Q&A: Coaches chime in on Alliance, state format

Waipahu safety Deacon Kapea (2) gestured after Zeondre Benjamin (5) nearly intercepted a pass intended for Hilo's Kalae Akui (7) in the last moments of the second quarter in the Division I state final at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

The questions were offered and many coaches responded.

From Cal Lee (Saint Louis) and Wendell Look (‘Iolani) of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, to neighbor-island coaches like Garret Tihada (Lahainaluna) of the Maui Interscholastic League and Kaeo Drummondo (Hilo) of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, feedback about the state tournament and the OIA-ILH alliance is varied. It is golden.

Coaches were thumbs up across the board about the alliance and the state-tournament format, and some had a few suggestions along the way.

We asked eight questions, and here’s what coaches and some media had to say.

>> Is the new football format perfect or would you change anything?

Cal Lee, Saint Louis: “I would think that when you go into the championship, if its four teams, I would think the No. 1 would play the No. 4, 2 would play 3, but I know where they’re coming from. “If the rankings are there, that should be 1 against 4 and 2 would play 3. Or just have the league champions play each other. Wrap it up.”

Wendell Look, ‘Iolani: “I think for its first year, obviously there are some things that need to be worked out, small details like if you have a tsunami and a hurricane, you cancel games, what do you do? Overall, it was a win-win for everybody. For us, we didn’t have a lot of injuries this year. I attribute that to playing competition that is relatively equal to us. We’re seeing how this is successful and people will be more than cooperative with each other. Anything new or even old, you always have to evaluate to see how you can do things better. I think that’s what we’ll do. We’ll sit down at the table and see how things can be done better.”

David Tautofi, Kaimuki: “I thought it was great this season. Theres not much I could say that I would change except for the fact that games didn’t count for the OIA, but for the most part it did good for all the schools island-wide. Season schedules were full for every team where I last remembered playing merely six games in a season compared to nine-twelve plus games now. I felt there are and were more benefits of this format for the schools and the kids overall.”

Brad Uemoto, Konawaena: “I like the new format with the three divisions. Considering that Konawaena is purely a D-II school by enrollment, I wish there would be rules in place that prevent large-enrollment schools to play down. I feel it’s unfair that teams with large enrollments have the ability to settle into D-II during their ‘down’ years based on a competitive outlook.”

Kaeo Drummondo, Hilo: “The three-tier football format works great. The parity allows for more competitive games to be played. This better for the players and fans.”

>> Should the OIA count games vs. ILH opponents in its standings?

Tautofi: “You know its never ‘that simple’ when it comes to discussions between the OIA and ILH in everything athletics and the decisions that come down from principals to ADs. I think without question, every game should count versus ILH and for several reasons. The coaches and players put a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears into their seasons, which start well before the first games. To view games as an exhibition game, if you will, sends the wrong message.”

Uemoto: “Yes! Why not?”

Drummondo: “I think it would be a good thing to count all games and maybe even expand all three tournaments to include six teams, and to give seeds 1 and 2 byes as the D-II tournament is currently structured.”

Christian Shimabuku, Star-Advertiser: “It’s only fair if they do, especially since the ILH does the same. Each game should carry equal weight for every team.”

>> Should state finals in Division I and II be played at the home fields (or nearby venues) of the higher seed? Example: D-I at Hilo, D-II at Lahainaluna or War Memorial.

Garret Tihada, Lahainaluna: “No. It is a treat for outer-island kids to play at Aloha Stadium.”

Drummondo: “No. I enjoy the triple-header state finals all being played at Aloha Stadium. Outer-island players enjoy being able to play at that venue and on that stage. It’s a great experience for the kids.”

Uemoto: “It’s funny you ask this question. While watching the games this year, I was trying to configure this exact thought! When seeing the D-II game, I just felt the atmosphere and attendance would dramatically different at a home site. Obviously, there will be issues with stadium capacity or venues like Wong Stadium not being an appealing site. Although Aloha Stadium is such a great experience for our outer-island kids, it can also become a disadvantage to play against a team that frequents the stadium or has played there earlier in the season. The last thought is playing at 1:30 p.m. and on turf. If we are lucky, we may play one game at that time during a season and the same goes for playing on turf for us.”

Tautofi: “I think the the finals are actually good where they are being in the Aloha Stadium as it’s been. The experience, especially for the outer-island teams, is a dream for many and it’s been a success I haven’t heard too many negatives.”

Shimabuku: “Personally, I don’t think so. Aloha Stadium isn’t the nicest stadium, but it’s the best Hawaii has. Some of the neighbor island kids don’t get to play in the stadium unless they get to the state finals, and each year it’s something a lot of those players look at as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

>> Is 14,000-plus attendance a successful number for the Aloha Stadium state finals triple-header? (Considering pay-per-view was available.)

Tautofi: “There definitely weren’t as many people in attendance as I’ve seen in the previous years, but still, to have thousands in attendance is a big deal let alone 14,000 or so. It could be much larger and I think it will each year, but a triple-header in one day can be long.”

