Pupule ballot: The soft sell for unbeaten Kapaa

Kapaa's Gabe Keener caught a ball against Lahainaluna in the Division II state title game in 2016. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The new Star-Advertiser Football Top 10 is out, and again, the back half of my ballot is mostly an entirely different hand of cards. As always, consider this to be as vital to your nutritional health as a dollop of whipped cream or mayonnaise.

Pupule FB ballot

1. Saint Louis
2. Kahuku
3. Punahou
4. Mililani
5. Hilo
6. Kapaa
7. Kamehameha
8. Farrington
9. Lahainaluna
10. Damien

We can all agree to disagree. I’m not going to argue that the Leeward side’s programs can’t beat the likes of Kapaa, Lahainaluna and Damien. But until we see a true downfall or mis-step by these teams, I’m inclined to keep unbeaten teams on my ballot.

The wild web coming into the weekend’s games was all about parity. Now, with Leilehua’s stunning win at Kapolei, that web got even more tangled.

>> Twisted web v2.0
Waianae beat Campbell
Campbell beat Farrington
Farrington beat Kapolei
Kapolei beat Waianae
Leilehua beat Kapolei

Add to this: St. Francis was within 2 yards of beating Leilehua at Hugh Yoshida Stadium. That puts another little twist on the wobbly line of dominoes. After all, St. Francis has double-digit margin wins over three other foes, and would be a perfect 4-0 right now if not for the fumble at the 2-yard line. Instead, they’re still a robust 3-1 and so not the typical Division II program. They are a clear 1.5 program at this point, as are maybe a dozen or so other football teams. But I digress.

My ballot:
*Indicates Top 10 opponent

1. Saint Louis Crusaders (3-0, 1-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10:
How I voted last week: No. 1

Wins: @ *Waianae (49-7), Baldwin (61-0). *Kamehameha (44-0).
Losses: None.
Next: Bye this week, vs. Punahou Sept. 16 at Aloha Stadium.

The skinny: The win over Kamehameha was barely a few minutes old when Crusader Coach Cal Lee bemoaned the (relative?) inconsistency of his defensive unit. Saint Louis lost a lot of talent to graduation, including phenom QB Tua Tagovailoa, and that’s enough to set any coaching staff on fire, so to speak, about stepping up. But it’s more than that. Lee, brother and OC Ron Lee and the stellar staff is as passionate about fundamental football as they were a year ago, a decade ago, two and three decades ago.

2. Kahuku Red Raiders (4-0, 4-0 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 2
How I voted last week: No. 2
MaxPreps Xcellent 25: No. 23

Wins: Leilehua (24-0), @ *Waianae (37-0), Moanalua (40-6), @ Aiea (51-7).
Losses: None.

Next: vs. Bingham (Utah), Saturday, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas.

The skinny: The tradition, expectations and work ethic of Red Raider football are matched by almost no other program. That makes this week’s trip to the “Ninth Island” — the second in as many seasons — a fantastic draw for transplanted Hawaii residents and Vegas locals alike. Like Kahuku, Bingham is ranked nationally. Saint Louis still gets the nod on my ballot at No. 1, all things being equal but for one factor: the Crusaders are the defending state champions, still unbeaten. Still winning decisively. Might as well be No. 1a and No. 1b.

3. Punahou Buffanblu (3-0, 0-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 4
How I voted last week: No. 3

Wins: Moanalua (35-7), *Torrey Pines (23-7), vs *Junipero Serra (Calif.) (56-42) (at Cathedral Catholic Stadium).
Losses: None.
Next: vs. *Kamehameha, Saturday, 6 p.m., Aloha Stadium.

The skinny: A magnificent win over a powerhouse program despite 10 players suffering from cramps. The heatwave plus long flight are a brutal combination when it comes to hydration, and yet Stephen Barber was at his best. I’m still voting Punahou No. 3 ahead of Mililani, which is by the narrowest of margins. This is really No. 1a, 1b, 1c and 1d.

