Here it go. Pupule time. How did I vote this week in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10?
1. Saint Louis
Here’s the Top 10 poll. The biggest differences between my ballot and the Top 10: Kamehameha and Campbell.
First, as I’ve written before, polls are not an exact science. To me, high school Top 10 polls have been and always will be the equivalent of whipped cream. Tasty, fun and not something you should base your entire diet on. (Same with spicy pork rinds, buttered popcorn, bacon… you get my drift.)
Second, after working on polls and deliberating on ballots and debating everything involved online for more than a decade, it’s pretty clear that the ensuing discussion — after posting any kind of ballot — is only as good as the substance brought by both sides. In other words, if anybody wants to debate a ballot or poll, it’s always more fun when all parties actually reveal how he/she voted or would have voted.
I show mine, you show yours and we have a great debate.
Back to my ballot.
1. Saint Louis (1-0). Yes, the Crusaders belong at No. 1 after A) beating the previous No. 1, Kahuku, and B) having success head-to-head against an elite SOS (strength of schedule). For now, beating Kahuku in the only game thus far does the trick. I’ve seen voters who reward teams with high rankings long before they’ve earned it. It’s true, some coaches and media vote based on projections rather than results.
I might disagree with it, but there are plenty of voters to balance out this voting philosophy with common sense. To me, common sense is that there’s a balance of factors (wins, wins against quality opponents, close losses versus lopsided losses, old results versus current results, etc.).
But above all, for me, it’s about head to head. That puts STL at the top.
2. Punahou (1-0). The Buffanblu are not at full strength, they’re young on defense and have some newbies on the offensive line. They did a solid job with a 24-14 win at Mililani last week. But talent-wise, it’s hard to match the Buffanblu, and their trigger man, quarterback Larry Tuileta, came through as expected. Are the Buffanblu being penalized by voters for not winning more decisively? Maybe.
They won a road game and controlled momentum for most of the night using that smashmouth pistol-I (and pistol-offset I). That counts for something in my little book.
3. Kahuku (0-1). There are voters, just a few, who automatically bump a one-loss team to the bottom of their ballot. Not me. The Red Raiders played tough and close with Saint Louis until the final quarter. Academic probies missed the game against STL, and though they might not have saved Big Red, public schools always have this issue in August. It’s the biggest reason — when the academic probies return — teams turn momentum around and peak late in the season while many ILH (private school) teams hit a plateau.
Besides, I’m a big believer in success with contrary means, and Kahuku’s option game has a lot of potential. There are a handful of teams, if that, running the option these days. Defending it well on a consistent basis is almost impossible for most defenses simply because they just don’t see it at practice. Not the good version.
4. Waianae (2-0). The Seariders are playing solid defense and adequate offense. Their 33-16 nonconference win over Farrington to start the season seems just a little bit less impressive at this point (now that the Govs have lost two games in a row), but the constant at Waianae is defense under coordinator Jason Hussey.
The Seariders may not blow teams out every week, but they play a sound, balanced game and have experience in the pocket with Kekoa Kaluhiokalani. Add a veteran running back (Jemery Willes) and a reliable deep threat (Pookela Noa-Nakamoto) and it’s very Baltimore Ravens-ish.
5. Campbell (2-0). They were solid in a win over Kaiser, beating the Cougars as well as the elements on a rainy, stormy night. Then they walloped Kailua over the weekend 49-12. The only reason I have the Sabers below Waianae is that Waianae’s schedule has been marginally tougher. Campbell has balance. There’s talent and production at just about every position. There’s a playmaker at quarterback in Isaac Hurd, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior who is a load to bring down on scramble plays.
This week’s Campbell-Leilehua clash will answer a few more questions. For now, the Sabers deserve the 5 spot on my ballot, though they are just No. 8 in the Top 10.
6. Kamehameha (2-0). I’m with Billy Hull about the Warriors’ performance against Castle, but that game was played in a mini-monsoon. So that one-touchdown performance by the Kamehameha offense gets a pass. It’s so early in the season; the offense — the ground attack is killer and the passing game is behind — will need time, as coach Doug Cosbie says, to get the timing down.
But the defense? WOW. The Warriors dominated Farrington over the weekend in a 38-3 victory. There is constant, consistent gang tackling and a dearth of penalties. Best defense in the state? They’ve yet to allow a touchdown. All in all, I don’t entirely disagree with the pollsters, who pegged Kamehameha at No. 4 in the Top 10. But I’d like to see more balance offensively.
7. Leilehua (1-0). A wild 56-35 win over ‘Iolani was a demonstration in composure by the Mules. They trailed 21-14 early in the second quarter and the Raiders were in possession of the ball. But Leilehua’s creativity on offense and resilience on defense were crucial. Ranking the Mules higher — they’re No. 6 in the Top 10 — is tough at this point without another strong opponent. A win over Campbell this weekend would qualify.
8. Mililani (1-1). I’m sure there are a lot of Trojans fans who are miffed that their team slipped to No. 7 in the Top 10 after a relatively close loss to Punahou … while Kahuku is at No. 3 after its loss to Saint Louis. The Trojans are interesting, as always, but not just because of a stout defense. They’ve gone from a four-wide attack with a tremendous passer (Jarrin Morikawa) to an offense heavy with the I-slot. They are at their best offensively when Dayton Furuta lines up in the backfield, but he’s also a core part of their defense at linebacker.
9. ‘Iolani (1-1). The Raiders, with two new quarterbacks sharing snaps, have accumulated 86 points in two games. Not shabby at all. They’re not big defensively, but have enough up front (Marc Ma is one of the state’s top defensive linemen) to get occasional stops. I didn’t know what they’d have left after last year’s D-II state-championship season — that’s seven in a row — but the program continues to excel, even with a shipload of new starters.
10. Lahainaluna (1-0). The Lunas run their modified wing-T, which has been tweaked with shotgun set by Garrett Tihada in recent years, like no other program in the state. Add to that a horde of seasoned veterans and now the Lunas are at a level that is far more like a D-I powerhouse than D-II. It happens every now and then in West Maui when the timing is right and there’s a talented core of seniors. A 28-13 win over Kapaa on Saturday means little to most voters on Oahu, but in the big picture, it’s a big notch for the Lunas. Kapaa will challenge for the KIF title.
The Lunas are in position to make a run for the D-II state title, as well as the MIL “overall” championship.
Best of the rest: Kapolei could easily be among the Top 10. Same with Aiea. But the Hurricanes’ wins have been over Pearl City and McKinley. There’s no question there’s talent and production for the men in teal. Friday’s game against Mililani offers a grand opportunity. … Aiea? Always great defense, tremendous athletes. But as the Bonecrusher noted Na Alii lost their starting QB to injury. To keep the roll on after wins over Kailua and Pac-Five they need someone to step up. … Farrington? We’ll see when the academic probies return. Come on guys, 2.0? Do your homework, double check it, turn it in. The talent is there, but developing chemistry on the offensive line, in the passing game, on defense … the Govs will need time. The good news for them and every OIA team is that the system rewards teams that peak late.