I‘ve got a Star-Advertiser Top 10 football ballot to fill out by Monday at noon.
The Buffanblu are 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the ILH, wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the ILH Division I playoffs. The only way Punahou doesn’t advance to the state tournament would be to lose to either Saint Louis or Kamehameha twice in a two-week span.
The Crusaders and Warriors are two of three teams that all have legit arguments at being ranked the second-best team in the state.
Mililani, which is ranked No. 3 behind Kamehameha in the latest Star-Advertiser Top 10, was No. 2 on my ballot last week. I had Kamehameha third and Saint Louis fourth.
However, and I know the Crusaders have two loses, including the head-to-head matchup against Kamehameha, they were every bit as good as Punahou on Friday night. Both teams scored five touchdowns. It came down to the Crusaders chasing points after missing the extra-point attempt on their opening touchdown. Saint Louis also missed two field goals, including one at the end of the first half that wound up being the difference.
With all due respect to Punahou’s Kanawai Noa, I haven’t seen a better receiver this year than Saint Louis senior Devan Stubblefield. I love the way he runs routes, catches balls in traffic, and has that extra gear he gets into as soon as he touches the ball. Noa has an incredible knack for getting wide open down the field with his speed, and this isn’t meant to be a knock on him in any way. I just like the complete package Stubblefield has shown.
I watched Mililani play Punahou in mid-August and I saw the game Friday. I did not see Punahou’s 24-0 manhandling of Kamehameha in mid-September.
I know head-to-head matchups should ultimately be the difference, but is it fair to use games played in August to compare with how teams are playing now? I’m leaning toward keeping my same top four, with Mililani second, Kamehameha third and Saint Louis fourth based off of those results. The Trojans are undefeated in the OIA and only lost by 10 to Punahou. Kamehameha has only lost to Punahou, but it failed to score a point in a 24-0 loss. Saint Louis has lost to both Punahou and Kamehameha.
At the same time, nobody threatened the Buffanblu like the Crusaders did on Friday. Saint Louis was the first team all year to hold a second-half lead against Punahou. The Crusaders showed an offense capable of hanging with the Buffanblu, piling up 429 total yards. After giving up some big plays early, the Crusaders defense stepped up big, forcing Punahou to run just about every formation it has ever drawn up in practice.
With only one team advancing to the state tournament out of the ILH, it doesn’t mean much. But for the sake of voting in this week’s Star-Advertiser Top 10, the question remains.
After Punahou, who is the next-best team in the state?