4. Mililani Trojans (4-0, 2-0 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 3
How I voted last week: No. 4

Wins: Kaiser (2-0, forfeit), Leilehua (47-0), Castle (49-0), @ *Clayton Valley Charter (Calif.) (49-30)
Losses: None.
Next: @ *Farrington, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Like Punahou, there is no break for Mililani after winning a tough game on the mainland. There is an argument to be made that the Trojans should be No. 1 or No. 2 after dispatching conference opponents. When I compared Mililani and Punahou last week by position, it was a tie. Would a Mililani-Punahou game sell out at John Kauinana Stadium right now? I might have to dust off the old PS3 just to recreate these rosters in the ancient NCAA video game just for football nerd entertainment. That would be the same game where, roughly three years ago, only one of two local QBs to sign with my Ala Wai Ramen College program. One of them was McKenzie Milton, who led the Ramen squad from cupcake status to three national championships. So, no, I’m not surprised he’s making the magic happen at Central Florida. Yes, life imitates art.

5. Hilo Vikings (3-0, 2-0 BIIF)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 7
How I voted last week: No. 7

Wins: @ ‘Iolani (62-35), @ Hawaii Prep (73-6), Honokaa (41-0).
Losses: None.
Next: @ Waiakea, Saturday, 2 p.m.

The skinny: Kahale Huddleston is averaging more than 16 yards per rush, scoring 10 touchdowns from scrimmage as a running back. He has also returned four kickoffs for TDs. It’s getting to the point where a few fans are wondering why he still touches the pigskin in a blowout game regardless of whether it’s in the first half or second half. I just wonder why any opponent keeps kicking to him. And if he’s carrying the football just nine times per game — 10 rushing TDs in 28 attempts — he and his nimble blockers are simply doing their jobs. Very. Well. Again, Hilo has earned the 5-spot on my ballot, and I’m not going to argue that they should be here on every voter’s analysis. But I’m not going to penalize the Viks for being stuck in a league that lacks 1) large schools, 2) large population, and 3) the power to recruit from other islands. Back in the 1960s, Hilo was so dominant under then-coach Ted Ura that the team rode a boat to play in the Maui Interscholastic League for four seasons. That won’t be necessary with this year’s team. They are a superb mid-tier team come state-tourney time (Division I) that has clearly worked hard and overachieved. Fun fact: The early 1990s team (’91) that upset Konawaena on the road might have had a chance against this current Viks team. The MLB back then was Tod Bello, who had range, physicality and endurance. And the offense swung for the fences often with Robert Medeiros launching 55-yard bombs to 6-3 Casey Newman. It’s worth debating, that’s for sure.

6. Kapaa Warriors (3-0, 1-0 KIF)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: No. 8

Wins: @ Maui (24-7), Konawaena (33-13), Waimea (47-21).
Losses: None.
Next: vs. Kauai, Friday, 7 p.m., Vidinha Stadium.

The skinny: The three-time defending KIF champions fended off Waimea to increase their win streak over the Menehune to 15 games. Unlike Hilo and Lahainaluna, Kapaa hasn’t been able to drum up significant votes from the Top 10 panel. One thing I’m certain of, though: If they run the table going into the state tourney, they’ll probably be ahead of Konawaena in the polling thanks to that preseason win. Unless Konawaena runs the table AND upsets Hilo along the way. Then who knows.

7. Kamehameha Warriors (3-1, 0-1 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 5
How I voted last week: No. 5

Wins: @ *Farrington (34-15), @ *Lahainaluna (34-10), Carson (33-10).
Losses: *Saint Louis (44-0).
Next: vs. *Punahou, Saturday, 6 p.m., Aloha Stadium.

The skinny: On paper, the Warriors deserve a 5-spot, no question. On my ballot, though, unbeaten teams get the paper-thin edge, at least for now. Also, if Kamehameha had kept it close against Saint Louis, that would’ve made a difference. It sure isn’t easy being one of the top teams in the state when two major opponents are in the same league, same division and ranked among the top 3 or 4.

