If you were looking for a nice, clean separation of teams in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II football standings, you have been recently disappointed.
St. Francis threw a wrench into things and did not finish its regular season like it started. After losing their first two league games, the Saints stopped playing like a newbie (they’re in their third season of varsity football) and developed into a solid contender.
Yes, with two straight wins, St. Francis (4-4, 2-2) is a half-game behind first-place Damien (5-1, 2-1) and is anxiously awaiting Saturday’s Pac-Five (3-2, 1-2) vs. Damien game at Aloha Stadium. In that one, the Monarchs can clinch the league championship with a win. But, if they don’t win, well, then, that’s a whole new ballgame for all three teams.
A Pac-Five win would cause a three-way tie for league honors, and two playoff games would be needed to settle which team can not only lift the banner but also enter the Division II state tournament. Only one ILH D-II team not named ‘Iolani — Damien — has been to the state D-II tournament since it debuted in 2003.
The Monarchs made it to states in that inaugural ’03 season and are battling to get back into it this season. They had a chance to wrap it up on Friday, but dropped a 21-6 decision to the hot Saints.
“We are really proud of our boys the way we’re playing,” St. Francis first-year head coach Kip Akana said during a phone interview with Hawaii Prep World on Saturday. “Our goal was for our running backs to get 3 yards a carry (against Damien) and we accomplished that most of the time. And the defense played lights out, flying around everywhere to to get to the ball and make stops.
“We’ve taken a lot of criticism, this new staff. It’s been a challenging time for the staff and the team. We’re elated to be in this position, and if there is a playoff, I like our chances.”
Running back Tyson Shimabukuro, back from an ACL injury, has been a force on offense, gaining more than 100 yards in the last two wins.
Others are among the team’s difference-makers, including linebackers Isaac Crichton and Destin Pakele and cornerback-turned-quarterback Wembley Mailei.
Akana talked about the superlative play of noseguard-turned-fullback Pensimani Haunga and two-way lineman Supilani Mailei.
“Haunga (5 feet 11, 230 pounds) embraced the change in positions,” the coach said. “And he is a load who blocks well. Once in a while when we throw him a bone and give him the ball he is a tough guy to bring down. Supilani (6-2, 275) is one of the dominant defensive tackles in ILH D-II and is an anchor of the offensive line, which is the motor behind our offense.
“We as coaches are determined to help keep the dream of a spot in the states alive for all of the players. They would have been eliminated with another loss and they kept it alive against Damien. If not this year, then next year.”
ILH Division II scores this year
>> Sept. 11: Pac-Five 29, St. Francis 18
>> Sept. 19: Damien 21, St. Francis 6
>> Sept. 25: Damien 6, Pac-Five 3
>> Oct. 2: St. Francis 12, Pac-Five 9
>> Oct. 9: St. Francis 21, Damien 6