It’s a slightly lonely feeling, seeing all these good teams leave the dance. As I mentioned last week, losing eight teams/spots in the state-tournament field from last year’s wild and wooly event — which had 20 teams in three tiers — is a major bummer.
In lieu of maximum participation and exhibition bowl matchups, the season (to me) has been cut short, short, short for too many programs. I’m also certain there are a few wrestling and basketball coaches who are happy their football guys are already available for the first week of preseason.
Pupule FB ballot 10/30/17
1. Saint Louis Crusaders (8-0, 4-0 ILH)
2. Kahuku Red Raiders (9-1, 7-0 OIA Blue)
3. Mililani Trojans (10-0, 7-0 OIA Red)
4. Kamehameha Warriors (4-5, 0-4 ILH)
5. Punahou Buffanblu (5-3, 2-2 ILH)
6. Lahainaluna Lunas (9-1, 8-0 MIL)
7. Waipahu Marauders (10-0, 7-0 OIA D-II)
8. Campbell Sabers (7-4, 5-2 OIA Blue)
9. Waianae Seariders (6-4, 5-2 OIA Blue)
10. Damien Monarchs (9-3, 5-1 ILH D-II)
The only change is the re-entry of Damien to my list, replacing Leilehua. The Monarchs’ thrilling win over St. Francis in the ILH D-II title game was epic. I still long to see a St. Francis-Leilehua re-match bowl game in a parallel universe somewhere nearby.
Rankings, and especially the ballot of one voter, are all relative. Especially at the high school level. It is not broccoli. It is not rice, white or brown. It is and always will be whipped cream. And whipped cream makes every latte a little better. I stopped drinking mocha latte many months ago. But I still miss it.
Here’s a scan of all the teams that are below No. 10 on my ballot. It is not scientific. As always, this list is based on pupule logic. A little common sense. A lot of head to head. And the final few deciding factors are directly related to the people who invented coin flips, jun ken po and paper football. Gut feeling matters on this ballot when head to head is not available. Let’s take a pupule look.
11. Leilehua Mules (6-3, 5-2 OIA Red)
12. St. Francis Saints (8-4, 4-2 ILH D-II)
If the Saints cross the goal line in those final moments and win that preseason game at Hugh Yoshida Stadium, yes. Of course. The Saints would be at No. 11. Leilehua won 13-9. Most of this world loves a high-scoring game, myself included. But there’s nothing quite like a defensive battle, mainly in the final quarter. Both in football and basketball. Soccer at the highest level is an exception, highly entertaining. Otherwise, it can be two hours of stall-ball, and the solution is to do a pre-game shootout so that at least one team will not be stalling. Moving on.
13. Farrington Governors (5-5, 4-3 OIA Red)
14. Kapolei Hurricanes (5-5, 3-4 OIA Red)
15. Pearl City Chargers (7-3, 6-1 OIA D-II)
There’s a case to be made for Pearl City, the OIA D-II finalist, to rank higher because of its narrow loss to Waipahu. On balance, though, the Chargers didn’t post win over a Top 10 team. Farrington beat Kapolei and Kailua, the latter on the road. Kapolei beat Campbell, Waianae and Kailua — all on the road. Farrington did beat Kapolei 28-7.
16. Konawaena Wildcats (8-2, 7-0 BIIF)
17. Hilo Vikings (8-1, 6-1 BIIF)
18. ‘Iolani Raiders (4-5, 3-3 ILH D-II)
The Wildcats, sans a significant number of players in preseason, got walloped by Kapaa and St. Francis before embarking on the current eight-game win streak. One of those wins, at home, was over Hilo 24-14. Hilo overpowered ‘Iolani 62-35 in preseason.
19. Moanalua Na Menehune (4-6, 3-4 OIA Blue)
20. Kailua Surfriders (4-5, 3-4 OIA Red)
Kailua blanked Moanalua 44-0 in the first league game of the season. Then Moanalua upset Kailua 17-14 in the playoffs to end the Surfriders season.
21. Kauai Red Raiders (5-3, 4-2 KIF)
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)
Technically, Kauai is D-I and will play in the state tourney at that level. How do Kaimuki and KS-Hawaii end up sandwiched by D-I teams? It’s fair to say that the Bulldogs are talented, physical and tough for defenses to read thanks to a balanced offense. Depth has been the challenge for the Bulldogs. Their losses were to ‘Iolani, which wore Kaimuki down (cramp issues) starting in the second quarter on a sunny afternoon at Eddie Hamada Field; Pearl City, could’ve gone either way, 17-15; Waipahu, 35-14, a deeper team once again that wore Kaimuki down with constant passing-game pressure downfield; and Pearl City 7-0 in the playoffs.
Those results help make Kaimuki decipherable on this list. Kauai beat Kamehameha-Hawaii 10-7 and lost to St. Francis 42-0 in preseason. The Red Raiders then won four of five KIF games to clinch the title before losing an inconsequential finale to Kapaa. Damien plays Kauai at Vidinha Stadium this weekend in the D-II state tourney.