Drummondo: “Hawaii high school football is strong. I’d think that anything from 15,000 to 20,000 fans would be a great number to reach. It’s difficult when three out of the six representatives are outer-island teams because that definitely hampers the attendance at the venue.”

Uemoto: “I feel 14,000 is a good showing. I know the majority of that number is the Open Division game and that many people who attend the D-II game leave early because it is such a long night to stay ’til the end.”

Shimabuku: “We all know that number would’ve been higher if Kahuku was playing.”

>> Should the Open, D-I and/or D-II finals be played on separate nights?

Tihada: “Open (Division) played on a different night in year one. It seemed like it was more anticipated and special because it was the only featured game.”

Drummondo: “No. I think the triple-header should remain in place.”

Philip Rapozo, Kapaa: “I could see D-I and D-II in one night. The one thing I can say, I wish that they would split up the games for D-II, D-II and Open. Get us out of the sun. (Note: The D-II final began at 1:30 p.m.) That affected us big time. I’m not saying that’s why we lost, but the way the stadium is built, one team is always in the sun. Lahainaluna is a great team. That’s not why we lost, but I could see us run out of gas. We had a couple of key players about to pass out. (Playing the D-II final at 4:30 or 7:30 p.m.) could help the performance and the quality of the game. I don’t want to go on the record and seem like I’m disrespecting Lahainaluna. That’s the last thing I want to do. In fact, we play them in preseason next year again. They’re more used to the turf and heat because that’s what they have (on their home field).”

Uemoto: “I think D-II and D-I should be played on separate nights one week before the Open. Let every game get separate exposure and attention.”

Tautofi: “I definitely think there should be two nights rather than just one, but how that gets split up and scheduling with the stadium is definitely one of many challenges if that were to be revisited. Numbers and money is also a big determining factor too as we know. Which games should be on separate nights is a mystery to me though.”

Shimabuku: “I think both options have their pros. Crowning three teams on one day is pretty cool, but I still think the triple header should’ve started at noon. At the same time, the Open Division title game should almost always warrant a standalone event.”

>> Should leagues consider “open enrollment” for athletics or any other program/activity? Note: Long Beach Poly has been in this mode for decades.

Tihada: “No. Players should have to file the necessary paperwork to attend school in another district.”

Uemoto: “I agree with open enrollment from an educational standpoint, but not athletics. The problem is that the intentions would never be able to be distinguished. I love the hometown community feel in a team. I love that our team is primarily composed of kids that live next to each other and grow up together. Nothing can replicate that bond, and I think that’s what makes our success special, because there’s a little extra pride in our group. Our task as coaches also becomes tougher in that we work with what shows up rather than recruit what we want, but that’s what makes it fun!”

>> Should the OIA relax its pull and allow some OIA-ILH games to be played at ILH venues during the regular season? (In 2018, 47 out of 50 interleague regular-season games were played at OIA home-field sites.)

Look: “It is a good experience to go to different places to play, but you can say that for the OIA teams to play at our place, too. It’s not that all the games need to be played at the OIA sites. They’re very accommodating when we ask them to play at our sites. Kamehameha hosted Farrington, also. It’s not a steadfast no that they won’t play at any ILH site. Bus rentals and those details can be worked out. I don’t think the leagues are far apart.”

Tautofi: “It shouldn’t be how it is where ILH plays only at OIA venues when facing OIA during the season but it comes down once again to numbers and money. Politics are the biggest role players in this and for some reason the OIA principals have gone this route. I guess they have their reasons and for now it’s what they say it is.”

Drummondo: “I’m sure as an ILH player or coach, you’d like the opportunity to host ‘league’ games. I don’t know enough about the structure agreements to provide much more of an opinion than that.”

Uemoto: “Yes, I think the OIA should allow games at ILH venues. It’s the best part about high school football: going to another school and being able to soak up the atmosphere and traditions of different communities.”

Shimabuku: “Definitely. ‘Iolani, Punahou and Kamehameha each have beautiful venues and it’s a shame they aren’t able to host many games.”

>> Should the HHSAA permit the MIL to delay declaring D-I and D-II league champions until after the league season? This way, Lahainaluna would be  willing to play in the D-I state tourney. And the league runner-up would possibly play in the D-II state tourney. 

Tihada: “We are a small (MIL) league that plays everyone twice, regardless of what division we are in. Although I understand this may be a logistical nightmare for the HHSAA to have to arrange game sites so close to the state playoffs.”

Drummondo: “That’s a very interesting conversation to have as a league. The MIL is very similar to the BIIF in the sense of competitiveness between D-I and D-II schools. It wouldn’t affect the overall number of teams entering the post-season, but I’m not sure how each school would view having to basically compete against all schools in the league, as opposed to a known set of schools who have declared for a particular division.”

Uemoto: “Yes, I like the thought of declaring later. It would ensure that the best team is represented in each division. I would want that to be allowed in the BIIF, as well. It sort of contradicts my earlier thoughts about potentially facing larger-enrolled schools, but competition would have sorted out the caliber of teams and that’s a fair approach.”