8. Farrington Governors (3-2, 3-1 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 6
How I voted last week: Not ranked

Wins: @ Nanakuli (35-0), *Kapolei (28-7), @ *Kailua (3-0).
Losses: *Kamehameha (34-15), @ *Campbell (26-20).
Next: vs. *Mililani, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: That’s four ranked opponents in their first five games. I don’t have a list of Top 10 toughest schedules, but I’m guessing the Governors would be in the top 4 or 5. The interesting thing is this: Farrington has done this with defense and special teams while the offense evolves and grows up week to week with a first-time QB and a first-year varsity slinger. They’ve limited two teams with massive offensive lines to just 7 points (Kapolei) and 0 (Kailua). The Govs started the season just trying to find their footing in the post-Challen Fa‘amatau era — one that featured a ton of talent on defense and offense — and now are in the top 6 statewide. They may not have belonged there early in the year, but right now, it’s safe to say they are one of the hottest teams in the state. I’d have them higher, but I don’t go completely on trends. The whole of the season matters to some extent for me. The scary thing for OIA foes is that Farrington has just begun to scratch the surface of their offensive potential.

9. Lahainaluna Lunas (4-1, 3-0 MIL)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 9
How I voted last week: No. 9

Wins: @ Pearl City (20-7), King Kekaulike (45-0), @ Maui (32-13), Baldwin (28-20).
Losses: *Kamehameha (34-10).
Next: Bye this week, @ Kamehameha-Maui, Sept. 15, 7 p.m.

The skinny: Friday night’s win over D-I Baldwin is another signature win, though the Lunas may consider it nothing more than an important MIL victory. Baldwin had won the last four meetings, all close, against the Lunas. This puts Lahainaluna in position to win the MIL first round outright.

10. Damien Monarchs (3-1, 1-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: No. 10

Wins: @ Castle (42-7), @ Kealakehe (20-7), ‘Iolani (35-21).
Losses: Villa Park (14-6).
Next: vs. Pac-Five, Saturday, 3 p.m., Aloha Stadium.

The skinny: From a historical perspective, the win over ‘Iolani was significant, ending an 11-year, 17-game losing streak against the former ILH D-II dynasty. From a current perspective, it wasn’t a shock or surprise. The Monarchs are cohesive and balanced with experience at QB, and they’ve remained sound defensively despite some huge losses to graduation and transfer. They showed it all season to this point, and ‘Iolani had yet to show that it could shut down a strong ground attack. Marcus Faufata-Pedrina’s poise and passing ability make a lot of the difference. Like St. Francis, the Monarchs are just one close game away from being unbeaten and ranked higher on my ballot.

Honorable mention
Waianae Seariders (2-3, 2-2 OIA)

Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 10
How I voted last week: Not ranked

Wins: *Campbell (27-14), Moanalua (43-20).
Losses: *Saint Louis (49-7), *Kapolei (7-0), *Kahuku (37-0).
Next: @ Radford, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

The skinny: The Seariders are rounding into form, and senior Rico Rosario is feeling good after a school-record 239 rushing yards against Moanalua. The closest parallel in preseason was Farrington; both programs had an influx of first-year starters just feeling their way through some tough early losses. Both teams are finding their identities and the results — and success — are not surprising. Yet, I didn’t vote for Waianae in my Top 10, though they’re getting very, very close. As the logjam (tangled web) loosens up and teams separate themselves, things work out on their own.

Campbell Sabers (3-2, 3-1 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: Not ranked

Wins: *Farrington (26-20), Aiea (48-13), Kaiser (71-0).
Losses: *Kapolei 23-7, @ *Waianae (27-14).
Next: vs. Moanalua, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

The skinny: The Sabers are another team developing their young talent. Against Top 10 opponents, they are 1-2. Against everyone else, 2-0, outscoring them 119-13. More than most of the younger, yet dangerous teams in the OIA, Campbell has balance on both sides of the ball. Stay tuned.

Leilehua Mules (2-2, 1-2 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: Not ranked)

Wins: St. Francis (13-9), @ *Kapolei (20-19, OT).
Losses: @ *Kahuku (24-0), @ *Mililani (47-0).
Next: vs. Castle, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: The mighty Mules are a testament to the power of faith. After being drubbed by powerhouses Kahuku and Mililani (collective score 71-0), they went to Kapolei and rallied for the biggest win during the Mark Kurisu era. With Castle and Nanakuli next on the horizon, now the playoff picture is less cloudy and blue sky is showing up.

