Here’s a look at how I voted in this week’s Star-Advertiser Football Top 10. Please mind that all prep polls have the nutritional value of whipped cream. Small doses are fine.
Pupule football ballot
1. Saint Louis
Listed are teams according to my ballot, followed by how the are ranked in this week’s Star-Advertiser Top 10 by our panel of coaches and media.
** Indicates Top 10 opponent
1. Saint Louis (2-0, 0-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 1.
Wins: @ ** Waianae (49-7), Baldwin (61-0).
Next: vs. No. 5 Kamehameha, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Aloha Stadium
The skinny: This old-school outlook hasn’t changed much over the years. The champ is still the champ until someone beats him. The Crusaders end a long drought this weekend when they take on surging Kamehameha. They haven’t played since Aug. 12. After this weekend, there’s another bye, then it is Punahou (Sept. 16), a nonconference duel with CIF powerhouse Narbonne (Sept. 23), Kamehameha (Sept. 29), and then Punahou again (Oct. 7) to end the first round of ILH play.
2. Kahuku (3-0, 3-0 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 2
Wins: Leilehua (24-0), @ **Waianae (37-0), Moanalua (40-6)
Next: @ Aiea, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Red Raiders have outscored opponents 101-6 and landed in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 at No. 23. Fans would have enjoyed an early-season Kahuku-Saint Louis matchup. The one I remember most between the two programs was in 2010, of course, when a certain first-year starter at quarterback dashed to the end zone untouched from 50 yards out, then never kept the ball again for the rest of the night. Kahuku won that game handily, but Saint Louis and Marcus Mariota went on to win the ILH and state titles in a highly-controversial season for Big Red. But that’s another story/novel. In ’17, there’s no assurance the two teams will meet in the state tournament. After Aiea, Kahuku plays Bingham (Utah) in Las Vegas (Sept. 9).
3. Punahou (2-0, 0-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 4
Wins: Moanalua (35-7), **Torrey Pines (23-7)
Next: @ Junipero Serra (Calif.), Saturday, 1 p.m.
The skinny: Torrey Pines, defending champion of the CIF’s Avocado League (San Diego Section), was ranked No. 8 by San Diego Prep Insider before coming to the islands. For all intents and purposes, that was a Top 10 win. The Buffanblu were sturdy with run defense against the run-heavy Falcons. Voters decided to vault Mililani, which routed Castle, ahead of the Buffanblu this week. I’m not sure why; Castle is gritty and tough, but I’d give the edge to Torrey Pines as the tougher opponent. Consistency and common sense aren’t requirements of any prep poll, but still, I beg to differ. More than that, Punahou-Mililani would be a helluva game. MAKE IT SO.
4. Mililani (3-0, 3-0 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 3
Wins: Kaiser (2-0, forfeit), Leilehua (47-0), Castle (49-0).
Next: @ Clayton Valley Charter (Calif.), Friday, 4 p.m.
The skinny: It sure isn’t the Trojans’ fault that they haven’t been tested yet. I wouldn’t necessarily pick Punahou to beat Mililani if they played this week. Just for fun, let’s look at the positional comparisons.
O-Line: Punahou has five returnees. Mililani is stout there, too. Edge: Pick ‘em.
Receivers: Punahou’s crew has a bit of experience, but still replaced four seniors. Mililani has returning starters here. Edge: Slight, to Mililani.
Running backs: Punahou’s thunder-and-lightning duo of Sitiveni Kaufusi and Vincent Terrell has been effective, though not dominant. Kaufusi, at 6-2, 220, is a wrecking ball between the tackles who churns out necessary yardage, but isn’t alway a tackle breaker. Terrell has a nice burst and a lot of north-south tendencies that make him very slippery for slow defenders in the box. Mililani has first-year starter Kilifi Malepeai, plus last year’s 1-2 punch of Jalen Olomua and Darius Muasau. The latter two spend more of their time at LB now, so this isn’t an easy call. Edge: Even.
Quarterback: Stephen Barber vs. Dillon Gabriel. Each likes to utilize the entire field as passers. Each likes to gobble up open real estate. Barber is the bigger of the two, built like a linebacker. Edge: Even.
