How I voted in this week’s Star-Advertiser Football Top 10.
Disclaimer: There is no perfect way to vote. It’s somewhere in the gray area between art and science, ignorance and knowledge. And the nutritional value of this ballot is on par with Pop-Tarts and whipped cream. It ain’t broccoli and spinach, for sure.
1. Saint Louis (2-0, 0-0 ILH)
> The defending state champions have balance on both sides of the ball. The Achilles’ heel of recent years past was depth on defense, particularly at line. Not anymore. Faatui Tuitele’s prowess on and off the field are matched by few.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 1
> Next: vs. Kamehameha, Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m., Aloha Stadium
2. Kahuku (2-0, 2-0 OIA)
> Physically, the Red Raiders match up and can dominate any team in the state. First-year head coach Makoa Freitas is giving his offense the space and freedom to work on the vertical game, and sophomore QB Sol-Jay Maiava is evolving as he learns from game and practice reps.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 2
> Next: vs. Moanalua, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
3. Mililani (2-0, 2-0 OIA)
> I haven’t seen the Trojans yet, but with key players like QB Dillon Gabriel, LB/RB Darius Muasau and LB/RB Jalen Olomua a year wiser and stronger, it’s a good place to start. Kilifi Malepeai has emerged as the latest of his family to shine on the gridiron. If he continues to thrive at running back, that gives Olomua and Muasau fresher legs and more reps on defense.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 4
> Next: at Castle, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
4. Punahou (1-0, 0-0 ILH)
> I haven’t seen the Buffanblu yet, either. Frankly, I wouldn’t pick Mililani to beat Punahou if they matched up, and vice-versa. Punahou has first-year starters at all four receiver spots. Is that a minus-factor? It shouldn’t be, but it’s enough for me to give the Trojans a slight (one millimeter) edge.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 3
> Next: vs. Torrey Pines (Calif.), Friday, 7 p.m.
5. Kapolei (2-1, 1-1 OIA)
> This ballot was submitted on Monday morning, well before the school self-reported its ineligible-player violation. The forfeit loss to Castle doesn’t really change my outlook on the Hurricanes.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 5
> Next: at Farrington, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
6. Kamehameha (2-0, 0-0 ILH)
> The Warriors have come a long way since last year, and game planning for their balanced offense isn’t easy. With decisive wins over Farrington and Lahainaluna, they’re in position to launch much higher soon. They may be here at the 6 spot because of last year’s 3-6 record more than anything.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 6
> Next: vs. Carson (Calif.), Friday, 6 p.m.
7. Kailua (2-0, 1-0 OIA)
> Whatever Coach Joe Wong and his staff are doing at Alex Kane Stadium, they need to keep doing it. The Surfriders and their lineup of 29 players are 2-0 after wins over Moanalua and Buckeye Union (Ariz.). Quality over quantity, if there needs to be a choice. Surfrider Strong.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 8
> Next: vs. Nanakuli, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
8. Hilo (1-0, 0-0 BIIF)
> From this spot down, it gets extra tricky. With a nimble offensive line, the Vikings overpowered ‘Iolani two weeks ago, which helped put them in the spotlight with Kahale Huddleston’s 244 rushing yards and six overall TDs. But ‘Iolani is significantly, physically smaller this year, and the Vikings will have a tough time climbing the Top 10 ladder until they beat a higher-ranked team.
> Actual ranking: No. 10
> Next: at Hawaii Prep, Saturday, 2 p.m.
9. Campbell (2-1, 2-0 OIA)
> True, the Sabers have an ‘L’ on their resume (23-7 loss to Kapolei), but after seeing them play weekly, they’re rising on both sides of the ball. Wins over Farrington and Aiea have given them a chance to find their identity. Now comes the trip to Waianae.
> Actual rank in Top 10: No. 7
> Next: at Waianae, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
10. Kapaa (2-0, 0-0 KIF)
> The Warriors have been consistent and elite, at least in the KIF and Division II, for years now. It would be simplistic to underrate them and peg some tough, respectable D-I programs above them. I would have no problem doing that, regardless of win-loss record, but Kapaa is and has been, for some time, the real deal going back to Kelii Morgado’s arrival as a coach, and now with Philip Rapozo in charge. They have speed and size, and when ‘Iolani was king of D-II, Kapaa nearly knocked them off at Eddie Hamada Field.
> Actual rank in Top 10: Unranked
> Next: vs. Waimea, Sept. 1, 7 p.m., Vidinha Stadium
It’s early in the season, so the gray area in the rankings is more like a great lake than a sliver of a stream.
> The defending ILH D-II champion, Damien (2-1, 0-0 ILH), shouldn’t be penalized for a close loss to Villa Park (Calif.), especially after wins over Castle and Kealakehe. But there’s room enough for just 10 teams on the ballot.
> Farrington (1-2, 1-0 OIA) has great potential, though a shoulder injury to QB Chris Afe poses a challenge. Potential alone isn’t enough when it comes to rankings, though. Young teams that start out with tough losses tend to grow and mature by the playoffs.
> Leilehua’s 13-9 win over St. Francis (2-1, 0-0 ILH) puts a bit of a damper on the Saints’ remarkable season so far. The Saints are tough defensively, maybe the best in D-II statewide. If they don’t fumble at the 2-yard line in the closing moments at Leilehua, they’re unbeaten and possibly in the Top 10. But they lost, and Leilehua (1-2) has been beaten handily.
> Waianae is young, learning on the fly, and will likely return to my ballot sooner rather than later, especially as the schedule softens a bit. They’ve had the roughest early-season schedule in the state. I’m still looking forward to seeing defensive standout Kana‘i Mauga get some snaps on offense.
> Kaimuki has looked outstanding, and though the Bulldogs are unbeaten, I’m guessing that voters weren’t overly impressed by the narrow win over Kalani.
> Pearl City (2-1, 2-0 OIA D-II) is off to a good start, as is Waipahu and its potent offense. The Chargers lost to Lahainaluna 20-7, which on balance is a good loss of sorts. A 42-0 win over rising Roosevelt answered at least one question with an exclamation point.
> Baldwin (0-2), the iconic MIL dynasty of yesteryear, might not be the best team in the league again, but it’s not easy to measure at this point. The lopsided losses to No. 1 Saint Louis and Mission Viejo (Calif.) could be outliers.
> Lahainaluna (2-1, 1-0 MIL), even with its loss to Kamehameha, is still a force.
> Maui (0-3, 0-1 MIL) had a solid run in recent years, but losses to Kapaa (24-7), at Kamehameha-Hawaii (23-0) and at Kamehameha-Maui (21-13) could be a matter of a down year and/or ARS (academic probation) issues. And constant coaching changes. Lahainaluna awaits this Friday.
> The BIIF looks wide open for its unofficial league champion.
Konawaena’s defense hasn’t been the same, though that could change as the academic probationary period ends. The D-II Wildcats (0-2) lost to D-II state-title contenders Kapaa and St. Francis by a combined score of 72-33. D-I Hilo seems to be the top dog, though Kamehameha-Hawaii (2-1, lost at Kauai) will make a challenge.
> ‘Iolani (0-1) hosts Kaimuki on Saturday in what might be the highest-scoring game of the weekend. The Raiders don’t pass the eye test right now, particularly on defense, but even with the smallish roster they will turn things around. They always do, at least in D-II.