Pupule ballot: Leilehua soars, Damien hangs on

Leilehua quarterback Max Nichols has plenty of weapons to get the ball to on offense. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

Damien’s clutch win over Waipahu makes a big difference for voters.

But are the panelists ignoring Moanalua? The air force of Na Menehune are gripping and ripping the pigskin, or rather, quarterback Nick Au is. Moanalua doesn’t crack this ballot, but that could change depending on how the matchup with Leilehua — another red-hot squad — goes on Friday.

Here’s how I voted in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10 this week.

Pupule ballot
Football Top 10
Monday, Sept. 10, 2018

1. Saint Louis Crusaders (3-0, 2-0 ILH Open)
Top 10 wins: Waianae, Narbonne (Calif.), @ Mililani, Kahuku.
Top 10 losses: none.
Next: vs. Punahou, Saturday.

Skinny: After a decisive win over No. 2 Kahuku, MaxPreps dropped Saint Louis to No. 12 nationally. They’ve shown no weakness in any phase or at any position. Defensively, this is starting to look like, possibly, one of the best units ever at Saint Louis.

X-factor: As well as they’ve played, the standard of excellence is practically unreachable. The Crusaders want a shutout every week, and yet in three dominant wins, they haven’t notched one. Resting starters late in games is a higher priority.

Did you know? The high-flying run-and-shoot offense has run the ball 70 times and passed it just 58.

2. Campbell Sabers (4-0, 1-0 OIA Open)
Top 10 wins: Farrington, Kamehameha.
Top 10 losses: none.
Next: @ Mililani, Saturday.

Skinny: You only play the opponent who lines up in front of you. Campbell’s strength of schedule thus far hasn’t been as chock full of power as some other Top 10 teams. Kamehameha gave the Sabers their first major test. Now it’s a four-week stretch that is unmatched: @ Mililani, Punahou, Saint Louis and Kahuku. When fans dreamt about OIA-ILH football during the regular season, this is what the result is.

X-factor: The Sabers have two injured starters, which isn’t unusual as all OIA and ILH Open teams near the midpoint of their busiest, most challenging regular seasons ever. But we’ve already seen coaches in the OIA opt to rest starters with injuries because their games against ILH teams do not count in the league standings. It’s the smart move. Campbell goes deep into its roster, and that may be the advantage Coach Darren Johnson and staff are building up.

Did you know? Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa is a standout defensive back and pass catcher, but he has thrown one pass this season, a completion for 60 yards. That’s a passer rating of 604.

Nursing leg injuries, Kahuku’s Enokk Vimahi and Miki Ah You get a ride to the team bus after a 30-14 loss to No. 1 Saint Louis. Sept. 8, 2018. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

3. Kahuku Red Raiders (3-1, 2-0 OIA Open)
Top 10 wins: Punahou, @ Waianae
Top 10 losses: Saint Louis
Next: vs. Kamehameha, Aloha Stadium, Friday.

Skinny: Normally, a 1-versus-2 duel settles any doubt, but I wonder how Kahuku’s offense would’ve done if 1) starting QB Thorton Alapa had more game reps coming in (he may have been injured earlier), and 2) Robbie Sauvao had started. Either way, Saint Louis’ defense was in shutdown mode, and yet Sauvao — who entered the game during the third quarter after an injury to Alapa — clearly has excellent feel for the pass rush while in the pocket. That gave the Crusaders some problems. I like Kahuku as a No. 2, but Campbell gets the nod as an unbeaten team with at two Top 10 victories.

X-factor: The schedule is alluring for fans, but coaches are going to be smart. When LT Enokk Vimahi and LB Miki Ah You suffered injuries against Saint Louis, they sat the rest of the game. Both players said they could’ve finished if this was a championship game. It’s not much different from a typical in-league (OIA) regular-season game. But the big picture matters, especially with Vimahi injured for the second time already this season. Rest. Heal. Get ready for the playoffs.

Did you know? The Red Raiders have run the ball 115 times and aired it out 100. That’s a run/pass ratio of 53/47.

4. Punahou Buffanblu (3-1, 3-1 ILH Open)
Top 10 wins: @ Kapolei, @ Farrington, @ Mililani
Top 10 losses: @ Kahuku
Next: vs. Saint Louis, Aloha Stadium, Saturday

Skinny: I don’t know if I’ve seen a schedule quite like this in the first four games for any team. Ever. All four on the road, away games, on the opponent’s field. And for ILH teams, these crossover games count in their league standings. It’s what the ILH wanted, to have way more games, no matter what. Coming out of this stretch 3-1 is a feat, no question. Having a bye between the second and third games (Aug. 24) definitely helped.

X-factor: Since the loss to Kahuku, Punahou has gained momentum, and the 43-21 win at Mililani last week has the Buffanblu peaking. The same goes for their ground game with RBs Vincent Terrell and Sitiveni Kaufusi. If they can move the chains on the ground, that can change everything against Saint Louis and its potent aerial attack.