KS-Hawaii, like all BIIF teams, plays an integrated schedule. In other words, the only losses on its schedule were to eventual KIF champion Kauai, 10-7, BIIF D-I champion Hilo, 28-14, and BIIF D-II champ Konawaena, 13-12 and 17-9. The wins were all lopsided, including a 23-0 rout of Maui on Aug. 12.
Maui has come a long way since losing to D-II Kapaa 24-7 and D-II Kamehameha-Hawaii in preseason. Normally, those head-to-head losses would be enough evidence for me to drop any team, but the progress is undeniable: 32-21 and 26-13 wins over Baldwin, and a close 24-17 loss at Lahainaluna. The Lunas are the class of D-II, and a one-TD loss on their home field is better than most of the state would do.
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)
This is a tier where the line between D-I and D-II is pretty much obliterated. Baldwin had a 50-50 run against MIL king Lahainaluna for a couple of seasons before getting swept by the Lunas in two competitive games this fall. Maybe it is reversion to the mean; Lahainaluna had dominated for several seasons. Castle? The Knights struggled this season, but it was a strong struggle in a difficult OIA Red that included Kapolei, Mililani, Leilehua, Kailua and Farrington — all ranked programs. Against similar teams that are truly in between, programs that are 1.5 rather than D-I or D-II, the Knights won. They beat a much improved Radford squad 33-28 and Nanakuli 49-35.
Baldwin? The program is competitive, but hasn’t gained the traction necessary to unseat Lahainaluna. Outside of the OIA (no D-I state berths) and the ILH (Damien, St. Francis) here may not be a more difficult route to a D-I state berth. Baldwin and Maui simply know each other too well.
Waimea was in contention for the KIF title before Kauai won the crown.
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)
This is an intriguing trio, all capable teams with the latter two, KS-Maui and Roosevelt, making big strides in the past season. Pac-Five is often forgotten, but its history shows that when the ‘Pack plays mid-level OIA teams, they have done well. There were late-season injuries, for sure, but the ‘Pack in this sub-group is a perfect fit. In fact, Roosevelt vs. Pac-Five would be a great game with classic contrast, along with a lot of interesting talent from AJ Ulufale (Pac-Five WR/QB) to Jared Elwin (Roosevelt RB/CB).
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)
Aiea isn’t extremely deep, but has a working offensive system based on low-risk, high-percentage passing. They’ve also got one of my favorite players of the season, 5-foot-9, 330-pound defensive tackle/fullback Ferenisi Lualemana. Nobody throws the Tim Tebow jump pass like this senior. Kapaa was down a bit this season after three consecutive KIF titles, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play some good football. The nature of the KIF is that nobody stays atop for long. There’s just too much tradition, good coaching and talent spread around the island.
Kalani is true Jekyll-and-Hyde team. With QB Seth Tina-Soborano, the Falcons may have eclipsed Roosevelt and qualified for the playoffs. But without their speedy playmaker, the Falcons just missed out.
Radford, despite its win-loss record, gets a thumbs up from me as one of the most improved programs in the state. Whatever Coach Lon Passos is doing, I hope he keeps it up. Nanakuli is another program that is truly 1.5. Plenty of talent in the Valley, but not enough depth to keep up with the OIA’s larger programs. If and when the Golden Hawks are back in D-II, they will be one of the premier teams. Again.
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)
One of the more interesting facts about Hawaii high school football is that just about any team is competitive compared to big and small programs across the mainland. It’s only been so long since classification has been implemented here, while as many as six or seven tiers exist in some states on the continent. That’s why a team like Kealakehe might struggle, or return to major prominence. It all depends on leadership and commitment, because Lord knows there was ample talent during the Waveriders’ dynasty a decade ago, and raw talent is still there.
Numbers have swung up and down at most of these 10 programs, many that have shrinking population in older communities. Still, adult leadership has been crucial. One person can make a major difference. Some of these programs were barely surviving, but their existence is a victory in itself because there are enough coaches and players who care.
Hawaii Prep head coach Daniel Te‘o-Neishem and his staff made the best of a tough situation, keeping the program competing despite declining numbers and changing demographics at the school. Te‘o-Neishem died on Monday, according to the school Prayers and condolences to the Te‘o-Neishem ohana and Ka Makani family.
1. Molokai Farmers (5-1, 3-0 MIL)
2. Ka‘u Trojans (5-2, 5-1 BIIF)
3. Pahoa Daggers (5-2, 3-2 BIIF)
4. Lanai Pine Lads (3-2, 2-1 MIL)
5. Hana Dragons (2-2, 1-2 MIL)
6. Seabury Hall Spartans (0-6, 0-3 MIL)
7. Kohala Cowboys (0-6, 0-5 BIIF)
Seabury Hall ruled this roost, turning a campus known for soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track and field into a football force. Former Athletic Director Steve Colflesh’s vision materialized into what we have today. Long live the 8-Man game.