Defensive line: Mililani’s defense has not allowed a point. Punahou’s D-line might be the best in the ILH. Edge: Even.
Linebackers: The Trojans have a bit more experience here, though it’s hard to rank any of their ‘backers higher than Punahou’s Maninoa Tufono. Edge: Even.
Defensive backs: Punahou has playmakers here, but they don’t gamble a whole lot. Mililani has been steady in the secondary for a long time, but the Buffanblu has narrow advantage thanks to experience. Edge: Slight, Punahou.
Kicking game: Hunter Hosoda has been steady for Punahou. Unlike previous all-galaxy placekickers there, Hosoda is a position player who can kick, rather than vice-versa. Damien Santiago is a returnee with good range. Edge: Even.
Coaching: Punahou has collected an all-star staff for years now. Reggie Torres. Fred Salanoa. Eric Hannum. On and on. But Mililani’s staff is proven, and their year-round dedication through the Mill Vill program has kept the pipeline of talent coming to campus at full throttle even with the OIA’s change in transfer requirements in 2015. Edge: Even.
Overall, Mililani has a slight edge at receiver an Punahou has a slight edge in the secondary, and everything else seems even. Maybe this should have been a tie for No. 3, even though ties are evil.
5. Kamehameha (3-0, 0-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 5
Wins: @ **Farrington (34-15), @ **Lahainaluna (34-10), Carson (33-10).
Next: vs. No. 1 Saint Louis, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Aloha Stadium.
The skinny: The blueprint of Coach Abu Ma‘afala has gone through its share of tweaks since Year 1. The results so far in Year 2 beg this question: Should the Warriors be in the Top 4 or Top 3? Depth has rarely been an issue, and they are utilizing this luxury at running back, even with returning starter Kanoa Shannon getting plenty of work. KS-STL is, perhaps, the first can’t-miss big game of the fall.
6. Kailua (3-0, 2-0 OIA)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 6
Wins: @ Moanalua (44-0), Buckeye Union (28-27), Nanakuli (40-14).
Next: vs. No. 7 Farrington, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Surfriders are off to a scintillating start, but as standout offensive lineman Sione Veikoso noted, they haven’t faced the big dogs of their division yet. The power of their ground attack and the effectiveness of first-year starter Aaron Mejia (7 yards per pass attempt) make it a nice balance for Kailua. If defenses can’t get the Surfrider offense — and a very capable O-line — off the field, the battering-ram effect only gets more pronounced with each series.
WHEN SEVEN AIN’T HEAVEN
In years past, I normally ranked teams in this region of the ballot — all things considered — based on sheer head-to-head projections if head-to-head results weren’t available. But it’s not so simple this early in the campaign. In fact, it’s downright ludicrous how much parity there is in the OIA.
** Twisted web **
Waianae beat Campbell
Campbell beat Farrington
Farrington beat Kapolei
Kapolei beat Waianae
Therefore, even though these four teams could and should be in the Top 10 on talent and coaching alone, I will defer until later. When one or more of these four teams separates itself from the pack, I’m going with squads that are unblemished so far. Even if their depth and talent aren’t close to what we know about Waianae (1-3), Campbell (2-2), Farrington (2-2) and Kapolei (2-2).
7. Hilo (2-0, 1-0 BIIF)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 8 (tie)
Wins: @ ‘Iolani (62-35), @ Hawaii Prep (73-6).
Next: vs. Honokaa, Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: Untested, you say? Padding statistics, you bemoan? There aren’t a whole lot of football fans who understood that ‘Iolani would be one of the smaller teams in the state this season, even by the Raiders’ modest standards. And the Raiders did bounce back to trounce Kaimuki over the weekend. As for Kahale Huddleston’s enormous numbers, prodigious talent and superb grade-point average? 1) He hasn’t touched the ball much, just 26 times as a rusher and kick returner, for 690 yards and nine TDs. If teams kick the ball to him, his job is to run it back as far as he can. If it’s early in the game, Hilo will run the ball. If it’s late in the game, Hilo will run the ball. If the Vikings elect to keep their best RB in the game during a third or fourth quarter and risk injury, that is their prerogative. Of course, I’m interested in seeing what a replacement-level RB would do behind that vastly skilled and athletic offensive line. Huddleston (16 yards per carry) is doing his part. Backup Kaleo Ramos (8 per attempt), likewise.