Kapolei Hurricanes (2-3, 1-3 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked.
How I voted last week: Not ranked.

Wins: @ *Campbell (23-7), @ *Waianae (7-0).
Losses: Castle (2-0, forfeit), @ *Farrington (28-7), Leilehua (20-19, OT).
Next: @ *Kailua, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

The skinny: If not for the oversight that led to the forfeit loss to Castle, and if not for the narrow home loss to Leilehua, the Hurricanes would be 4-1 and right about where fans expected, I’m guessing. Instead, they are now 1-3 in OIA play with Kailua, Mililani and Nanakuli remain on the slate. The ‘Canes would like to run the table, finish 4-3 and secure a playoff berth. At 3-4, it might not be enough, particularly because Castle would win on a head-to-head tiebreaker.

Kailua Surfriders (3-1, 3-0 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 8
How I voted last week: No. 6

Wins: @ Moanalua (44-0), *Buckeye Union (Calif.) (28-27), Nanakuli (40-14).
Losses: *Farrington (3-0).
Next: vs. Kapolei, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

The skinny: Penalties didn’t help in the home loss to Farrington. At this point, Farrington has endured more adversity, and has been forced to sharpen up or fall behind. Kailua hadn’t lost a game, and sometimes that is what it takes to become a better team.

St. Francis Saints (3-1, 1-0 ILH D-II)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: Not ranked

Wins: Kauai (42-0) at Alexander Field, @ Konawaena (39-20), Pac-Five (35-21) at Aloha Stadium.
Losses: @ Leilehua (13-9).
Next: @ ‘Iolani, Friday, 3:15 p.m.

The skinny: Wins, losses and what-ifs aside, the Saints need a win over the high-scoring Raiders to keep pace with defending league champ Damien.

Pearl City Chargers (4-1, 4-0 OIA D-II)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: Not ranked

Wins: Kalani (22-16) at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium, Roosevelt (42-0) at Aloha Stadium, Waialua (64-0), Kalaheo (31-0).
Losses: @ *Lahainaluna (20-7)/
Next: Bye this week, vs. Kaimuki, Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m.

The skinny: A one-loss team in D-II doesn’t usually get my attention unless that loss was to a ranked or prominent team. As long as Lahainaluna runs the table in the MIL (against D-I teams, especially), the Chargers can’t be ignored. I certainly hope the OIA follows through and creates a three-tiered format by next season. Otherwise, Pearl City could possibly be one of the teams that is forcibly promoted to D-I. That would do more damage than good, as we’ve seen with mid- and small-sized schools that wind up lining up with Kahuku, etc. But in the middle tier or D-II, the Chargers are in good company.

Waipahu Marauders (3-0, 2-0 OIA D-II)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: Not ranked

Wins: @ Nanakuli (51-14), Kalaheo (2-0, forfeit), Roosevelt (35-8).
Losses: None.
Next: vs. Waialua, Friday, 6 p.m.

The skinny: By my own criteria, unbeaten Waipahu should be on my ballot. Offensively, they’ve been tough going back to last season. Coach Bryson Carvalho has this ship heading in the right direction. The resume so far has been lighter than what teams like Kapaa, Lahainaluna and Hilo have faced.

Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors (4-1, 2-0 BIIF)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
How I voted last week: Not ranked.

Wins: Maui (23-0), Waiakea (56-0), Keaau (40-6), @ Kealakehe (15-13).
Losses: Kauai (10-7) at Vidinha Stadium.
Next: Hawaii Prep, Saturday, 7 p.m.

The skinny: A two-point win over Kealakehe may seem underwhelming, especially since defending BIIF D-II champion Konawaena beat them soundly the week before. But any 200-mile trip to the West side is a major test, especially for a D-II team. BIIF D-I teams are now 2-6 against island D-II opponents.


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