Did you know? QB Hugh Brady has thrown only two interceptions in 156 attempts. With 1,188 passing yards and 12 TDs, his passer rating is a solid 138.07. When a QB has a package of statistics like this, he sometimes complements them with strong rushing numbers (think Cam Newton), or is in position to use his legs at an opportune time. Brady has just 15 rushing attempts (including sacks) at this point. Also, unlike big-play passers with average completion rates and high TD numbers (think Jim Plunkett), Brady sprays the ball from sideline to sideline thanks to good field vision and a truckload of talented receivers.

5. Mililani Trojans (3-2, 1-0 OIA Open)
Top 10 wins: Farrington, Kamehameha
Top 10 losses: St. John Bosco, Punahou
Next: vs. Campbell, Saturday

Skinny: Probably no one in brown and gold wants to hear this, but taking on the No. 1 team in the nation, flying home and then playing a very good Punahou squad just ain’t easy. Yes, Punahou played better, but all things being equal, I expect a very close game the next time they play.

X-factor: The Trojans should be much more rested for this key OIA showdown against the Sabers. Much of this will be QB Dillon Gabriel against Campbell DB Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa. The chess match will be worth viewing.

Did you know? Cy Kuboyama-Hayashi’s primary position is WR (nine catches, 150 yards, three TDs), but he is also their punter and backup QB. He has thrown three passes (0-for-3, one pick) and also has one carry on a fake punt for 45 yards. And he is also the holder on kicks.

6. Kamehameha Warriors (2-2, 1-2 ILH Open)
Top 10 wins: Kapolei
Top 10 losses: @ Mililani, @ Campbell
Next: vs. Kahuku, Aloha Stadium, Friday

Skinny: One of the most improved teams so far might be Kamehameha, even if the win-loss record doesn’t reveal this. The Warriors will have their shot in the ILH playoffs regardless of how they do against OIA opponents, but they’re playing without any reservation, just as Punahou and Saint Louis are.

X-factor: Can the Warriors establish a running game against Kahuku’s steely front seven? Kamehameha has two go-to RBs in Reino Bush and Alec Serrao. Christmas Togiai has been efficient with a 60 percent completion rate and a relatively low three picks in 84 pass attempts. His ability to run makes any play-action call potentially huge against one of the state’s best front sevens.

Did you know? The Warriors and Red Raiders last played in 2011, a 13-3 preseason win at Aloha Stadium by Kahuku.

7. Leilehua Mules (4-1, 3-0 OIA D-I)
Top 10 wins: ‘Iolani
Top 10 losses: Farrington
Next: vs. Moanalua, Friday

Skinny: Perhaps no team has turned it around since Week 1 as dramatically as the mighty Mules. First-year starting QB Max Nichols has settled in and, at times, looks like a young Andrew Manley. The Mules have not allowed more than 19 points since Farrington, but Moanalua’s aerial attack may turn this matchup into a high-possession, high-scoring circus.

X-factor: The return of RB James McGary has resulted in offensive fireworks. Despite missing the first three games to injury (finger), McGary may produce one of the top rushing statistical lines of the year.

Did you know? WR Jeremy Evans already has seven TD receptions (23 catches, 361 yards).

8. Kapolei Hurricanes (3-2, 1-0 OIA Open)
Top 10 wins: @ Downey (Calif.), Waianae
Top 10 losses: Kamehameha, Punahou
Next: @ Farrington, Saturday

Skinny: The Hurricanes are humming. Non-league losses to Kamehameha and Punahou sharpened the ‘Canes, who have since beaten Downey and Waianae. Doing it with a sophomore at QB (Noa Bailey) has been a revelation, even though Christian Rapis is now healthy after suffering an injury early in the season.

X-factor: Kapolei accumulated five sacks and five interceptions against Waianae. Waianae was unable to establish a ground attack, and Farrington will be in a similar predicament. If the Govs can move the chains and keep their defense resting on the sideline, this game is a toss-up.

Did you know? Farrington defeated Kapolei last year 28-7 at Skippa Diaz Stadium.

9. Lahainaluna Lunas (4-0, 3-0 MIL)
Top 10 wins: none
Top 10 losses: none
Next: vs. Baldwin, Saturday

Skinny: Divisional classification is strictly on paper for MIL football teams. The Lunas have outscored league foes 91-9 in three games, and in Week 1, they routed Kapaa 30-10 on the road at Vidinha Stadium. Offense, defense, special teams, the Lunas execute with elite-level discipline and fundamentals. They just do.

X-factor: It’s already time for Lahainaluna to play Baldwin a second time. This time, the game is on the Lunas’ field. Who beats the Lunas in West Maui? It’s been a long time, I think.

Did you know? Former standout DE Hercules Mata‘afa now plays for the Minnesota Vikings. Mata‘afa, 22, is currently on injured reserve.

10. Damien Monarchs (3-1, 3-0 ILH D-I)
Top 10 wins: Waipahu
Top 10 losses: Mt. Spokane (Wash.)
Next: vs. ‘Iolani, Saturday

Skinny: The Monarchs came up in the clutch with a last-second TD to win at Waipahu 13-10. They may not have the prettiest victories, but they do it with sound fundamentals in all three phases. They’ve learned how to win big games over the past three years.