8. Kapaa (2-0, 0-0 KIF)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked
Wins: @ Maui (24-7), Konawaena (33-13).
Next: vs. Waimea, Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: Reaching the D-II state final and giving Lahainaluna a tough rub in defeat hasn’t done much to leave an impression on voters. Certainly, they aren’t ready to consider the dynastic Warriors in the same level as some of the OIA’s traditional title contenders, and that’s understandable. Lahainaluna earned its way into prominence, and the same bar is expected of Kapaa, I suppose. Fair or not, nothing stokes the fire like signature wins, and the Warriors haven’t quite notched a big one against a ranked foe, especially a D-I program. There have been clutch wins, notable wins, but not quite enough for the panel to open its eyes. Beating a D-I team on another island (Maui) and a perennial BIIF powerhouse (Konawaena) doesn’t jolt the Richter scale enough for them. For me, Kapaa will stay on my ballot until they lose, maybe. Or one of the D-I teams at .500 or lower goes on a roll.
9. Lahainaluna (3-1, 2-0 MIL)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 10
Wins: @ Pearl City (20-7), King Kekaulike (45-0), @ Maui (32-13).
Losses: **Kamehameha (34-10)
Next: @ Baldwin, Friday, 7 p.m.
The skinny: The Lunas are the best D-II program in the state, and that goes for this season, so why are they lower than Kapaa on my ballot? Because numbers do count, just enough, and the loss to Kamehameha matters. Should the Lunas be penalized for taking on tough competition? Of course not. But I won’t penalize Kapaa either, for having a perfect record. Now, if Kapaa struggles with Waimea and Lahainaluna beats D-I Baldwin, well…
10. Damien (2-1, 0-0 ILH)
Star-Advertiser Top 10: Not ranked.
Wins: @ Castle (42-7), @ Kealakehe (20-7).
Losses: Villa Park (14-6).
Next: vs. ‘Iolani, Saturday, 2 p.m., Skippa Diaz Stadium.
The skinny: I admit it. Damien probably isn’t one of the best 10 teams in the state. But my ballot isn’t about the “best” teams. It’s about the teams that have the results that could be Top 10, and Damien has done enough to have the 10 spot on my list. Yes, they lost to a good Villa Park team. But wins over D-I Castle and D-I Kealakehe do matter. This early in the season, I can justify in my pupule mind, rationalize just enough to sneak an overachieving program like Damien onto my ballot. This is much less likely later in the season as powerhouses rack up quality wins over each other, and the rest of the D-II elite rarely compete against ranked opponents. But, yes, Damien would hold its own against most Top 10 foes.
Waianae (1-3, 1-2 OIA). With one of the toughest early schedules in the state behind them, I expected the Seariders to rise as their young squad gains experience. A 27-14 win over Campbell is a step in that direction.
Campbell (2-2, 2-1 OIA). The loss at Waianae isn’t a shock, but for a team that had big momentum, it’s a chance to regroup and sharpen.
Farrington (2-2, 2-1 OIA). Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 7. A stellar defensive performance and solid special teams made the difference in a 28-7 win over Kapolei. The buzz of the home crowd at Skippa Diaz Stadium is special. A long time coming, and totally an advantage for the home team.
Kapolei (2-2, 1-2 OIA). Star-Advertiser Top 10: No. 8 (tie). Arguably a Top 3 defense in the state, and when the offense stabilizes (becomes slightly balanced), the Hurricanes still have the potential to be a Top 4 team in the state.
Pearl City (3-1, 3-0 OIA D-II). The Chargers have outscored foes 106-0 in the past two weeks. The season-opening loss to Lahainaluna (20-7) is the only blemish. For me, it doesn’t hurt the Purple People Eaters a whole lot.
Waipahu (3-0, 2-0 OIA D-II). The Marauders are healthy thanks to a relatively lite/light schedule so far. The wins were expected (by me), but it’s tough to gauge where the black flag should be staked in the rankings at this point.
Kamehameha-Hawaii (3-1, 1-0 BIIF). Wins over Maui, Waiakea and Keaau have been decisive, but that opening loss at Kauai (10-7) is an issue for me as a voter.