIA D-II)
23. Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors (7-4, 5-2 BIIF)
24. Maui Sabers (5-5, 5-3 MIL)


I thought the Hilo-Maui game would be something like 13-7, a low-scoring battle between two run-heavy teams with stellar linebackers. I wasn’t off by too much…

25. Castle Knights (3-6, 3-4 OIA Red)
26. Baldwin Bears (4-6, 4-4 MIL)
27. Waimea Menehune (4-3, 3-3 KIF)
28. Pac-Five Wolfpack (1-8, 0-6 ILH D-II)
29. Kamehameha-Maui (4-6, 3-5 MIL)
30. Roosevelt Rough Riders (4-4, 4-3 OIA D-II)
31. Aiea Na Alii (2-6, 2-5 OIA Blue)
32. Kapaa Warriors (4-4, 2-4 KIF)
33. Kalani Falcons (4-4, 3-4 OIA D-II)
34. Radford Rams (1-8, 1-6 OIA Blue)
35. Nanakuli Golden Hawks (1-8, 1-6 OIA Red)
36. Kealakehe Waveriders (4-6, 4-3 BIIF)
37. Kalaheo Mustangs (2-6, 2-5 OIA D-II)
38. McKinley Tigers (1-7, 1-6 OIA D-II)
39. Keaau Cougars (3-4, 3-4 BIIF)
40. Honokaa Dragons (3-5, 2-5 BIIF)
41. Hawaii Prep Ka Makani (2-6, 1-6 BIIF)
42. Waiakea Warriors (1-9, 0-7 BIIF)
43. Waialua Bulldogs (0-8, 0-7 OIA D-II)
44. King Kekaulike Na Alii (0-8, 0-8 MIL)
45. Kaiser Cougars (0-7, 0-7 OIA Blue)

COMMENTS

  1. Alpha November 8, 2017 7:53 am

    I still like the bowl game idea.


  2. MAC Daddy November 8, 2017 10:48 am

    I love….the Bowl Game(s) proposal… for all the reasons that you stated ….
    *one thing, tho…just because a school has a large student population, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will have a strong athletic program….maybe the students are there for the ‘primary reason’—–to grow academically….ATHLETIC growth should be secondary…


  3. Hau'ulaBoy November 8, 2017 7:58 pm

    Love the Bowl series proposal. Need to get this printed in the newspaper. It would be a whole lot of fun to watch all these games. And the match ups and possibility of crazy match ups. Dude, this sounds like to much fun.


  4. Hau'ulaBoy November 8, 2017 8:07 pm

    I’m a RR4L and agree that St. Louis should be ranked number one for now. But, if Mill Vill should knock off St. Louis, shouldn’t all the ILH teams drop in rankings. Hypothetically speaking.


  5. Hau'ulaBoy November 8, 2017 8:14 pm

    And what did you mean by “sort of” under the Mililani ranking. What are you insinuating Pupule Paul?


  6. Paul Honda November 9, 2017 1:04 pm

    Hau‘ula Boy, I really don’t know what I was insinuating. Sort of could have been Maybe Not Yet. The possibility that these two teams could meet again (Mililani and Kahuku) makes me think Sort of. Sorry, it was 3 a.m. when I cranked this post out. But that game definitely framed these two teams as 1A and 1B in the OIA.


  7. RidgeRunnerE-5 November 9, 2017 7:21 pm

    Is it even possible for ILH teams to drop in the rankings?


  8. anywaaaays!! November 10, 2017 8:36 am

    “Sort of” is just Paul accidentally revealing his anti-kahuku bias. Kahuku should clearly be #2 after beating Mililani regardless of how close the game was. The fact that there was so much hesitation reveals how deep the ILH agenda runs


  9. anywaaaays!! November 10, 2017 8:39 am

    ILH teams will never drop in these rankings. ILH is completely dependent on football bringing in prestige to their overrated schools and drawing in students. They use their deep pockets to pay off media outlets and the HHSAA to keep them relevant in the rankings even though it’s clear that OIA > ILH


  10. hawaiianboy November 10, 2017 9:51 am

    Why do you have team with losing records in your top 10??? Cmon cuz!


  11. Paul Honda November 10, 2017 10:28 am

    The only “anti” around here is me being anti someone who uses (at least) four names on a single IP address.
    I’m open to debate on all polls and rankings. Show me yours.


  12. Telling It Like It Is November 10, 2017 6:01 pm

    Someone just got exposed!

    Hahaha.


  13. Football Fan 99 November 10, 2017 11:52 pm

    Haha, anywaaays got exposed. He’s 88, too meke, anywaaays, and good story. Mr. Honda exposed you buddy.

    I agree with most of the rankings. Good job for covering HS sports.


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