X-factor: Taking on ‘Iolani in a key ILH showdown is often a great show for fans. Last year, Damien won 35-21 and, in overtime, 42-35.

Did you know? Since the ILH went to a classification-based schedule, Damien has flourished.

2015: 6-2. Lost to Konawaena 42-33 (HHSAA D-II).
2016: 7-3. Lost to Kapaa 21-14 (HHSAA D-II).
2017: 10-4. Def. Kauai 13-10, lost to Hilo 35-19 (HHSAA D-I).

On the cusp
Moanalua (3-0, 3-0 OIA D-I)
‘Iolani (3-2, 2-1 ILH D-I)
Waipahu (3-2, 2-0 OIA D-I)
St. Francis (4-0, 3-0 ILH D-II)


  1. Jimmy H September 13, 2018 8:10 pm

    We’ll see how Cambell does. I’m not a big fan of putting them at #2 just because they “play who is front of them.” Your rankings so your call though. Great article. Thank you for the read.

    Mililani 45
    Cambell 28

  2. Coach C September 13, 2018 8:27 pm

    Since Campbell is undefeated for now, understand the #2 rank. You are right about the ??? in the Alapa start. Sauvao has better movement in the pocket, and Alapa is a good receiver. Right now the first task for the OIA is to make the top3. When State starts, regular season win/loss is moot. The big challenge is to keep your studs injury free.

  3. Jacob Makaiwi September 13, 2018 8:52 pm

    Yeah awesome article man! It’s definitely an exciting year for Hawaii high school football. I especially love the Open Division. The competition at that level is amazing! No more blow out games. There were some, like Waianae and Farrington, but It’s definitely not a cake walk week in and week out in the Open Division. There’s no doubt who will be the best in the state for whoever wins the Open Division crown in the end.

    I wish Leilehua shined during week 1 against Farrington how they are shining now, but it’s okay. It doesn’t count for their Division. And having McGary back from preseason injury is definitely a game changer for them. I really hope by the end of the season that they can prove they are actually a top 10 team in the state though they lost a preseason game to Farrington. If they win everything convincingly and get a D1 state championship title and stay undefeated in Division 1. I think they’ll deserve top ten. And if they get into the Open Division next year, I hope they can prove they belong there. It’s unfortunate that they lost to Farrington (currently winless in their Division). Because even if Leilehua wins D1 state champ and go undefeated in their division, their loss to farrington will have people doubt the ability of the Mules to be a good Open Division team. But it’s all good. I’m gonna cheer on my Mighty Mules til their last game of the season and on to next year. I’m happy their on this poll, but I hope they prove to me and the rest of the state that they really belong there.

    Good luck to the rest of the teams throughout the season! I’m excited to see what happens with the games this weekend! #GoMules

  4. Dafun September 13, 2018 9:21 pm

    In no way should Campbell be ranked #2. They are not above kahuku, St Louis, mililani, or punahou

  5. who dat September 14, 2018 7:02 am

    Who are the “panelists” anyways?

  6. Coach C September 14, 2018 8:34 am

    Question? With the Open under a 2 year “trial” period, can a D1 team,OIA or ILH, break into the Open for 2019? Is there any rule that Division camps move up?

  7. Jacob Makaiwi September 14, 2018 1:49 pm

    @Coach C! Man that’s a good question! I just assumed that’s what would happen. I’m basing it off my knowledge on when there used to be OIA red and white divisions. Usually the best teams from the white would move up to red and the worst from red would move down to white Division year to year. But that was a long time ago. I don’t know if they’ve done that recently. I gotta do more research but I found an article on this site from February and just found this:

    “For 2018 and 2019 under a two-year pilot program, the OIA and ILH will play a full slate of interleague, nonleague, regular-season games, according to sources from both leagues.”

    It’s pretty much reiterating what you just said. And it mentioned all the current Open Division teams in that article. And because they mentioned all those Open Division teams in that article I’m guessing from this and from what you said that the teams will remain this way through all 3 divisions until after next year. I just want my Mules to play with the Big Dogs in Open Division. I know they haven’t been State Title contenders (in the best division) in a while how they used to be in 2004-2012, but I think they could do alright in the Open. But I guess they’re in the Divison they belong this year and next year. But maybe they will do OIA switches between divisions next year. I doubt they’d do that with the ILH Open and D1 teams though. We’ll see. I’ll do more research to figure this out though man. Sorry I just assumed my Mules could work there way into the Open next year by winning their division this year, but maybe things will remain the same in all divisions next year too. Great question Coach C #GoMules

  8. Northshore September 14, 2018 6:33 pm

    I believe that the leagues used past history when they made the alignment for the three divisions. As of now, nothing is permanent since it’s a pilot program for two years. Promoting division champions to the next level will not be the solution because most schools rebuild after a winning season and get “bus-up” the next several years after moving up. Enrollment should be the criteria and once locked in, they have to take their licks or shape up in that division they were designated like in the 50’s…ILH and ROIA. Schools should also have the option to move up but not down and when the teams are aligned, all schools will be locked in…no moving unless they have an increase in enrollment.

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