Tautofi: “To be honest I don’t think it really matters how they end up declaring for which division they would be in. I think it’s been obvious from the beginning of their seasons who would be in what division. There shouldn’t be much of a question in that knowing the success of a few programs and who are the whos of MIL. However, I don’t think it takes for the regular season to be over before declaring. How that works out is how they’ve agreed for it to workout. As great and as successful as Lahainaluna has been in D-II, they’ve earned what they’ve accomplished. Eventually, it’ll get to a point they’d move up, but everyone that has entered the states every season the last three seasons had their opportunities to play and beat them but they do a good job of coaching and a better job of doing what it takes to win. “

Additional feedback:

Tautofi: “Given that this format has another year left before it gets discussed for the future, I truly hope that in hindsight we never forget the real reasons why we make the decisions and the choices we do as a league, a school and a state for high school athletics. That reason is for the kids first and foremost. The questions should always have the priority, how will it benefit the kids and will it benefit them.”

Frank Mauz, former Star-Advertiser writer: “We are all excited about the new high school football format. To make it a complete success, start the varsity games ‘on time.’ Last season was awful. Many 7:30 p.m. games began after 8 and some ended after 11. Parents and other fans busted their okoles to get through rush-hour traffic, only to have to sit and wait. TV does a great job and deserves an on-time start. One ‘miracle’ that brought the OIA and ILH together at last. Can ‘on time’ be another miracle?”


  1. Long Haired Jesus November 29, 2018 8:50 am

    Bottom line, top ranked teams in the tournament weather its multiple teams from ILH or OIA. Get it right. If not, its very simple, go back to prep bowl, ILH#1 vs OIA#1 and ILH#2 vs OIA#2. The outter island teams are not involved in this league so why not? Think about it. Its sad how the committee thinks that they always comes out with a good idea but just makes matters worse. SHAKING MY HEAD. And Coach cal is right 1 play 4 and 2 play 3. Thats standard for any tournament. Not sure why its like that lol. Very Wierd.

  2. HSFootball November 29, 2018 10:37 am

    Interesting that only 2 coaches answered the Open Enrollment question…Advantage Us, Disadvantage You…
    Openly Blind Division…

  3. Wainakea November 29, 2018 11:39 am

    Open should just be like the prep bowl again. It’s only the OIA and the ILH involved in it anyways.

  4. Footballs November 29, 2018 11:47 am

    Problem with 1 playing 4 and 2 playing 3 is that under that scenario 2 and 3 would face each other two times back to back (in OIA championship game then in state semifinal). Whats the sense of that? There should be no “state” tournament if there is an ILH and OIA championship. To coaches Lee’s point, Just have the champions from each league square off for all the marbles and call it a day.

  5. Hawaii born November 29, 2018 2:22 pm

    Attendance wouldn’t of been higher if kahuku was In the finals…look how much didnt show at the semi final game. Community only shows up when they dominating. Keep format and everything same or change it…either will kahuku community will still cru and complain. Go big red

  6. notes November 29, 2018 10:50 pm

    stl and millilani crowds werent all that big either.

    kahuku fans are sick of the principle and AD whose decisions are ruining the football program, so the low attendance is a reflection.

    cal complaining again to keep the advantages on his side…whats new?

    open division tourney should just be oia1 vs ilh1

  7. LuMan November 30, 2018 11:32 am

    There should be TWO nights of Finals. D2 and D1 one day and Open the next day. As for the D2 – playing at a Championship at 1:30pm!? That is the worst time of day, the hottest! Kids were baking on the field. Its amazing no one suffered severe heat exhaustion/could have been deadly outcome. Mid day, most families are still working, attending to other activities, best to move D2 to 5pm! 7:30pm for D1. Perhaps more folks will stay from the 5pm game, as its much cooler and enjoyable for all attending and see two championship games in one day. More money will be made too! Open Div- HIGH LIGHT of the 3 part Championship series should have its own day/ time slot like it use to be back in the day! D2 and D1 champions should be NOT be determined on student enrollment but rather the level of play. Moving up a Division increases chances of kids playing at the “next level”. Its always about the kids, Kids first, their future, their level of skill in playing a game they love.

  8. hwnstyll November 30, 2018 12:13 pm

    ILH/OIA should have at least one home game for senior night/homecoming, unfortunately this tradition is being lost on this generation.

  9. sparky November 30, 2018 4:09 pm


    SLS fill the whole Makai stands. Stadium had to open South End Zone.
    I guess you were watching tv.

  10. notes December 2, 2018 8:13 am

    education first aka mr punahou aka fake “notes” (#6) aka sparky, all the stl bandwagon fans come out when they win and are in the finals. i never seen any stl fans in the stands in regular games. when you talk about attendance week in and week out, it’s big red and nobody else. step down and think about your life instead of always bashing public schools and kahuku. split the alliance. let ILH play their own state championship with 4 teams and call it the recruit bowl. let the public schools play for the REAL state championship

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